In January 2010, at its Kissimmee, Florida, auction, Mecum raised some eyebrows when it sold a 1966 Riva Super Aquarama Series II prototype for $775,000. If you don't recognize what kind of car that is, that's because it's not a car. It's a boat. And it was the high sale of an auction stuffed full of about a thousand cars.
Mecum's tagline used to be: "Noboby sells more muscle than Mecum. Nobody." These days, they've changed it to reflect a broadening of their auction net, which now includes a high-end sale in Monterey. The new slogan is "Classics, Corvettes, Muscle Cars & More."
And it's the "More" bit that gets us back to boats. So noteworthy was the Riva sale, that Mecum began introducing classic boats into subsequent sales. In October 2010, they even held an all-boat sale of the Warner Collection in Minnesota, where 126 vintage watercraft sold for $4 million.
This year at Kissimmee, two more Rivas made the top 10 list: a 1970 Aquarama Series III brought $325,000, and a 1996 Aquarama — the last to be sold to the public — brought a sale-topping $975,000.
At Monterey alone, Mecum sold a 1938 Chris-Craft 19-foot Custom for $80,000 and a 1929 Chris-Craft 28-foot Triple Cockpit Runabout for $110,000, while a pair of Rivas failed to sell.
On September 25, in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Mecum returned to an all-boat format when it offered 67 vintage boats from Chris-Craft, Gar Wood, Century, Leyare, Shepherd, and more. When all was said and done, however, only 15 sold for a 22% sell-through and $347,350 total. High sale was a 1955 Chris-Craft 18' Cobra at $75,000, one of just 51 produced.
These aren't exactly the kind of numbers Mecum was expecting. It's always hard to say what would account for such lackluster results. It would seem that idyllic Lake Geneva would be a suitable venue. And alongside the 36th annual Grand & Glorious International Boat Show, surely the right audience was present. Despite the big results of its Minnesota sale last year, that auction seems to have created a legal stir among some bidders, so perhaps a bit of bidder uncertainty showed up at Lake Geneva. We'll never know.
High-profile one-off Riva sales aside, it's up in the air whether Mecum will return to an all-boat format. While we applaud an otherwise classic car auction house for the effort — and clearly they have the car thing down — perhaps Mecum just might stick to cars and live happily ever after.
We'll know in January, when Kissimmee rolls around, whether boats are still a part of Mecum's "More."
Stefan Lombard is Managing Editor of Hagerty magazine.