Barrett-Jackson up, everybody else sees mixed results in Arizona
By Phil Skinner
On Sunday afternoon, Jan. 19th, the books were closed Arizona Auction Week with the final hammers falling at both Russo & Steele and Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale events filling the record books with a number of new entries, and leaving a lot of car people scratching their heads trying to figure out where the market really is. Old Cars Weekly had correspondents at each of the eight sales to record what was happening and try to make sense of things.
The first auction out the gate was the Motorsports Auction Group, better known as MAG. This auction house has hosted several successful sales during the Hot August Nights celebration and had merged with the former Silver Auctions of Arizona operations during 2019. The Peoria Sports Complex on the west side of the Valley of the Sun had worked well for Silver Auctions. Many considered this sale as an entry-level event where lower-priced vehicles were available and seven-figure letters of credit were not needed. It was a friendly atmosphere and many familiar faces were seen throughout the three days of auction action with the auction team headed up by Jeff Stokes.
Sales were on the light side with just 98 of the 328 vehicles offered on the block trading hands for a 29.9% sell-through rate and bringing in just over $1.7 million. High sale was a 1968 Shelby GT500KR fastback hardtop hammered at $155,000.
Kicking off on Monday the 13th and going for seven solid days was the 49th edition of Barrett-Jackson’s flagship sale. The huge venue at Westworld in Northeast Scottsdale was packed from the first gavel to the last on Sunday the 19th with the largest docket ever seeing 1,909 vehicles crossing the block with all but one declared sold for what appears to be an all-time high of $137.1 million recorded. With just 90 more cars that 2019, the final dollar figure was more than $10,700,000 ahead of 2019’s dollar figure. In addition to the vast offering of vehicles offered, more than 1,000 lots of automobilia lead off each day’s bidding session and added a bunch more moeny to the totals above.
Taking the high bids for the 2020 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale sale were two charity vehicles: the first regular production customer delivered 2020 Chevrolet Corvette, serial number 00001, for a whopping $3,000,000; followed by the first 2021 Lexus LC500 convertible, hammered at $2,000,000.
On Wednesday, Jan. 15, Worldwide Auction Group hosted its fifth sale in the Valley of the Sun at the new venue of Singh Meadows in Tempe. Partners John Kruse and Rod Egan were celebrating nearly 20 years in business. Both were very happy with their exclusive offering of just 55 vehicles, an impressive 76.4% sales rate was recorded with 42 lots confirmed sold. Total sales amounted to just over $6.1 million with the top sale going to a gorgeous 1936 Auburn 852-SC boattail speedster, offered at no reserve and hammered sold at $800,000.Another highlight of Worldwide’s 2020 sale was the offering of the 1956 Chrysler Plainsman, a one-off show car that was called sold at $675,000.
Bonham’s presented its 10th Scottsdale Auction on Thursday, Jan. 16, again at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa. A total of 108 vehicles were offered with wide variety of vehicles on the docket. A total of 89 of those were declared sold for a sell-through of 82.4%. On the hammer, sales amounted to nearly $7.74 million and with the commission added came to a $8.5 million. These numbers were a bit different a year ago when Bonhams presented a docket of 120 vehicles with 108 of those selling for a 90% rate, but the average per car sale dropped from around $149,000 in 2019 to just under $96,000 this year. The top sale for Bonham’s was a stunning 1951 Ferrari 212 Inter hammered at $1,750,000.
RM/Sotheby’s, which conducted its two-day sale on Thursday and Friday at the Biltmore Resort, also ran a good auction but saw mixed numbers compared to 2019. This year a total of 143 lots were offered with 128 of those declared sale for a 90% sell-through. A year ago, RM has presented 154 vehicles with 129 of those selling with an 84% sales rate, but the dollar per car numbers dropped nearly $48,000 from an average in 2019 of $285,000 to $237,000 this year. Overall, RM posted sales results of $30.3 million, which was off by more than 17% from last year’s $36.8 million sale.
