Barrett-Jackson, WestWorld, Scottsdale, Arizona, January 13-18, 2015
All props to Barrett-Jackson, no matter how it is cut, sliced and mixed. This is the grand daddy of collector car auctions and within its ebbs and flows mirrors the car collecting hobby better than anything else.
There is a law of large numbers at work here. With 1,628 cars crossing the block in six days of nearly non-stop commercial excess, it’s hard to miss a trend. But Barrett-Jackson works hard to smoke them out before others tumble to them.
Hundreds of vendors flock to fill the acres (soon to be measured in square miles?) of space under the buildings and tents at WestWorld. Their offerings similarly mirror the tastes (if that word can be applied) of the bidders, guests, sponsors and a daily deluge of walk-ins who part with up to $60 just to partake of the spectacle.
In a quarter century of chronicling collector car auctions I’ve never wavered from a simple expression: Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale auction is “Barrett-Jackson” followed by a year. Other Barrett-Jackson sites, Palm Beach, Las Vegas, LA, Orange County and Reno, specify the location.
This is ‘Barrett-Jackson.’
There is no other.
The bare numbers are eye-opening:
Cars Offered / Sold
1628 / 1606
1403 / 1399
1312 / 1308
The average car this year at $89,100 (rounding taken into account) was a ’69 Plymouth Road Runner Hemi Hardtop.
One of the median cars at $45,100 was an FJ40 Land Cruiser (described later).
Barrett-Jackson has a huge audience with its television presence and it has effectively used its exposure to expand not only its footprint but also the opportunities it offers to the multitudes who watch and eventually visit.
The experimentation with new ideas is especially visible in what Barrett-Jackson calls The Salon Collection. It was added as a separate segment in 2012 featuring a selection of high value classics, sports cars and concepts. Positioned at the front of the enclosed preview area, The Salon Collection gave everyone who walked into Barrett-Jackson a quick dose of cars unlike the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s American, sports, muscle, custom and resto-mods (another category pioneered by Barrett-Jackson) that filled the preview tents. It started slow with just 32 lots in 2012, but all but three of them sold and brought a total of $18,282,700, 20.2% of the $90 million Barrett-Jackson total in 2012.
Importantly, the Salon Collection demonstrated that, after years of catering to a mostly American, mostly 50’s-70’s era market, Barrett-Jackson could and did sell classic marques like Packard, Isotta-Fraschini, Duesenberg, Pierce-Arrow, Daimler and Hudson and they brought very good prices, as high as and in some cases higher than they might have brought at competing auctions. The high end, classic, market was dynamic, and the interests of Barrett-Jackson’s clientele were broad and expanding to encompass it.
In 2013 The Salon Collection was back, now with 54 cars ranging from a 1914 Mercedes and 1919 Pierce-Arrow to a pair of 2009 Spykers, and of course George Barris’s “Batmobile #1”. 50 of them sold, bringing a total of $29,240,200, (27.9% of the 2013 total) a one-day, three hour performance than any auction anywhere would point to with pride.
Having identified a good thing, Barrett-Jackson expanded the Salon again in 2014, bringing it up to 75 lots including a Calliope, a Carousel, several customs, a boat-trailer-Hummer combination and the “Snake” v. “Mongoose” exhibition drag cars with their haulers. The docket ranged in age from a 1918 Packard Twin Six to a brand new 2013 Camaro CRC COPO. All but four sold, bringing a total of $32,027,600 (28.8% of the week’s total.) Fifteen lots were offered with reserves, 4 no-saled, a 73.3% sell-through on reserve lots.
This year there were 105 lots in the Salon, filling nearly half of the front preview structure. 84 sold for a total of $22,173,800 (16.9% of the week’s total.) The Salon Collection’s performance was somewhat disappointing, but realistic in light of the heavy interest and expansive promotion of the 140 cars from Ron Pratte’s collection that pre-empted the sequence of Salon offerings on the block to fit into Barrett-Jackson’s television schedule.
Aside from showing Barrett-Jackson’s willingness to tinker with its extraordinarily successful formula (actually there are several formulae that interact synergistically) the success of The Salon Collection at Barrett-Jackson’s signature week-long Scottsdale auction demonstrates how interest in collecting expands when collectors are presented with opportunities that challenge their established patterns.
If it shows nothing more than that, the Salon Collection’s success shows that collecting, and car collecting in particular, is not a static environment. The idea that young collectors hankering after the Countaches, Ford GTs and Enzos of their high school and college years will lose interest after satisfying that urge is narrow-minded. Once collecting interest is stimulated the appeal of a Fifties Chrysler, a Forties Woodie Wagon, a Thirties Packard, a Twenties Cadillac and even a Teens Pierce-Arrow becomes steadily more apparent.
It is recognized and encouraged in the Barrett-Jackson Salon Collection.