Collecting Cars: A Global Auction Site Like No Other
We talked to Founder & CEO Edward Lovett about his vision for the future of vehicle auctions
It is an indisputable fact that the world is going digital. 30 years ago, the internet was in its infancy, used mostly by universities and research centres. Of course, there were classic car auctions back then—but they were in-person only, and you often didn’t know what cars were on the block until you received the information booklet in the mail.
Many things have moved forward in the past 30 years, not least of which is how people buy and sell their cars. Several major websites now host thousands upon thousands of cars for sale or auction, and within the online auction community are known as “churn sites.” The problem is that for most of the 21st century, there hasn’t been an alternative—until Collecting Cars, that is.
Collecting Cars: A Solution To An International Problem
Edward Lovett, founder and CEO of Collecting Cars, has been in the car business all his life, as his family owns and runs the Dick Lovett’s Dealership in the UK. Edward has taken note of how classic car auctions have been sticking to the same format they were using back in the 1990s. The only difference these days is that you don’t have to wait for the info packet in the mail, you download it off the auction’s website.
This struck him as odd, as while the rest of the world had raced towards the digital age and embraced the online platform, classic car auctions, especially the big ones like Pebble Beach, Scottsdale, and Barrett-Jackson are still operating the same as always. It didn’t make sense to him, when there was an entire world of potential buyers and sellers just waiting for the right tool. At that moment, Edward realized that if the tool didn’t exist, he would make it.
Collecting Cars was formed in October 2018, and development of the online classics tool began in earnest. After going live in 2019, the first transaction across the site was a Range Rover Classic LSE for £12,800 (~$17,500 USD) in June.
Things exploded from there, with the first major milestone of £1 million in sales coming in only 3 short months later, in September 2019. The next milestone of the company earning £1 million in revenue was realized only 4 months later, in January 2020 . Since then, neither Edward or Collecting Cars have looked back.
Interview With Edward Lovett, Founder & CEO of Collecting Cars Auctions
Note: Selected portions of the interview have been selected and edited for clarity and conciseness.
Edward Lovett, Founder and CEO of Collecting Cars
Our interviewer for the day was Simon Bertram, a content writer for Sports Car Digest and sister automotive content sites. While he is not your average classic car collector, he does know the collecting lifestyle from other hobbies. He only wishes he could afford to buy the one car that has held his eye from the first day he saw one—and one day, if it comes up on Collecting Cars, he just might.
Simon Bertram (SB):
As always with these interviews, thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to sit down with us here at SportsCarDigest.
Edward Lovett (EL):
(With a small laugh) I literally live, eat, breathe cars, so it’s not really taking a moment out as it is just sharing what I love to do!
We really do like to get a background on the people we interview for our website, to understand first the person behind the business, what drives them, what they’re like, so that it’s not just a “here’s their website, enjoy.” Would you be able to provide us with a quick summary of Edward Lovett, the Founder?
Well, firstly, I am Edward Lovett. My family business is called Dick Lovett’s, and that’s in its 54th year now. I was born and bred in the car business, as Dick Lovett’s is a franchise dealer for Porsche, Ferrari, BMW, Aston Martin, Mini, etc., in the southwest of England and employs about 800 people. I’ve been in and out of that business for most of my life, although I’ve been travelling the world for the past ten years buying and selling collectible cars.
Given the fact that I make the pilgrimage to Pebble Beach every August, winding the clock back 5 years, one in ten conversations included talk of an online auction website. The next year, one in five. The year after that, every conversation brought up one of the big auction sites in the US. When I returned from Pebble Beach in August 2018, it was very clear that there was a big gap in the market in the UK for something along that business model.
So, I chose a name, chose a web developer, and proceeded on the journey. 8 months later, the first auction started in the UK through Collecting Cars.
When this is what you grew up and into learning about, it’s no wonder that someone like Edward would have the right mindset and the timing to create a global auction platform.
While there was definitely a background for Edward to build out from, it was through his “hobby,” (although it seems a bit casual to call travelling the world buying and selling collectible cars a hobby)), that he found his inspiration. As the saying goes, “What’s meant to be will always find a way,” and the UK’s premiere collectible car auction site was born through Edward’s realization of what was missing.
He goes on then to discuss how at first, there were only three employees at Collecting Cars, including himself. They had very humble and modest expectations—and at first, those expectations were met with decent, if small, sales of more affordable collectibles. However, once word got out that there was a collectible car auction site centered in the UK, the traffic started to flow.
A simple, easy to understand logo, but one that also stands out.
From closing the first auction in June of 2019 to January 2020, Collecting Cars made their first £1 million, which made Edward extremely happy. However, what came next was beyond even his wildest dreams. From January 2020 through December 2020, Collecting Cars sold through over £45 million worth of collectible cars, including some that were listed with six figures after the Pound sign.
