Graph of the Week: 10 Best Sell-Through Rates at Auction

A few weeks ago, we highlighted 10 cars that don’t sell well at auction. These are cars that typically fail to meet their reserve price and sell less often than normal. By contrast, these are the 10 collector vehicles with the best sell-through rates at North American collector car auctions over the last 12 months. It’s an interesting mix of eras and genres, although there are a few clear patterns.

The most common shared attribute is a relatively low sale price. Half have an average price below $20,000, and only two of the Mercedes-Benzes listed above (the late ‘60s-early ‘70s 280SE and 280SL) really get into the over-$50,000 range. As for Mercedes, which makes up four of the 10 spots, virtually every era of SL (Mercedes-Benz’s sports car model) has been popular over the last couple of years. With values rising, sellers seem perfectly happy to take the highest bid because it may very well be more than they paid for the car.  

Over three-quarters of the transactions measured on the graph went through Mecum, Auctions America, Leake, Russo and Steele or McCormick’s, and 58 percent went through either Mecum or Auctions America. Barrett-Jackson, which sells almost everything at no reserve, isn’t included in the data. There’s often a sizable gap between a seller’s expectations and what a buyer is willing to pay, and that gap can change due to many factors in the market, but at the moment these are the vehicles for which that gap is smallest.