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Collector Joe Bortz puts hobby experience to work for others

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By Angelo Van Bogart

Joe Bortz is known for the concept cars he’s saved from extinction and restored for his collection, but he’s actually dealt with many types of collector cars in his 50 years of collecting. From Cords to Corvettes to Cadillacs, as well as Duesenberg and Ferrari, Bortz has been immersed in the hobby. His experiences with these cars — including the purchase, sale, shipment, appraisal, insurance and every other aspect of collector car ownership — make him as seasoned as they come. After years of sharing his advice in all areas of the hobby, he’s taken the next step with an innovative venture he’s named Take Your Car To Auction, LLC.

“It gives me enough action that I don’t have to add any more cars to my collection,” Bortz said. “It’s like eating as much as you want without getting fat.

“From time to time, I have sold something because I was a little bored and kind of talked myself into it and then later regretted it. So, for a guy at 70 years old, who spent 50 years in the hobby, he found his dream job doing this for other people.”

In his business, Bortz acts as a concierge for car owners who are too busy or don’t feel educated enough to find the best venue to sell their car.

“The timing seemed to be right,” Bortz said. “I had retired six years ago and I had 50 years of buying and selling to only develop the Bortz Auto Collection. My hobby business has now evolved and we are assisting in the sale of collector cars for the single-car collector, an owner of a larger collection, the widow and children of collectors and also estate attorneys.”

Sometimes, the stories Bortz hears when his phone rings can be downright heart-wrenching. “I helped a woman whose husband had fallen off a ladder and had a stroke, so she had to sell the cars to pay the medical bills,” Bortz said. “The sale of her husband’s cars saved her whole family, because he was the breadwinner and his inability to work made them penniless.

“The main purpose of this hobby business would be to help people navigate the selling process to get the best outcome from the sale.”

Often, the sale methods vary widely, depending on the time of year, the type of vehicle that will be sold and the owner’s location, among other factors.

“I have to listen to not only what would be best for maximizing the dollar return for the car, but also what the customer has in their personal parameters,” Bortz said. “It’s more than just saying, ‘I will put this here and we’ll wait six months until someone comes along.’ I can find ways to get the money more quickly, and part of that is sorting out where the person lives and what type of car they have.”

For the sale process, Bortz mapped out a three-point system. And unlike some brokers, Bortz does not take possession of a car or its title. “After determining the objectives of the seller, the first step we do is try to help people sell their cars by networking,” Bortz said. That means contacting collectors he knows might be interested in a specific car a client is offering. “After that, the second level we use the MissChiTown’s eBay site. On this site, we usually get a high percentage of sales.”

What surprises Bortz most about the online sale of cars is buyers’ willingness to accept a vehicle as its presented, without inspecting it.

“Most of the cars are sold sight-unseen,” he said. “Back in the ’70s and ’80s, we would send it to a Z Rack and they would give you this report. What the [Internet] does is make commerce happen a lot faster and there has to be more tolerance from the buyer for that sight-unseen purchase. It actually ruins the fun.”

For cars that do not sell on the internet, or for more high-end cars consigned to Take Your Car to Auction, Bortz progresses to a third approach.

“The third level is always to consider taking a car to a live auction. In reference to the latter, obviously many items have to be taken under consideration, such as the return on investment, considering the costs of doing the sale, what would be the best live auction to match up with the type of car that you have.”

Bortz said he uses his experience selling cars at live auctions to maximize the bidding action on that car.

“I know what to ask for at particular auctions, the best times to sell a car,” Bortz said. “I not only know how to pick a good auction, but their best auction for that car.”

Bortz accompanies cars he takes to live auctions and shepherds the cars through the entire process. “My watchful eye is there from the beginning to the end,” he said. “I am a facilitator and adviser, but the person that is the buyer or the seller makes the final decisions; I am just part of the mix to provide information.”

There is clearly a large amount of effort and thought that Bortz puts into the selling process, and his work, and experience, do provide a pay out. “We work on a percentage of the sale price, depending on the amount of service that is put into the deal,” he said. “That goes up or down, so it gives me an incentive to get the best price for the customer.”

In his experience of moving cars, regardless of their era or owner, Bortz said he’s noticed one important thing: “The market is still healthy and strong, and the driving force is five words: ‘I have it, you don’t.’”

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