That is some serious growth! How have things been in 2021, what with all the pandemic lockdowns and the cancellation of so many car shows and auctions in 2020 and the first part of this year?
I can tell you that year-to-date, January to October 2021, Collecting Cars has sold through £125 million worth of cars. Pounds Sterling, of course.
Wow. Yeah, that is what you would call explosive growth!
(Laughs) Well, there’s also not just three of us now either. There’s 56 of us now, and we’re looking to bring in more people as well, globally. Web developers, car experts, UI/UX experts, we’re looking to build this out into not just one of, but the premiere collectible car auction site!
From humble beginnings to pushing to be the biggest and best, I guess that’s what makes the best businesses succeed! To take this on a slight tangent, what do you think about your past experiences helped make the online auction site dream come to fruition?
Well, I wouldn’t say that I’m old, nor would I say that I’m young. Over the course of the last 10 years, I’ve done a huge amount of business over the phone, email, WhatsApp, even previously to Collecting Cars I was operating my own business which was called International Collectibles, where I was buying and selling collectible cars around the world. The experience that I brought forward from all that is that no one came to see the car in person before buying it.
It was all done through email and the phone—sending pictures to them of areas of interest, and maybe one or two would come out to the car for a final inspection before buying it. It was very clear from the outset that I didn’t need to add additional cost by having a showroom or storage warehouse. The key thing is that you can transact online.
I think the other experience that really made things work was building up trust. Through International Collectibles, I was often dealing with a few regular clients, and they trusted me that I was telling them all the good and bad about the cars they were looking to buy. I do have to admit, with a background in car sales and dealerships, building up that trust was just as hard as it is for everyone else, but once it’s earned, it sticks.
A lot of auction sites have come and gone in the last 24 months, because they popped up without building up their contacts and building up trust. They didn’t get the listings, and therefore they disappeared. Because Collecting Cars came out of the background of both being a car dealer and a trusted agent for private collectors, we knew right away that we needed to gain that trust from the selling public, and so far, it seems we’ve got it.
This is something we at SportsCarDigest completely understand. You don’t come to SportsCarDigest to read about the latest and greatest news in the classic car world just because it was the first link in Google. You come to SportsCarDigest because we tell it like it is, we’re always 100% honest, and we value the trust that you put into us to do the research, do the digging, and get to the truth of every article we post.
Simon agreed wholeheartedly, and Edward elaborated on the process of how a car is sold through Collecting Cars. Every car, no matter if it’s a Bugatti Veyron or a Mazda Miata, is listed for 7 days. They also always suggest emphatically that a bidder has the car inspected, and ask as many questions to the seller as they feel they need to be sure about the condition and quality of the car.
Anything and everything that has four wheels and an engine is welcome to be sold through Collecting Cars, as long as someone out there would like to collect it!
Also, to ensure that the seller isn’t facing undue pressure, Collecting Cars curates the auction listings so that for any one auction period, only one of that car is listed. This is why there is a “Live Auction” section on their website, and a “Coming Soon” section next to it. This way, if a bidder is pushed out of their budget early in the bidding process, they can start looking at the next car coming down the pipeline early, and start to gain that feeling of trust in the seller.
Edward states here that Collecting Cars endeavours to be as transparent as possible, within common sense. They won’t step in between a bidder and seller until a deal is finalized, and even then, it’s only to make sure all the paperwork, title, money, and such is transferred correctly. It is an auction platform like no other, where they are not curating the actual car itself, holding it in a warehouse or on a showroom floor.
To put it in simpler wording, the curation is in providing the auction platform itself. You are guaranteed a fair shot at selling your car without competition from another of the same car during the same auction period. You have an intermediary agent in Collecting Cars that can help with listing, selling, bidding, buying, and transferring cars, but for the rest of the time, they’re working hard behind the scenes to make your auction experience as smooth and uncomplicated as possible.
Although there is one thing that Edward didn’t talk about that I know some other auction sites do, especially those dealing with rarer cars…
I know through watching multiple auctions like Pebble Beach and Barrett-Jackson online, sometimes the seller doesn’t want to be known. Does Collecting Cars have any type of consignment system in place to protect the identity of some sellers?
We don’t, as the platform, have anything set up like that. What we do have, however, is a network of partners around the world that will take on the consignment from the seller, and list it under their own name or their company’s name. We also use that same network of partners if the seller isn’t wanting to manage the sale themself.
It’s part of being global now. It’s all about networking, and through my own past connections and new opportunities, we’ve built up a great network of trustworthy partners. We have two major offices, one here in the UK and one in Los Angeles, but we also have physical offices in Sydney (Australia), Munich (Germany), Toronto (Canada), and London (England). In the next six months, we’ll also have a Scandinavian office, and one in the United Arab Emirates.
