Record-setting 1967 L88 Corvette. Photo: Barrett-Jackson
The hammers are silenced and have been put away, giving the teams at Barrett-Jackson and Mecum a chance to catch up on some much needed rest after staging the two greatest collector car auctions in the world last month. During the two weeks of auction excitement which took place on opposite sides of the country, Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Mecum in Kissimmee, Florida, we got to see some outstanding cars cross the block including over 500 Corvettes.
Mecum lived up to their claim of their Kissimmee event being the “World’s Largest Collector Car Auction,” offering 2,750 collector cars and almost 400 Corvettes, while Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale cemented its reputation as being “The World’s Greatest Collector Car Auction” by expanding its lifestyle extravaganza, which is a mix of automobile museum, theme park, circus, and Hollywood, supported by a diverse cast of sports, racing and media celebrities ranging from racing great Sir Stirling Moss to rock legend Bret Michaels. This year Barrett-Jackson did it in an all new facility, which offered enthusiasts larger, more comfortable and convenient amenities.
Sir Stirling Moss in a Mercedes Gullwing. Photo: Barrett-Jackson
1968 “Rebel” L88. Photo: Barrett-Jackson
Records are Made to be Broken
Barrett-Jackson’s 2014 Scottsdale event was the best in their 43 year history, with sales topping $113 million, selling 1,399 cars, raising over $4.4 million for charity and setting a few world records along the way. This year B-J CEO Craig Jackson and his team staged their extravaganza in an all new brick and mortar facility that was completed just days before the annual eight day event kicked off January 12th.
Collectors and enthusiasts flocked to sunny Arizona from January 12th through the 19th to enjoy the six annual major auctions which take place in and around Scottsdale. Hagerty, the insurance company and acknowledged collector car expert, estimates that 15% of all collector cars sold at auction each year change hands during the six Arizona January auctions. As such, the collector world closely watches what happens at these auctions to help gauge the upcoming auction year. All but one of those six auctions reported strong sales and sell thru percent improvements over last year, producing a combined total of $253 million in car sales. Based on those results it looks like 2014 could be a good year for the collector car market.
Clearly Barrett-Jackson is the main event and draw of the six January Arizona auctions, offering over 1,400 of the world’s most collectible cars and 150 Corvettes. Mostly a “No Reserve” auction, Barrett-Jackson sold over 99% of their consignments and set three world records in the process. A 1967 L88 Corvette coupe was sold for $3.85 million, making it the most expensive Corvette ever sold at auction. A 1969 Corvette L88 race car, known as the “Rebel,” sold for $2.86 million (a record price for a 1969 Corvette), and a 1957 Ford Thunderbird “E” set a record selling at $330k. And for the first time, the world got to witness “live” on national TV two hours of what makes Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale one of the most exciting events in the automotive world.
This Dusenberg drew a top bid of $1,430,000. Photo: Barrett-Jackson
Barrett-Jackson’s diverse consignments ranged from Simon Cowell’s Bugatti Veyron, which sold for $1.3M, to a 1955 Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing which was ushered to the block by Sir Stirling Moss, former world champion Mercedes team driver, and sold for $2.09M. In addition to the two record-setting Corvettes, sixteen “Salon Collection” cars were sold that hammered for over $22M. These cars were some of the finest “blue chip” collector cars, ranging from a prewar 1929 Duesenberg SJ LeBaron Dual Cowl Phaeton to a 1999 Ferrari F300 racecar.
The Barrett-Jackson team orchestrated a venue that packed the auction facility every day with excited spectators and bidders. Over 300,000 enthusiasts packed the main building, display tents and vendor areas to participate in the incredible happening, which took place at their traditional location at WestWorld. When the curtain came down, anyone who attended the Barrett-Jackson experience has a better understanding why the Scottsdale extravaganza is known as “The World’s Greatest Collector Car Auction.”
Bad Timing for Bad Weather
The week following the Scottsdale events, Mecum staged their annual “world’s largest collector car auction” over two thousand miles away in Kissimmee, Florida. This year, however, due to the polar vortex which blanketed a good fraction of the country, thousands of airline flights were cancelled, making the pilgrimage to Mecum’s “promised land” difficult at best. Due to the weather related transportation difficulties throughout most of the country, it was surprising and a testament to Mecum loyalists that attendance only fell 6%, still drawing 70k spectators and enthusiasts. Even the weather in normally sunny, warm Florida failed to cooperate, with temperatures in the 30’s overnight and not getting much above 60 during the day.
