Bonhams, Quail Lodge, Carmel Valley, California, August 16, 2013
Report and photos (unless noted) by Rick Carey, Auction Editor
Quail Lodge (let alone the $29.6 million sale of the Mercedes-Benz W196 at Goodwood in July) is ample evidence that Bonhams has raised its game.
They have declined to exist in the shadow of the blockbuster auctions of RM and Gooding while having H&H and Artcurial nip at their heels in the UK and France.
There is a new generation of specialists at Bonhams — Evan Ide, David Swig, Jacob Greisen, and Eric Minoff — balancing the old hands Mark Osborne, Nick Smith, James Knight, Rupert Banner and their leaders Malcolm Barber and Robert Brooks.
Bonhams discarded the erratic split commission structure of past years (17% of the first $100K, 10% over $100K) for a comprehensible and competitive flat 10%.
Rupert Banner ascended the podium at Quail, intermittently supported by David Swig’s articulate and informed introductions for selected cars. Rupert brought a new dynamic to the block, not least in his occasional insistence that “I’m in charge” and refusal to accept paltry bid increments.
This auction went faster (but it could go faster still to retain its pace) and the results in many cases speak for themselves.
The Bonhams specialists are committed car guys – you only have to talk with Evan Ide about the American Underslung to get that message – and they are on their game.
Bonhams [& Butterfields, as they do business in the States) has a convoluted history arising from Robert Brooks’ defection from Christie’s to form Brooks Auctioneers in the late Eighties. The acquisition of San Francisco-based Butterfields from eBay and the country auctions of Phillips in the UK created a cross-market auction house that lost its motor cars’ focus that even the assimilation of Malcolm Barber’s Sotheby’s team and the Christie’s Motorcar Department didn’t affect.
That loss of motor car focus seems, if Quail is any indication, to have been overcome and Bonhams’ presence as an important player is welcomed back into the panoply of American and international collector car auctions.