Rick Cole returned to the Monterey auctions this year after a long absence, bringing with him a new format with on-site previews and on-line only bidding.
Rick was the first to hold a collector car auction in Monterey, conducting the first one in 1986 and continuing well into the next decade. Until Christie’s appeared on the grounds at Pebble Beach, the Rick Cole auction in Portola Plaza was the only game in town, the place to be late on Friday and Saturday evenings long after racing at Laguna Seca had concluded for the day.
The 2014 version of the Rick Cole Auction was very different. Just 37 cars were previewed in the ballroom of the Marriott Hotel (formerly the site of the Russo and Steele auction now relocated to Fisherman’s Wharf), bidding was conducted entirely on-line with the bidding progress continually updated and a cutoff of midnight on Saturday.
The appeal was that bidders could be anywhere on the Monterey Peninsula, indeed, anywhere in the world, and be fed a stream of information about the auction cars. Want to race at the Reunion and still keep up to date on the Competizione Daytona? No problem — as long as there was access to Monterey’s seriously sketchy cell phone coverage.
Bidder registration was simple: send a digital photo of a driver’s license and a bidding credential from any other Monterey-area auction and registration was automatic. Would a $20,000 limit at Mecum qualify a Rick Cole bidder to take a shot at the multi-million dollar Ferrari 410 Sport? Apparently it would.
The number of cars described as “Sale Pending” after the auction’s conclusion suggests that confirming arrangements with successful bidders may not have been entirely free of complications.
It was audacious. By mid-September it also was being described as successful, even concluding the sale of the 410 Sport for $23 million, although it took a long time and was at a final, all-in, price less than that indicated by the originally reported $22,111,000 high bid.
To those accustomed to instant gratification and schooled in skepticism about bidding strategy and tactics it also was disquieting. The only confirmation of any bidding at all, not to mention successful transactions, came from the Rick Cole website. No one outside the Rick Cole organization saw or heard what was going on. It could be real, or it could be fantasy. No matter which it turned out to be, it was sublimely opaque.
As a practical matter, though, these are the results reported by Rick Cole Auctions, including the blockbuster sale concluded sometime in September of the Ferrari 410 Sport. They are the only results available, and they will be treated, with a healthy shaking of salt, as what happened.
In the closed world of collector car transactions tales of cars reported sold but going back home to their consignors will soon degrade the credibility of organizations that practice such duplicity. That’s a poor way to establish a reputation or to build future auction consignments. If the real and the reported at the Rick Cole Auction diverge significantly it will be to the detriment of Rick Cole’s business plan, and degrade an otherwise innovative concept
We’ll let it stand for now, giving Rick Cole credit for an audacious re-entry into the Monterey auction scene and some truly breathtaking results. Every new auction, especially one like this with an innovative presentation, deserves to be taken on its word.