Historically, the annual Arizona auctions have been scrutinized and examined as a bellwether for what the market will do during the next 6 to 12 months. And for good reason — somewhere in the neighborhood of 15% of cars sold at auction each year appear in Scottsdale or Phoenix in January. Those looking for evidence of a cooling trend this year will either have to dig deep into the results or wait for the next major event, as 2014’s totals far surpassed 2013’s record amount. In the end, $248.5M worth of cars traded among the 6 auction houses — more than a 10% increase — with Barrett-Jackson, RM Auctions and Bonhams all recording their highest-ever totals in Arizona. Yes, more cars were required to achieve this feat, but the average sale price for all cars sold this year was still more than 7% higher than last.
We have long discussed how Blue Chip collectibles have been driving overall growth in the market for the past several years, and Blue Chip cars continued to perform in Arizona. Top sale for the week was $8.8M for a 1958 Ferrari 250 GT California LWB Spyder, sold by RM. This is the second year in a row that a Cal Spyder earned top honors in Arizona, as Gooding sold a 1958 LWB example for $8.25M in 2013. Gooding sold a similarly elegant if less sporting 1958 Ferrari 250 GT Cabriolet for $6.16M, as well as a 1997 McLaren F1 GTR Longtail race car for $5.28M. In general, most of the star cars that sold across all auctions did so for numbers at the leading edge of the market.
Exclusive foreign cars weren’t the only ones to do well, of course. Perhaps surprising to casual observers were Barrett-Jackson’s results for Corvettes. In particular, an exceptionally rare 1967 Chevrolet Corvette L88 coupe sold for a record price of $3.85M, the 1969 L88 “Rebel” race car sold for $2.86M, and a 1968 L88 convertible sold for $880,000. That’s three Corvettes for more than $7.5M.
Cars in more affordable price ranges also performed well, generally speaking. As evidence, the two companies that most cater to the mainstream buyer — Silver Auctions and Russo and Steele — saw their collective average sale price increase by more than 16%, and this despite Russo narrowly missing on its premier car.
As is the case at any auction, bargains were to be found. With nearly 3,000 vehicles on offer throughout three cities during the course of a full week, some cars didn’t generate the attention they probably deserved. For example, a nice 1971 Oldsmobile 4-4-2 W-30 convertible sold for $84,700 by Barrett-Jackson, which is about the price an excellent replica might make. Plenty more of these opportunities lurked, with lucky bidders who found themselves in the right place at the right time being rewarded.
While Arizona grabs most of the attention from the classic car universe in January, Mecum’s mega-auction in Kissimmee will close out the month with roughly the same volume of vehicles crossing the block. When those numbers are combined with Scottsdale, a new story may emerge, but for now 2014 has picked up right where 2013 left off, which is to say with all cylinders firing.