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A Monterey Lovefest

In the collector car world, confidence for top-flight items is strong

by Keith Martin

It’s Super Bowl time in the collector car world. During five days in Monterey this August, more than 1,400 cars will cross the block. Last year, 881 cars sold for a grand total of $198m. That was a record-breaking amount, up more than 15%, or $26m from 2010.

Temptation everywhere

This year, I believe we will see that record shattered again. During the past few months, important cars have continued to bring ever-increasing amounts; for example, 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO s/n 3505 sold for $35m, and the new owner wasn’t shy about proclaiming what he had paid.

In the collector car world, confidence for top-flight items continues to be strong. The players in this field — the traders buying eight-digit and-up cars — aren’t overly worried about the stock market, the employment rate or the strength of the euro. They are playing with their car money, and those funds answer only to their owners.

For the most part, Monterey is a set-piece battle of titanic proportions. Over the past decade, there have been few changes in the players. On the auction side, Christie’s — after producing Robert Brooks, David Gooding, Miles Morris and others — folded its tent in 2007. From its global, corporate perspective, selling works of art and jewelry, neither of which need to start or run in front of an audience, surely was a more lucrative place to put its energies.

Kruse finally gave up in 2008, its Monterey auction being one of the last gasps of the once-mighty empire that dissolved into a morass of lawsuits and disgruntled customers.

Dana Mecum brought his unique style of mega-auctions to the Monterey peninsula in 2009, and he has proven what everyone thought was impossible — there are still new buyers to be found on the Historic Weekend, 443 of them in 2011 to be exact.

RM and Gooding continue as the heavyweights, unveiling wallet-drooling lots that billionaires will fight over. Bonhams, bringing its English-style sophistication to the table, will offer the weekend’s best automobilia as well as collectible automobiles. The big news this year is that Russo and Steele, the weekend’s rock & roll auction, is moving to a new venue on the Monterey waterfront by Fisherman’s Wharf. This is welcome news for car fanatics, as the benefits offered by Russo’s previous cheek-by-jowl location with RM were offset by a non-bidder-friendly selling environment.

Every year, we make a prediction. For 2012, given the frothy collector car environment and the record prices top cars are bringing, we expect to see a more than 20% increase over 2011, from $198m to $220m. If I’m wrong, I’ll eat the 1936 Mercedes 540K Roadster being offered by Gooding, from front fender to taillight!

For more information on the activities going on in and around Monterey this year, check out our newsletter!

Paul Morrissette

About Paul Morrissette

Paul has been working with classic car owners and their insurance agents throughout his 25 year career with Chubb Insurance. A lover of all collector cars, he is particularly fond of British roadsters. The Chubb team jokes that they don't need directions to Paul's house, they just follow the leaks.

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