A Stable, Strong Market – At Least For The Best Cars

We thought Amelia’s auctions this year would be big, and they were. Final numbers are still being tallied and, assuredly, auction companies are feverishly working to close a few post-block sales. It’s already clear, though, that 2023 will be the biggest year ever for the Amelia Island auctions, with $178M in sales besting 2016’s record of $140M.  

A Stable, Strong Market - At Least For The Best Cars
Photo by Matt Tierney

Yes, another record

The very word “record” has become almost mundane in the classic car market over the past few years—auctions in Monterey last summer and more recently in Scottsdale also hit new highs. Yet the tally at The Amelia is notable for a few reasons.

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First and foremost, it asserts that demand for top-quality automobiles is still strong. The market has cooled since the Pebble Beach auctions—the Hagerty Market Ratinghas slid for several months straight. Also, there was a new auction company and more than 100 additional cars here compared to 2022, creating potential for oversupply. That didn’t happen. Sell-through rate was down slightly, from 91.6 percent to 87 percent (as of Sunday), but the average price ticked up to $455,293 from $435,939.

The key factor was the quality of the consignments. We knew going in that there were more top-tier cars than in years past—some 12 percent of the vehicles carried an estimate of $1M or higher. Having inspected vehicles in person, we can say that the condition of the field backs that up. The Hagerty Insider team evaluated 49.6 percent of the lots as either #1 (“concours ready”) or #2 (“excellent”) condition. This is the highest share since 2020, when 55.8 percent of lots were conditioned “excellent” or better.

The combination of better, more expensive cars and lower sell-through rate indicates that sellers were willing to test the waters but aren’t feeling pressure to sell. Similarly, buyers bid strongly for some cars, but weren’t in a rush to buy everything that crossed the block. In other words, it seemed characteristic of a healthy, rational market, as opposed to the overheated one we saw at certain points in 2021 and ’22.

Change afoot in the Ferrari world

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Photo by Eddy Eckart

The top sale of the week—and all year so far—was Gooding & Company’s 1962 250 GT SWB California Spider that brought $18M. The price beats the Hagerty Price Guide’s condition #1 value, even factoring the premium collectors typically pay for side vents.

But Amelia also reminded us the Ferrari market isn’t just about 12-cylinder cars. Of the four Dinos offered, all sold, and two (a 206 and 246 GTS) set records. We included the 246 Dino in our 2022 Bull Market list, yet their gains in recent years surprised even us—their value in the Hagerty Price Guide rose 50 percent in 2022.

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Life isn’t as grand for Daytonas. There were five here (four 365 GTB/4s and one GTS/4) and all but one sold, but they were, on average, 3 percent below condition-appropriate price guide value. One of them sold for 22 percent less than its sale at auction in 2015. This largely confirms what we saw last month in Paris, where Daytonas also underperformed. Make no mistake, these are absolutely lovely cars, but it seems they’re still feeling a hangover from the sharp appreciation of the 2010s.

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Top prices for top cars

The knowledgeable bidders at Amelia seemed willing to pay a premium this year for the best of the best. Several expertly-restored- and special cars sold for record prices, including models that rarely make headlines. A 2002 Esprit 25th Anniversary sold for $193,200 against a $125k–$150k estimate, becoming the highest Esprit sale ever excluding the Bond Submarine. It also became the first non-Bond Esprit to sell for more than a Bond-related one, besting the $165,467 2008 sale of another movie car. Similarly, a 1959 Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia smashed the previous record of $106,400 and sold for $123,200, satisfying a new owner with what’s potentially one of the best Karmann Ghias in the world.

Live auctions remain the place for world records, even for cars that typically receive more attention at online auctions. Prior to today, 49 of the 50 highest sales for an Acura Integra Type-R were sold online. However, a 6k-mile 1997 Acura Integra Type-R sold for a record $151,200 at Broad Arrow, beating the previous record, set in 2022 on Bring a Trailer, by 29 percent. Another example of an internet darling car, a 1992 Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R Group A racecar, set a record for R32s at $379,000.

The AMG Hammer record, previously held by a 1988 Mercedes-Benz AMG Hammer Coupe that sold on MBMarket.com for $766,300, was broken twice today. First, A 1987 Mercedes-Benz AMG Hammer Sedan sold for $775,000—24 percent above Broad Arrow’s high estimate and setting a record for both a W124 and AMG “Hammers.” Then, just 20 lots later, those records were broken by a 1991 AMG 6.0 Hammer Widebody Coupe, which sold for $885,000.

Porsches playing second fiddle?

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Photo by Matt Tierney

Amelia Island has long been synonymous with Porsches, and this year was no exception, with more than 60 on offer. Yet only one Porsche sale, a 1987 959 Komfort at $1,710,000, cracked the top-25 sales at number 24 (double check after auctions over). The 1968 Porsche 907 K at Broad Arrow, with its $4,500,000 low estimate, was the only Porsche that had a chance of breaking into the top 10. It failed to sell, however. This is a departure from recent years, where Porsches have contributed to top sales, like in 2022 when a 1955 Porsche 550 took the second-highest sale at $4,185,000.

That’s not to say it was a bad year for Porsches, though. A 1994 Porsche 911 Carrera Turbo S “Flachbau” sold for $1,215,000 and a Magenta 1974 911 Carrera 2.7 Targa sold for $201,600—well above high estimate and nearly triple its Hagerty Price Guidevalue.

It’s possible Porsche collectors were keeping their powder dry for Porsche’s upcoming 75th anniversary event, but more likely, the lack of Porsches in the top 25 says more about the rest of the field. As we noted, there has been a significant increase in the potential value of cars offered at Amelia. More than 40 (currently 41) cars sold for at least $1 million this week, accounting for 59 percent of total sales.

Mixed bag for prewar

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1931 Duesenburg Model J Disappearing Top | Photo: Ted Pieper – @vconceptsllc

In addition to being a Porsche fest, Amelia has also gained a reputation for being a strong venue for prewar automobiles. Expectations were particularly high this year after a 1912 Simplex 50HP took top sale honors at the January auctions at $4.85M. But results here were mixed, reminding us again that it’s more about individual cars than broad segments. RM Sotheby’s sold a stunning 1929 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Derby Speedster by Brewster for $885K, but that same car went for $1.98M in 2013. Five lots later, they sold a 1931 Duesenberg Model J ‘Disappearing Top’ Convertible Coupe by Murphy for $4.295M. That same car sold for $3.52M in 2015, a $775K gain.

A stable, strong market—at least for the best cars

Three years ago, as many of us went straight from Amelia Island into COVID lockdowns, we were worried about the future of the collector car market (among many other things). The market weathered that storm and then some. Now we face different headwinds, but the story here remains the same: People really like collector cars, and they are willing to spend top dollar to get the very best ones.

Report by David Zenlea for insider.hagerty.com

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