We have a physical presence in all of those areas, so if anyone wants to sell through us but wants to keep their privacy, we work with them in those areas to make the sale happen. As I like to say, we’re a global business that operates locally.
This is the second reason that Collecting Cars is a global classic car auction site like no other. By establishing a local presence in major markets, they are able to not only source collectible cars and build local partnerships, but also provide that personal touch, that little extra bit of attention to detail and client care that builds up that all important trust.
Another important (and very often misunderstood) business practice that Collecting Cars uses to build up their reputation and trustworthiness is that they do not aggressively advertise. We’ve all had the experience of searching for something on the internet, or clicking on an interesting link on Facebook, only for the ads that appear on websites and social media to suddenly be all about that thing you looked up.
Collecting Cars, on the other hand, will advertise that they are a collectible car auction site, and that’s about it. They won’t chase you around the internet with targeted ads, nor do they spend millions of dollars trying to have the biggest flashing neon sign. By having a dignified physical presence around the world and staying out of your hair digitally, Collecting Cars relies on the oldest and most powerful advertisement of them all: word of mouth.
Having done over £125 million so far in 2021, we think they might be on the right track. Of course, it also helps when a true classic, modern or not, sells through the website and brings eyes onto it because of a sale…
This is a question I ask every owner, founder, chief officer, et al, of any auction website: Are there any sales that were memorable to you, personally? In the sense that you liked the car, you were amazed at the final bid, and the like?
There is one. We sold a Porsche 918 Weissach Edition from Los Angeles. Those are extremely rare cars to come up for sale in the collector market, and the fact that we were able to be the platform it sold through was an incredible experience.
The lethal looking 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder Weissach Edition.
Do you remember how much it sold for?
It went for just over $1.4 million US dollars.
That is an amazing sale to be a part of. Did the LA office go out and look for cars for sale, or…?
No, no. With that one, the seller contacted the office and left a message. We were very quick to get on the phone with him, as our office in LA is in West Hollywood, and the car itself was actually about half a mile away. We met with the owner, agreed on a reserve price, took the photos of the car, listed it, and sold it.
Something else about us, especially being an online platform, is that we charged him exactly zero dollars to do all that for him. When the car was sold, we charged the buyer $5,000 as a buyer’s premium.
If you were to bid on that car at an in-person event, and if it sold for the $1.4 million it did through us, you would on average pay about $150,000 in buyer’s premium alone, and the seller would pay anywhere between 5% to 10% of the value of the car in seller’s fees—so you could easily go over $250,000 in premiums and fees just to get the car across the block and sold.
And we charged $5,000 from the buyer only.
Any other cars that excited you?
Being honest with you, I am as excited about a car we sell for $10,000 as I am about a car we sell for $1 million. I’m just proud to provide the platform for people to auction their cars through, with bidders from Hong Kong to the UK, from New York to Auckland. So, in a way, every car sold is memorable, because it means that we’re providing people with a platform they trust to sell and buy through.
The rare naked carbon interior option for the Porsche 918 Spyder, available only with the Weissach Edition.
It’s hard to convey in an article, but during this part of the interview, we could see in Edward’s eyes that he really, truly meant what he said. There are some business owners you will come across who, at the end of a long day, while doing an interview after closing time, will answer your questions but not seem invested in the actual discussion.
Not so with Edward. Every answer was delivered with enthusiasm, and when he spoke of every car being memorable, it was reflected in his entire demeanour: leaning forward, smiling, that little sparkle in his eyes when he mentioned being proud to have made a platform that more and more people are choosing to use. It’s not the sparkle of making a ton of money, or the sparkle of ego.
The sparkle in his eyes is about absolutely loving everything he’s doing. This is a true car guy first, and a businessman second. Edward is happy with pretty much anything that has four wheels and an engine, enjoys every aspect of buying, selling, and loves providing a platform for others to do the same.
In the end, it’s why we’re all here on SportsCarDigest, isn’t it? We all share that passion—that certain something about the engineering, the design, the feeling of enjoying, admiring, and driving the cars we do.
It’s not just a way to get from point A to point B for us; it’s all about enjoying the journey as you slide the gear lever into first and let out the clutch to start the car rolling down that long, welcoming stretch of pavement that some call “the road” but many of us simply call “home.”
Additionally, Edward did mention after the official interview was over, with a little smirk, that there may be some expansion in the near future to cover specific vehicles that are sometimes auctioned on Collecting Cars but don’t really fit there (something about a website regarding Collecting Motorcycles, and another about Collecting Race Cars).
He wasn’t entirely certain that they already had those domain names registered and were migrating the platform to fit those two vehicle types. Of course, Edward said all this with a hefty wink and grin.