Market Analysis

Market Commentary - which classics are selling, by whom and for how much

Market Commentary – RM Sotheby’s, Gooding & Co and Bonhams 2020 Global Sales Reviewed


Following the worst pandemic-disrupted auction season on record, the three major traditional auction houses review their results, which, perhaps surprisingly in such difficult trading conditions, have included achieving many new world record auction prices during 2020.

A fully UK-centric C.A.R. take on what happened in Brexit Britain during last the last auction year will follow shortly however on this truly independent channel. For after all the reality numbers have been crunched, a new UK collector vehicle auction market leader tops the chart which records considerable change in market shares for many players. RH-E

Trio of Alfa BAT Cars sell for $14.8m

$4.3m Ferrari 550 GT1 Prodrive most valuable car sold in On-Line Auction

Consignors from 42 Countries

Bidders from 76 Countries, 60% New to House

4188 Lots Sold Across 27 Sales

Over 30 World Record Auction Prices Set at Single Auction

North American administered RM Sotheby’s, the world’s largest auction house in collector cars by total sales in the past decade, has concluded another year as a global market leader in collector car auctions and strengthened its market position in 2020 by expanding its global presence in Online Only collector car auctions.

For during last year, RM Sotheby’s sold 4,188 lots across 27 auctions, 21 of which were hosted on the company’s proprietary Online Only auction platform, which launched at the end of 2019.

Despite the global COVID-19 pandemic, the auction house also hosted five live auctions in Arizona, Paris, Amelia Island, and Auburn and Elkhart, Indiana, as well as offered a trio of Alfa Romeo B.A.T. concept cars in Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Sale in New York, which sold as a single-lot for $14,840,000 (£10.39m) to become the most valuable lot of the sale, as well as the top lot sold by RM Sotheby’s in 2020.

More than 8,600 unique bidders participated in the company’s 2020 sales, hailing from 76 countries around the world. Notably, approximately 60% of bidders over the last year represented new to house clientele as the company expanded its global reach.

While in light of the global COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting cancellation of live events around the world, RM Sotheby’s re-invented its business model to adapt to the quickly changing environment and shifted its auction business to primarily online for 2020.

In March, the company converted its live Palm Beach auction into an Online Only sale less than two weeks out from the sale date, and achieved strong results with $13.7m (£9.59m) in total sales and nearly 900 registered bidders – 23% more than the average number of registered bidders at live RM Sotheby’s South Florida auctions over the last four years.

A successful first Online Only catalogue sale paved the way for an additional ten internet collector car auctions for the house throughout the year, the website attracting over 20 million page views, nearly 60 percent of which were from new visitors.

In August, RM Sotheby’s hosted its annual flagship Monterey sale on its new digital auction platform, dubbed the Online Only: SHIFT/Monterey auction, grossing $30.4 (£21.28m) in sales and establishing the record for the highest price ever achieved for a car sold in a dedicated Online Only collector car auction. For the 2001 Ferrari 550 GT1 Prodrive Race-Coupe sold for $4,290,000 (£3,003,000), a record still held today.

A star collection that drew much pre-sale interest was The Elkhart Collection hosted in Elkhart, Indiana in October with limited in-person bidder attendance. Comprising over 240 cars and a wide selection of memorabilia, the two-day auction brought exceptional results with $44.4m (£31.08m) in sales and spirited bidding activity from no less than 2,500 bidders from 53 countries. This private collection auction saw strong prices across all lots, with more than 30 new records achieved for motor cars.

Large private collections were also sold as single-owner segments within catalogue auctions, including The Petitjean Collection, which alone amassed €7.3m (£5.11m) during the company’s Online Only: The European Sale.

In 2020, the auction house also took supported several important causes, hosting three charitable auctions on the Online Only sale platform - RaceAgainstCOVID, held in partnership with the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), with proceeds benefitting the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) global response to COVID-19; A Porsche with Purpose, hosted on behalf of Porsche Cars North America, Inc. to raise funds for United Way Worldwide to directly aid its work for COVID-19 relief in America; and A Ferrari to Benefit Save the Children, executed in partnership with Ferrari. A total of $3,962,718 (£773,903) was raised for charity as a result of the three auction events.

RM Sotheby’s Top Ten for 2020 –
1. Alfa Romeo BAT 5, 7 & 9 £10,388,000 Live New York
2. 2001 Ferrari 550 GT1 Prodrive £3,003,000 On-Line Monterey
3. 1952 Ferrari 225S Vignale Coupe £1,376,900 Elkhart Collection
4. 2003 Ferrari Enzo Coupe £1,947,750 Amelia Island
5. 2003 Ferrari Enzo Coupe £1,848,000 On-line Summer
6. 2018 Pagani Huayra Roadster £1,659,000 Arizona
7. 1985 Ferrari 288GTO Coupe £1,617,000 On-Line Summer
8. 1958 BMW 507 S2 Roadster £15,580,733 Paris
9. 1964 Porsche 904GTS £1,496,609 Paris
10. 1953 Fiat 8V Supersonic Ghia £1,428,000 Elkhart Collection

Multiple Record Auction Prices Set, 6 in UK

Top Two Highest Priced Cars Auctioned in 2020

1934 T59 Most Expensive Bugatti Ever Auctioned

Record £2.43m Average per Car Sold in Single Auction

Geared On-Line Sales’ Launched for Absentee Bidders

Gooding & Company auctioned collector cars totalling more than $125m (£87.5m) across all sales in 2020, when the company achieved a strong 91% sales rate with 568 lots sold, and 27 cars selling above the magic $1 million mark.