RM had several highlights, including a no-reserve offering of a half dozen V-16 Cadillacs from the John Groendyke Collection, bringing in a total of $2,312,500 on the hammer, and $2,571,500 with commissions. RM’s highest sale was a 2018 Pagani Huayda roadster that hammered at $2,150,000. Next on the list was a sharp 1967 Ferrari 330GTS Spider, called sold with a bid of $1,550,000.
Gooding & Company rounded out the four boutique sales Friday and Saturday in Scottsdale at the Fashion Square shopping center for 14th year. Attendance at Gooding’s sales is always strong with many attending just to watch their auctioneer, Mr. Charlie Ross of England, conduct what has to be the most entertaining and delightful event. This year saw good numbers, with 137 vehicles offered this year and 122 called sold for an 89% sell-through — an increase from last year’s totals of 123 lots offered with 104 sold and an 85% sell-through. However, the dollars were down considerably, with a hammer sales total of $32.5 million raised this year, or $35.9 million with the commission, compared to 2019’s overall total of $48.1 million. This year also saw a major drop from 2019’s average price per car sold. Last year’s average of $462,000 fell to $293,000 for 2020.
One of the many highlights of the Gooding’s sale this year was the sale of a 1948 Tucker, serial No. 34, for a hammer price of $1,925,000 and a final price to $2,085,000. High sale honors went to the 1995 Ferrari F50 coupe, called sold after a bid of $2,925,000. With commission the total was $3,222,500, making it the high seller among all the auction houses for the week.
Russo and Steele celebrated its 20th annual Scottsdale sale at its original location in north Scottsdale while conducting four sessions of lively auctioneering. This year a total of 513 vehicles were counted crossing over the auction block with 251 of those declared sold coming in just under the 50% mark, which was about even with the company’s 2019 sell-through rating. However, in 2019, Russo & Steele consigned 621 vehicles with 308 of those selling at $11.8 million, while the revenues for 2020 were right a $8 million, about a 32% drop. Continuing with its night-club atmosphere, the Russo and Steele action was fast, with founder Drew Alcazar on the floor with the cars and letting everyone know when a was for sale by announcing that “the reserve has been lifted!”
Taking the top honor for the 2020 Scottsdale sale was a 1958 Porsche 356A Speedster called sold at $235,000.
Finishing off the 2020 auction season in Scottsdale was a new entry to the market, Leake Auctions. Promoting its heritage back to 1964, when founder Jimmy C. Leake conducted his first sale in Muskogee, Okla., the husband and wife leaders of this company, Gary and Muffy Bennett, put their hearts and souls into this company’s premiere event in the Valley of the Sun. On hand were several executive from Leake’s new parent company, Richie Brothers, the largest auction company in the world thanks to dealing with billions of dollars of industrial equipment.
The Leake auction was held at the Salt Rivers Fields at Talking Stick. The layout was top shelf with plenty of parking and a fantastic lineup of automobiles. With four days filled with some of the best vehicles offered during this week-long auction bonanza, the highlight here was the offering of more than 100 vehicles from the John Staluppi Collection, all at no reserve. Including in this mix was a full set of Chrysler 300 “Letter” cars as well as a mix of highly desirable Corvettes, a few beautiful customs and a few other surprises.
When the last car crossed the block on Sunday afternoon, a total of 674 vehicles had been offered with 367 of those declared sold for a 53% sell-through rating. The total sales were tallied up at $16.6 million, with the top seller at Leake being the 2012 Lexus LFA. The high-performance sports convertible traded hands with a bid of $390,000. The highest price for a vintage car went to the 1957 Chrysler 300C convertible, bearing serial number 0001, which hammered for a total of $325,000.Several other cars from the Staluppi collection are believed to have set record prices along the way.
For the week, the total number of vehicles offered was actually up, with 3,687 compared to 3,295 in 2019. The 2,994 cars called sold made for a 77.4% sell-through rating. This was down from 2019, when 2,662 lots sold for a rate rate of 80.7%.
The dollar figure was also down slightly, with a total of $244.1 million for 2020 compared to the $251.2 million last year. Many observers believe Scottsdale can predict what is to come for the rest of the year in the world of collector car auctions. The next 11 months will surely be filled with ups, downs and few surprises along the way.