6 January 2012

2011: The year at the auctions

The yearly auction calendar. It starts in Scottsdale, moves on the Amelia Island, and pretty much finishes up at Monterey, right? Well, not exactly, and certainly not last year.

If you think the “big” auctions are in those three venues and all the rest are small fish, then you haven’t seen what Mecum has done in both Kissimmee and Indianapolis. Between those two sales, Mecum offered more than 3,500 cars in 2011, and it looks like they just might top 4,000 in 2012. These are nothing short of astonishing numbers in the collector car field, and something that Mecum, no doubt fueled by its appearances on televisions Velocity Channel (formerly Discovery HD), should be quite proud of.

Back in Scottsdale/Phoenix in 2011, however, the auction houses, seemingly against the odds, all did well. The “great cars bring great prices” story is now an old and tired one, but in the case of the Arizona sales, it remained true. For Barrett-Jackson, 2011 will have been the final year of Scottsdale as an all no-reserve sale; it adopted optional reserves on some cars at other sales later in the year. Russo and Steele had already jettisoned its All-reserve sale, and I think more than a few of us will forever be scratching our heads about how it came to be in the first place.

For a number of us, our Scottsdale guilty pleasure — while the Billionaires are beating the Millionaires over the head with checkbooks — is to venture out to Fort McDowell for the Silver Auction sale. Silver fees like a trip to the local bar after spending the week at your boss’s house; it’s a release back to real life after seeing a whole bunch of very cool cars most of us can never afford.

Talking affordable, 2011 was a great year for finding affordable cars, and in that vein, RM spinoff Auctions America continues to grow. In just two years of operation, it has made an impact at each event held. Co-branding with Carlisle Events In 2011, Auctions America is filling the void in the non-catalog auction world left by the forced exit of Kruse. 

More records fell at Amelia Island 2011. While RM and Gooding duke it out, the winners are the folks who get to go to this most beautiful slice of land on Florida’s Northeastern coast. In fact, Amelia now comes in as second place only to Pebble Beach as the place to see great cars, not just at the auctions, but at the excellent Amelia Island Concours as well.

More to throw into the mix? Bonhams hosted two Connecticut-based auctions, both held on the grounds of a Concours. The events bracket the summer months, first at Greenwich, and later at the Fairfield county Concours. Both are smaller events with plenty of opportunities to look at the cars on offer. Bonhams did well at both events this year; combined with a number of other events held on a very human scale, they come highly recommended for both people and car watching while you ponder which car to take home.

Meadowbrook, now rebranded as the Concours d’Elegance of America and moved to a fresh location in Plymouth, Michigan, was a huge success by all measures, and the RM Auctions event moved seamlessly as well. 

We have skipped plenty of auctions to get to Monterey, where close to $200,000,000 worth of merch crossed the block in 2011. The record books were rewritten when Monterey was over; each event topped the one before.

For car lovers, 2011 was a year to remember at the auctions, a year when many of the great marques were well represented on the auction block. Some of the very best car shows in 2011 were available for the price of a catalog or a ticket to the auctions.

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