RM Sotheby’s Hershey 2015 – Auction Report

RM Sotheby’s, Hershey, Pennsylvania, October 8-9, 2015

The next time someone tries to make the case that the market for antique cars is dying off tell them to take a good look at RM Sotheby’s Hershey auction.

Particularly in 2015, because there was one of the best selections of toothsome antique, brass and nickel era cars ever assembled right here in Hershey, home of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA).

It’s not hard to fall for the allure of early automobiles, it takes only a little time and effort. In the years around the turn of the twentieth century the automobile was in its infancy, being moved forward by trained engineers and intuitive amateurs alike. And none of them knew what the ‘right way’ was to make an automobile.

They made three-wheelers, steam cars, electrics and gasoline engines of all imaginable configurations. They made little cars, middle-sized cars, big cars and immense cars. The gasoline vehicles had opposed engines, inline engines and vee engines. Valves were scattered all over the place, some mechanically operated and others operating on atmospheric pressure.

It was a delightful plethora of ingenuity, and if some of it didn’t work there was always another investor willing to back the next idea and build on the experiences and failures.

While the full range of wild ideas and concepts is far too large to be encompassed by a single auction, RM Sotheby’s Hershey auction is about as close as it gets. Over several years it really does showcase the wild, ingenious, mysterious and practical concepts that by about the time of the Crash of ’29 had coalesced into a more or less standard automobile layout, a pattern that would continue with few exceptions until the 1960’s.

And here at Hershey these wonderful old automobiles sell to an informed, sometimes greasy, hands-on, market who know and appreciate value and quality. It isn’t Lambos, Porsches and Enzos. It’s Pierces, Packards and Oldsmobiles, and RM|Sotheby’s sold almost all of them, in the process making 2015 RM Sotheby’s best-ever Hershey auction, by a significant margin of over 15% from last year’s also successful Hershey auction.

RM Hershey
Cars Offered / Sold
Sale %
Sold < Low Est
Sold > High Est
Average Sale
Total Sales
2015
150 / 144
96.0%
59.0%
11.8%
$111,440
$16,047,400
2014
169 / 157
92.9%
51.0%
14.0%
$88,517
$13,897,150
2013
116 / 104
89.7%
49.0%
16.4%
$92,848
$9,656,200
2012
118 / 110
93.2%
66.4%
9.1%
$90,010
$9,901,100
2011
115 / 97
84.4%
63.5%
7.3%
$103,737
$10,062,450
2010
148 / 148
100%
40.5%
23.0%
$58,835
$8,707,600
2009
136 / 128
94.1%
58.6%
17.2%
$67,798
$8,678,200