Lot S179, this 1968 Corvette L88, sold for $520k. Photo: Mecum
But more than the weather disappointed those enthusiasts who fled the frozen north for a week of auction heaven in Florida. Though Mecum heavily promoted their 2,750 consignments, almost 1,000 of them went unsold, resulting in only a 64% sell through, which was also 6% behind last year’s results. The 1,759 cars that did find buyers produced sales of $63.435M for a loss of -11.4% and losing $8M for the event. The average selling price also slipped almost 8% to just over $36k.
Even Mecum’s recognized strength, the Corvette, could not remedy the difficult sales environment. Though several important Corvettes were consigned, only three of the top ten Corvette lots were actually sold. The main feature of the auction, a 1956 Corvette SR prototype, was hammered down at $2.3M, far off the anticipated world record price that it was rumored to bring, and then the sale fell apart afterwards due to third party claims of ownership of parts used in the restoration. An analysis of the close to 400 Corvettes that were on hand for the sale showed that the sell thru was less than 58%, and on Saturday when the best Corvettes crossed the block, the sell thru was less than 50%.
And sales weren’t much better for other premier cars in the auction. More than a few of the “featured” and “star” cars simply did not meet the reserve , which in some cases were well above the current market value. To illustrate, in a January 6, 2013, Mecum press release, eight important featured consignments, five of them Corvettes, were promoted. Of the eight cars featured in their press release, ultimately, only one of the eight sold; a 1963 Corvette Z06 (Lot S150.1).
Lot S150.1, 1963 Z06. Photo: Mecum
The five Corvettes promoted in Mecum’s press release included the main auction attraction, the highly promoted 1956 Corvette SR Prototype (Lot S132), a concours-winning 1963 Corvette Z06 race car originally driven by Dick Lang (Lot S148), a 1963 Corvette “Styling” car formerly owned by Mrs. Harley Earl (Lot S153), the famous 1988 Corvette Callaway “Sledgehammer” (Lot F259) and the aforementioned 1963 Corvette Z06 (Lot S150.1 ) But those were not the only great Corvettes offered for sale. There were also three third generation L88’s, another 1963 Z06, and a 1967 L89, and together with the five Corvettes in the article you have, arguably, the top ten Corvettes of Mecum’s 2014 Kissimmee event.* Out of these ten “blue chip” Corvettes, only three were sold.
But to most of the thousands of enthusiasts who can’t make it to Kissimmee and religiously watch the auction live on TV, the letdown was the only two hours of live TV coverage which were broadcast on Saturday, the auction’s premier day. And to make matters worse, those two hours were not the most important peak auction hours. More than a few loyal Mecum viewers lit up social media with their thoughts about the TV coverage and format this year. It appears that the six hours of viewing on Saturday was given up in favor of an hour of a tape delayed broadcast on Sunday on national broadcast TV. If the move to NBC and the format change was made to improve and excite Mecum fans, it was clearly a “fail” from a viewer perspective.
Reaching a Wider Audience
Contrast Mecum’s Saturday coverage with the exciting two hour broadcast on Fox network TV of the peak two hours of Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale, where viewers saw two Corvettes hammered down for over $2.5M each. In addition to the live two hour Fox network broadcast an additional four live hours of Barrett-Jackson’s peak Saturday was broadcast on other Fox owned channels, giving TV viewers six hours of live Barrett-Jackson coverage on Saturday. NBC and Mecum planned a one hour taped delayed broadcast on Sunday covering some of Saturday’s highlights, but even that fell apart, first being preempted for an hour by a hockey game and then the scheduled one hour broadcast was cut to only a half hour, a disappointment to those Mecum fans counting on TV to follow Saturday’s event. Clearly this is not typical of Mecum’s past efforts to help enthusiasts and collectors follow their events and and track past auctions with on line tools like Mecum InfoNet.
Of course the main objective of an auction is to sell cars. And the biggest catalyst to a great auction is to have a balanced array of quality consignments that attract bidders, an area where Mecum has excelled in prior years. In addition to historic “blue chip” collectibles, one of Mecum’s unique strengths has always been to offer buyers a good assortment of entry level cars ,and as in the past Mecum once again came through with several buyers getting relative “bargains” during the first two days of the event.
