Classic Car Auction Yearbook 2015-2016 – Book Review

Classic Car Auction Yearbook 2016-2016
Classic Car Auction Yearbook

Dr. Orsi and Mr. Gazzi have an enviable skill for considering vast amounts of data on the $1.2 billion-plus annual collector car market, presenting it in salient graphs and each year coming up with new and insightful ways to make sense of it. Even more remarkably they make reading about it enjoyable and easy to understand.

The Classic Car Auction Yearbook 2015-2016 includes results from 107 individual auctions in the U.S., the U.K, Europe, Australia and the Far East. That number is, as anyone paying attention would expect, up substantially from the 94 auctions in the previous Yearbook. Similarly, the current Yearbook describes 5,644 individual transactions, up from 5,154 last year.

The Yearbook’s ‘year’ runs from September 1 through August 31, as it has since 2012-2013, so it can include the all-important transactions from the Monterey Week, comprising something like 3/10ths of the entire year’s transaction values. The authors take pains to point out:

‘[I]t is important to note that the Monterey auctions do influence the market, but that they are not ‘the market’: the results achieved there are not reproducible anywhere else, and represent a unique moment in the course of the year.’

The Authors’ Comment takes particular note of declining sale rates, which dropped 6 points from 78% last year to 72% in 2015-2016. Declines were noted in all three major auction markets, U.S., U.K., and Europe.

Looking at auction results in aggregate, parsed into separate categories for analysis, as the Classic Car Auction Yearbook does, puts trends into perspective sometimes lost in the hype of $20 and $30 million individual cars that seem to be going nowhere but up in value.

Over time it is true that values appreciate, something apparent in the Yearbook’s annual graphic treatment of ten individual cars with two or more auction transactions over ten or more years. Most of their transaction value graphs slope steeply up; except for the Austin-Healey 3000 MK III Phase 2 (s/n HBJ8L41566) that sold for more US$ in 2003 than it did in 2016.

Look for even more informative graphs of paired transaction in next year’s edition when the US$, GB£ and EEC€ traces stand a good chance of crossing as the number of dollars needed to buy a £ or a € goes down.

Pervading the 2015-2016 Yearbook is the notion (and the historic track) of weakening, if not moderately declining, transaction values. It gets the authors’ attention:

‘As the underlying law of supply and demand operates in the collector car market, last season many players (whether collectors or investors) decided to take advantage of the high level of prices achieved in order to try to sell their own cars, but it seems they did not find enough buyers, or, at least, not at the price they expected.’

That observation was echoed in three of the auction companies’ market analysis comments that lead off the Yearbook.

Matthieu Lamoure, Artcurial Motorcars:
‘For the first time in 15 years of continually rising prices [of mass production models], this sudden rise has halted, affecting those who have entered the market uninformed, hoping to profit from an easy investment and make a quick buck. These speculators have been punished for not buying with their heart.’

Philip Kantor, Bonhams Europe:
‘Not everything is selling at vendor’s expectations of tomorrow’s prices to impatient buyers trying to jump on the band wagon …. This stabilization is truly good news not only for real enthusiasts but also [for] the market….’

Peter Wallman, RM Sotheby’s Europe:
‘Cars that have regularly traded hands, and/or were mass-produced are seeing a – possibly overdue – market correction…. [T]his is good news and suggests that the market is stabilising and maturing.

Other observations noted the increasing importance, and values, of late model supercars and their more recent hypercar successors.

Matthieu Lamoure:
‘The 2016/2016 season has also seen increased demand for more recent models. … This rise is explained by the fact that buyers are younger than ever before, and are buying the car of their dreams earlier than preceding generations.’

Philip Kantor:
‘What this shows us is a clear generational trend to the best examples with the most interesting specification in what some call the youngtimer category’

Peter Wallman:
‘Worthy of mention is the ongoing rise of modern supercars. Limited, low-production examples from the [19]80s-2000s are now particularly in demand.’

But in the end it is the 327 pages of individual auction transaction reports that confer the most value, and support the various conclusions and inferences.

Arranged by Marque, Model and Transaction date there is perhaps no better way to gain a sense of the way individual marques and models are valued by collectors than in the 2015-2016 Yearbook’s auction season results which since the 2012-2013 edition have included references to prior transaction in the same car (as identified by chassis number). Price Guides are useful references but for serious buyers who wish to be informed there is no better way to scope out value perceptions and trends than in these easy-to-read and sequentially-organized pages.

It’s also illuminating to discover obscure but interesting marques (APAL, Grosser Werkmeister, La Buire, Matford, Mecca, Newton Bennett (a Ceirano sold in the U.K.) and many more) that pepper the pages.

It’s a pleasure to spend hours perusing the Classic Car Auction Yearbook; it can be valuable, too.

Classic Car Auction Yearbook 2015-2016 by Adolfo Orsi and Raffaele Gazzi. Hardcover, 9 1/2 x 12 1/4 inches. 416 Pages, innumerable color and black & white photos. Retail $79. ISBN 978-88-96232-08-8. Published in 2016 by Historica Selecta srl, Modena.

Available at auto booksellers outside the U.S., Autobooks-Aerobooks in Burbank, CA and from Amazon.com.

[Source: Rick Carey; photos: Historica Selecta / Classic Car Auction Yearbook]