RM Sotheby’s Hershey 2015 – Auction Report

1916 Republic Beer Truck
Lot # 127 1916 Republic Beer Truck; S/N 10-12958; Engine # 67800.N; Yellow, Black fenders and bed/Black leatherette; Estimate $10,000 – $15,000; Unrestored original, 4 condition; Hammered Sold at $18,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $19,800. No Reserve. Continental 4-cylinder, Gray & Davis acetylene headlights on cowl, coil rear helper springs, no windshield, solid rubber tires. – Dead old paint on the seat box and bed but surprisingly good yellow on the frame and chassis. Grungy engine, oily chassis. Originally owned by the Lehigh Valley Brewing Company, known subsequent history. A wonderful old thing that deserves to be left as is cosmetically. Richard Roy estate. – This is a charming lump that exudes character and should never be ‘restored’, the essence of the ‘barn find’ character and far better than most of its century old contemporaries. It brought more than the high estimate, but no more than it deserved.
1922 Mercer Series 5 Sporting
Lot # 138 1922 Mercer Series 5 Sporting; S/N 5368; Engine # 5278; Dark Olive Green, Black fenders/Black; Black leatherette top; Estimate $150,000 – $200,000; Visually maintained, largely original, 3- condition; Hammered Sold at $80,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $88,000. No Reserve. Waltham clock, Light Green wire wheels, whitewall tires, Badger headlights, S&M spotlight, dual rear-mounted spares, 1972 Pennsylvania inspection sticker. – Sound old body paint, fenders quickly repainted over cracked, shrunken old paint. Front seats recovered in leatherette but the rest of the upholstery and interior trim is original leather. Top is complete but old and cracked. Engine and chassis are old, oily and road grimy. A marvelous old piece fully capable of being used as is after mechanical work to offset sitting for years. Richard Roy estate. – Generously but not unreasonably estimated by RM Sotheby’s, the bidders were more circumspect and cautious in reserving room in the price for the extensive mechanical work needed to bring this Mercer back to life. When it is, however, it will be both valuable and a delight to own and tour.
1923 Wills Sainte Claire B-68 Gray Goose Special Touring
Lot # 140 1923 Wills Sainte Claire B-68 Gray Goose Special Touring; S/N 06916; Engine # 07984; Olive Green, Black fenders/Black leather; Olive Green cloth top; Estimate $45,000 – $65,000; Unrestored original, 4+ condition; Hammered Sold at $52,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $57,200. No Reserve. 266 cubic inch sohc 67hp V-8, 3-speed, disc wheels, whitewalls, single sidemount, luggage trunk. – Known history from first owner liquor importer William Schieffelin, his son-in-law Cameron Bradley and then Richard Roy. All original except perhaps for an old repaint on the fenders. Dull old paint, cracked front seat upholstery, bad brightwork. Complete and amazingly sound. Wonderful. Richard Roy estate. – Not run in half a century or more, but rigorously original and complete as well as one of the most desirable and rare of all automobiles of the Twenties. Although it will need a great deal of work before it takes to the road again at this price the work can be done, without scrimping, and still create value. It is a good value at this price.
1916 White Model Forty-Five G.E.D. Touring
Lot # 141 1916 White Model Forty-Five G.E.D. Touring; S/N GED75502; Blue, Black fenders/Black; Black leatherette top; Estimate $20,000 – $25,000; Visually maintained, largely original, 4+ condition; Hammered Sold at $33,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $36,300. No Reserve. 362 cubic inch side valve four, 4-speed, black wood spoke wheels, drum headlights, dual left side spares and running board mounted tool box, side curtains. – Tired, dirty old car with a fair old repaint, seat cover upholstery, dull brightwork. Grungy, oily chassis. The imposing body on this White has the stamp of authority in its lines and helps make this a potentially satisfying project, but definitely a project. Richard Roy estate. – Even not having run in half a century this White tourer is so complete and impressive that even at a third over RM Sotheby’s high estimate it still represents good value for money.
1923 Mercer Series 6 Sporting
Lot # 144 1923 Mercer Series 6 Sporting; S/N 20239; Engine # 101291; Light Grey, Black fenders/Dark Red leather; Black cloth top; Estimate $175,000 – $225,000; Older restoration, 3 condition; Hammered Sold at $75,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $82,500. No Reserve. Opening windshield, wind wings, Monogram drum headlights, Dark Red centerlock wire wheels, whitewall tires, dual rear-mounted spares. – Sound old paint starting to crack and fade. Good upholstery and top. Fair nickel. Dirty, oily chassis and underbody. Aged but attractive older restoration by Harrah’s in decent touring condition. One of 16 Mercer Series 6s known of 153 believed built, ex-Harrah Collection and Joe Loecy. Documented with its Harrah’s Collection restoration file. Richard Roy estate. – While this is a legendary marque by the time of the Series 6 power came from a bought-in engine and gearbox from Rochester and Brown-Lipe respectively making Mercer a shadow of its former self. This car’s ex-Harrah’s history and rarity make it a sound buy at this price.
1930 Pierce-Arrow Model B Tonneau Cowl Phaeton
Lot # 145 1930 Pierce-Arrow Model B Tonneau Cowl Phaeton; S/N; Engine # 200050; Light Blue-Grey, Blue-Grey fenders and accent/Blue leather; Beige cloth top; Estimate $125,000 – $175,000; Visually maintained, largely original, 3- condition; Hammered Sold at $87,500 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $96,250. No Reserve. Radio with steering column controls, dual folding windshields, front wind wings, Light Blue-Grey wire wheels, wide whitewalls luggage trunk, Trippe lights, radiator stoneguard. – Decent older paint, weak chrome, sound upholstery showing wear, good top. Road grimy chassis. Clean, orderly, dry engine. Richard Roy estate. – RM|Sotheby’s honestly cataloged this car as having bodywork modified in the 1960’s. Like the rest of the Roy estate cars it hadn’t run in years, but may be in better condition than most, having been acquired only in 2008 and thus not having had a long, neglected, tenure. It is a quality car that brought a realistic price.
1929 Chrysler Series 75 Tonneau Phaeton
Lot # 146 1929 Chrysler Series 75 Tonneau Phaeton; S/N CE7H; Engine # R284345; Light Green, Dark Green fenders/Brown leatherette; Faded cloth top; Estimate $75,000 – $100,000; Visually maintained, largely original, 3- condition; Hammered Sold at $45,000 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $49,500. No Reserve. White wire wheels, whitewall tires, dual folding windshields, dual sidemounts with mirrors, luggage rack. – Sound fairly recent repaint and upholstery. Old, worn, faded top. Clean, dry but not restored engine. Oily chassis. Sound and complete but only good enough to tour, although the catalog notes that it is eligible for the Mille Miglia and Le Mans Classic due to the Series 75’s participation in the 1929 Le Mans 24 Hours. Richard Roy estate. – A handsome and practical car that should respond to some sympathetic attention to its mechanical and cosmetic needs and be an enjoyable tour car. If it brings entry into either of the two noted historic events it is a remarkable, inexpensive and attractive buy at this moderate price.
1926 Chrysler Four Coupe
Lot # 147 1926 Chrysler Four Coupe; S/N FC-083-C; Engine # F-00830; Olive Green, Black fenders/Black leatherette; Estimate $12,000 – $17,000; Cosmetic restoration, 3- condition; Hammered Sold at $14,500 plus commission of 10.00%; Final Price $15,950. No Reserve. Black wood spoke wheels, black leatherette roof and windshield visor, Flatlite headlights, trunk, rear-mounted spare. – Sound old paint with some scratches and edge chips. Grungy chassis. Dry, clean old engine. Mixed chrome. An old cosmetic refurbishment of a sound and complete car that has been little used since and should respond well to attention. Richard Roy estate. – Essentially a Maxwell and not offering many of the advanced technical features which distinguished Chryslers, including four-wheel hydraulic brakes, the Chrysler Four was a worthy competitor to Chevrolet and the now outdated Model T. It sold like hotcakes on a cold morning but is rarely seen today, particularly as an example so well preserved, so this result will have to stand as something of a market benchmark.

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Show Comments (3)

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  1. interesting and informative writeup as always… though the ebullient, cheerleading phrasing used throughout is in stark contrast to the reports for more modern cars.

  2. Thanks again for the great report Rick! An interesting auction indeed. It appears that a majority of the cars in the report did not reach the presale auction estimates. Do you feel the estimates were too generous, the crowd too critical or a reduction in speculation driving the results?

    Cheers,
    Allan

    1. Allan,
      Good observation.
      There’s a further analysis of the topic of estimates, and where the resulting successful bids fall, in an upcoming SCD review of the Orsi/Gazzi Classic Car Auction Yearbook. Look for it when it’s posted.
      Rick