Gooding & Company also sold five of the top ten most valuable cars sold across all auction houses in 2020 including the top two single car sales, the 1934 Bugatti Type 59 Sports and the 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante.

In a year of many firsts for the auction house, Gooding & Company expanded its selling platform by conducting its first auction outside of the US (the Passion of a Lifetime auction), and introducing a new online only auction platform, Geared Online.

Additionally, the company set a new auction world record for the highest per car average sale at a single auction – an absolutely unprecedented £2,432,064 ($3,229,294) - at the Passion of a Lifetime sale at Henry VIII’s Palace in the UK. Gooding & Company also set the highest average sale price of $332,420 (£232,694), excluding Automobilia, for online auctions in its industry.

“This year certainly presented challenges, but it opened the door for Gooding & Company to create new opportunities to maintain our connection with our automotive community and enthusiasts around the world,” said David Gooding, President and Founder of Gooding & Company.

“We held our first-ever UK sale which set many new records and developed our online auction platform that has been met with market acclaim.”

Bugattis led the market in 2020, with house top sales consisting of the 1934 Type 59 Sports selling for £9,535,000, a 1937 Type 57S Atalante selling for £7,855,000 and a 1928 Type 35C Grand Prix achieving a final price of £3,935,000. All three sold in the grounds of Hampton Court Palace.

Geared Online – Phil Hill Automobilia, November 30 to December 11
Gooding & Company has sold over $500,000 (£365,000) in Automobilia across its three Geared Online sales this year. The online only format presented an opportunity for incorporating Automobilia into the otherwise largely automotive-only auctions.

Building from the two previous Geared Online sales, the company conducted the Phil Hill Automobilia Collection to great success from November 30 to December 11. The first of three sales dedicated to one of the world’s most recognized and accomplished racing drivers, Phil Hill, saw an immensely successful 100% sell-through rate from 242 lots, which fetched $268,151 (£195,750), more than the pre-auction estimate total.

The star lot, a circa 1950s Ferrari perpetual calendar, sold for $19,375 (£14,144). Two additional Phil Hill Automobilia auctions will begin in February and March, 2021.

Gooding 2020 Top Ten –
1. 1934 Bugatti Type 59 Sports £9,535,000 ($12,681)
2. 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante £7,855,000 ($10,447,150)
3. 1928 Bugatti Type 35C Grand Prix £3,935,000 ($5,233,550)
4. 1971 Lamborghini Miura P400 SV Spec £3,207,000 ($4,265,310)
5. 1955 Aston Martin DB3S £3,011,000 ($3,998,005)
6. 1995 Ferrari F50 $3,222,500 (£2,255,750)
7. 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB Long Nose $3,080,000 (£2,156,000)
8. 1932 Hispano-Suiza J12 2-Cowl Phtn $2,425,000 (£1,697,500)
9. 1914 R-R 40/50hp Silver Ghost Phaeton $2,205,000 (£1,543,500)
10. 1948 Tucker 48 $2,040,000 (£1,428,000)

Model World Records in 2020 –
1934 Bugatti Type 59 Sports £9,535,000 ($12,681,550)
1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante £7,855,000 ($10,447,150)
1928 Bugatti Type 35C Grand Prix £3,935,000 ($5,233,550)
1971 Lamborghini Miura P400 SV Speciale £3,207,000 ($4,265,310)
1932 Hispano-Suiza J12 Dual Cowl Phaeton $2,425,000 £1,697,500)
1924 Vauxhall 30-98 OE-Type Wensum £1,247,000 ($1,658,510)
1976 Porsche 934 $1,380,000 (£966,000)
1970 Porsche 914/6 GT $995,000 (£696,500)
1998 RUF Turbo R $676,000 (£473,200)
1924 Lancia Lambda 3rd Series Torpédo £391,000 ($519,169)
1930 Stutz Series M Boat-Tail Speedster $445,000 (£311,500)
1990 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evo II $434,000 (£303,800)
1997 Land Rover NAS Defender 90 Ltd Edn $165,200 (£115,640)

1932 Bugatti T55 Super Sport Roadster makes $7.1m in Florida
Cars with Royal, Presidential and Movie Provenance Star in Global Sales
New ‘Live & On-Line’ Format in Response to Pandemic Restrictions

