As the numbers in Arizona go, so goes the collector car market – at least that is what conventional wisdom says. And for many observers, the 2016 Arizona auction numbers marked a shift. After all, year-over-year totals declined for the first time since 2010. As we noted in the wake of January, there were many factors at play, including fewer top-quality cars and a dearth of ultra-expensive offerings. Cars valued above $2.5M account for a meager 0.2% of the cars sold at auction but represent a full 20% of the gross dollar value. Meaning that just a few misses on those types of cars can wildly swing perception.
Which is why Amelia Island takes on added importance this year. The three main auction companies have absolutely stacked their line-ups. It isn't just the Jerry Seinfeld collection, either, as Gooding & Company is offering a 1961 Ferrari California Spider, a 1931 Duesenberg Model J disappearing-top convertible coupe, and a 1966 Ford GT40. Bonhams will run a 1937 Bugatti Type 57SC sports tourer, a 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A, and a 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4. Rounding out the big three, RM Sotheby's is headlined by a 1911 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, a 1962 Ferrari 400 Superamerica Aerodynamico coupe, and a 1973 Ferrari Daytona Spider. In all, 14 cars could earn bids above the $2.5M mark. Compare that to the five big-dollar cars that crossed Arizona’s blocks a few months earlier, despite having approximately 2,650 more cars available for sale.
All this to say, when the first quarter of the year closes, it is a legitimate possibility that more collector cars will have sold in North America for more money year-to-date than in 2015—and therefore ever—in large part due to the car collections offered for sale at Amelia Island. Psychologically speaking, this can have a huge impact on buyer confidence as the overall totals are the easiest point of comparison. If activity is bright, buyer confidence can permeate through lower echelons of the market and may very well build momentum that carries into the summer. At which point, market-watchers will once again take a step back and prepare to read the tea leaves from the Monterey sales.