This 1969 L88 Corvette, lot 165.1, sold for $510k. Photo: Mecum
At the other end of the balance spectrum are the blue chip cars, and again this is another area Mecum has excelled. There was no shortage of historic and important cars, as is typical of most Mecum events, and in fairness to Mecum, they do not set the reserves on those cars which was the biggest hindrance to sales. Mecum heavily promoted their featured “blue chip” cars. Their press releases, online and print catalogs, and feature stories told the background and detailed information on each star car. And though the weather did not cooperate, many of the collector car “whales,” those buyers who spend millions on acquisitions, were on hand and bidding as the cars crossed the block. Bidding was even spirited on several cars with bids at or above current market value. Those that did not sell simply did not meet the seller’s reserve.
Though several factors, most outside of the promoter’s control, impacted Mecum’s premier auction, the fact remains that despite the weather and drop in attendance, 1,759 cars changed hands and 232 of those were Corvettes that generated almost $12M. Mecum loyalists “fooled Mother Nature” and braved her wicked vortex to be at one of the country’s most memorable events. While there, they spent almost $64M and got to examine some historic cars, and enjoy interaction with other collectors and enthusiasts at not only the largest but clearly one of the finest automobile events in the country.
Top Ten Corvette Lot Results – Mecum Kissimmee 2014
- S132 – 1956 Corvette SR prototype: No Sale, High Bid $2.3M Postponed
- S148 – 1963 Corvette Z06 race car: No Sale, High Bid $900k
- F259 – 1988 Corvette Calllaway “Sledgehammer”: No Sale, High Bid $600k
- S153 – 1963 Corvette “Styling” Mrs. Harley Earl’s Car: No Sale, High Bid $340k
- S150.1 – 1963 Corvette Z06: SOLD, High Bid $475k
- S172 – 1963 Corvette Z06: No Sale, High Bid $550k
- S163 – 1969 Corvette L88: No Sale, High Bid $735k
- S165.1 – 1969 Corvette L88: SOLD, High Bid $510k
- S179 – 1968 Corvette L88: SOLD, High Bid $520k
- S225.1 – 1967 Corvette L89: No Sale, High Bid $425k
Top Ten Lot Sales – Mecum Kissimmee 2014
- 1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda (Lot S143) at $560,000
- 1968 Chevrolet Corvette L88 Coupe (Lot S179) at $530,000
- 1969 Chevrolet Corvette L88 Convertible (Lot S165.1) at $510,000
- 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Tanker (Lot S150.1) at $475,000
- 1964 Chevrolet Corvette Big Tank Coupe (Lot S181.1) at $350,000
- 2006 Ford GT Heritage Edition (Lot S196) at $320,000
- 1967 Plymouth Barracuda Hurst Hemi Under Glass (Lot S200) at $300,000
- 2006 Ford GT (Lot T181.1) at $242,500
- 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe (Lot S156) at $240,000
- 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429 Fastback (Lot S141) at $240,000
1963 Shelby Cooper Monaco King Cobra. Photo: Barrett-Jackson
Top Ten Lot Sales – Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale 2014
- 1967 Chevrolet Corvette L88 2 Door Coupe Lot #5035 at $3,850,000
- 1969 Chevrolet Corvette #57 Rebel Convertible Race Car Lot #5022 at $2,860,000
- 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe Lot #5044 at $2,090,000
- 1998 Ferrari F300 at Lot #5080 at $1,870,000
- 1963 Shelby Cooper Monaco King Cobra Lot #5063 at $1,650,000
- 1929 Duesenberg SJ Lebaron Dual Cowl Phaeton Lot #5048 at $1,430,000
- 2008 Bugatti Veyron 2 Door Coupe “Simon Cowell’s” Lot #1319.2 at $1,375,000
- 1954 Plymouth Belmont Concept Car Lot #5066 at $1,320,000
- 1939 Alfa Romeo 6c 2500 Sport Touring Lot #5053 at $997,500
- Snake-Mongoose cars and transporters, 4 Vehicle Package Lots 5040-5043 at $990,000: 1972 Plymouth Duster Hot Wheels “Mongoose” Funny Car, 1970 Plymouth Barracuda Hot Wheels “Snake” Funny Car, 1967 Dodge D-700 Hot Wheels “Snake” Ramp Truck, 1967 Dodge D-700 Hot Wheels “Mongoose” Ramp Truck