229 Year Old International Auction House Delivers 20 Sale Programme

Among the most notable results was the US$7,100,000 (£5,220,929) achieved for a 1932 Bugatti Type 55 Super Sport Roadster offered from the Dean Edmonds Jr Collection – the most valuable motor car sold by Bonhams this year, and the most valuable sale of the 2020 Amelia Car Week in Florida. 
Further proving the desirability of pre-war Bugattis, among the most lauded of collectors’ cars, was another Type 55 Roadster, produced in the same year, that starred at the Bonhams Grand Palais Sale in Paris. It sold for an impressive €4,600,000 (£4,142,300), becoming the most valuable lot of all auction sales during 2020 Rétromobile week.
At the same sale, a 1931 Invicta 4½ litre S-Type Low Chassis Sports achieved a world auction record for the marque, selling for €1,610,000 (£1,449,805).

Just before lockdowns became widespread, a new auction world record was achieved at Amelia Island, when the customised 1967/68 Conn-Ferr Meyers Manx Dune Buggy, which actor Steve McQueen famously helped design then drove in The Thomas Crown Affair, sold for US$456,000 (£337,854)
Other celeb-status motor cars successfully sold included the 1959 BMW 507, first owned by King Constantine II of Greece, the top lot at the Bonhams Zoute Sale on Sunday 11 October 2020, selling in excess of €2 million - €2,070,000 (£1,864,035).
Limo One”, a white 1963 Lincoln Continental Convertible which was the final automobile to safely carry President John F. Kennedy on the morning of November 22, 1963 in Fort Worth, sold for US$375,075 (£275,808), in New York on Wednesday, 14 October.
Among other successes for the International House, a 1959 Porsche 718 RSK Spyder, the top lot at (August 14) Bonhams Quail Motorcar Auction in California, selling for $2,232,500 (£1,641,651). At the same sale, a 2014 Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse 'Meo Costantini' sold for $1,750,000 (£1,286,848). While at The Bonmont Sale in Switzerland, another Bugatti Veyron, a 2012 16.4 Super Sport Coupé, sold for CHF 1,840,000 (£1,539,707).
Most recently, at London’s Bond Street Sale, a 1969 Mercury Cougar, which starred in the Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, realised £365,000, three times its estimate, establishing a new auction world record for the model. 

MPH, Bikes and Automobilia -
During its first full year of operation since launching in July 2019, Bonhams’ MPH division for modern, popular classics and accessible historics for all budgets, was able to stage one of its consumer-useful ‘Drive-Through’ auctions at Bicester Heritage, while pioneering Bonhams Live & On-Line’ format sales that comply with COVID-19 restrictions. More than 370 vehicles were sold under the MPH gavel, their sales totalling £7.5 million
Highlight lots included the 2018 McLaren 570S Spider from the estate of the late Ladies hill climb champion Joy Rainey, which sold above estimate at £95,625 and a restored 1977 Ford RS2000, which achieved a strong £40,500.

Bonhams Motorcycles meanwhile presented two impressively strong sales in 2020, with an average sell-through rate of 93 per cent and a combined total of more than £6.7 million in 2020. There were new auction records broken at both sales.

The Spanish GP winning 1964 Benelli 250cc Grand Prix motorcycle, ridden and autographed by two-time World champion Tarquino Provini, and from the much-anticipated Morbidelli Collection, sold for £149,500. Then at The Winter Sale, a 1928 Sunbeam 493cc TT Model 90 Racing Motorcycle smashed its upper estimate of £24,000 selling for £41,400, while a 21,188-mile 1990 Norton F1, made £40,250, both setting new world auction records.
Automobilia hosted six successful sales in the UK, Europe and USA, including the Department’s first On-Line Only sale, which scored a 100 per cent sell-through rate.

Among highlight lots, Ettore Bugatti’s Personal Pasta Machine, custom fabricated to Bugatti's design in his factory in Molsheim, featuring a Type 46 steering-wheel, sold for US$37,575 (£27,630) at Amelia Island (estimate US$5,000-10,000).
A Sean Connery Signed Image of the James Bond ‘Thunderball’ Aston Martin DB5 monochrome image depicting an action scene from the film with the famed '007' DB5 driven off at speed, signed in black marker 'With Best Wishes', sold for £9,562.50 in December On-Line (Estimate £250-350).
James Knight, Bonhams Group Motoring Chairman, said: “We have risen to the challenges of this year, reacting quickly and producing an innovative response to COVID-19 restrictions and ever-changing government guidelines, with our Live and Online sales and have continued an active programme of sales in the UK, USA and Continental Europe.
“The collectors’ car market has proved incredibly resilient and there is a continued demand for both bidders and sellers to transact. Although some sellers were initially, and understandably, concerned that the timing was not right for selling a valuable collectors’ motor car, our business model has been successful. We have sold cars and have sold them well – even establishing new world auction records along the way.”
These results demonstrate that there remains an appetite in the collectors’ cars community to acquire the best examples."
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