2017 Rétromobile auction recap

Expensive inventory was sluggish during January’s Scottsdale Auction Week, the first global collector car market event of 2017. But mainstream offerings were bright enough (and abundant enough) to push overall totals above last year’s falling tally. Buyers at the lower end of the market were active while collectors at the upper reaches largely sat on the sidelines.

A month later the year’s second global event took place among the constellation of auctions clustered around the Rétromobile Auto Show in Paris, Feb. 8-10. Would French buyers behave like their American counterparts? The answer was “not exactly.”

Overall totals at the Rétromobile auctions (conducted by RM Sotheby’s, Bonhams, and Artcurial) dropped by 17 percent, because heavyweight consignments like 2016’s Ferrari 335 S or 2015’s Baillon collection were absent. The average sale price slipped by 9 percent and 10 percent fewer cars were offered, but interestingly enough the median price paid increased by a massive 36 percent. In essence, the lack of an eight-figure car hurt the broad numbers but the top of the market outperformed last year and was much livelier than last month’s American sales.

Porsches were particularly strong in Paris, with 10 exceeding a $500,000 sale price (there were only two that surpassed this level at Rétromobile last year). Modern Porsches continued shining in Europe. Following on RM Sotheby’s success in London last September, 90 percent of modern Porsches sold.

Modern cars continued scoring with the highest sell-through rate of any segment (80 percent), continuing the current trend, while prewar cars had the worst (58 percent). Still, four of the week’s top 10 sellers were from the 1930s, underscoring that the right examples of such cars are still hotly and justifiably contested.

As John Mayhead, Hagerty Price Guide's European market watcher, keenly noted, this seemingly disparate behavior could be interpreted as two different hedges for the same uncertainty. While American buyers seem to be steering clear of big purchases at the moment and are instead trading in lower risk alternatives, European collectors are consolidating towards “investment grade” cars.

Top 10:

  1. 1965 Ferrari Dino Speciale Berlinetta sold for $4,675,679 (Artcurial)
  2. 1934 Alfa Romeo Tipo B P3 sold for $4,186,560 (RM Sotheby’s)
  3. 1948 Ferrari 166 Corsa Spyder sold for $3,152,761 (Artcurial)
  4. 1972 Lamborghini Miura SV sold for $2,543,593 (Artcurial)
  5. 1935 Bugatti Type 57 Atalante découvrable sold for $2,482,677 (Artcurial)
  6. 1973 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Datona Spyder sold for $2,302,608 (RM Sotheby’s)
  7. 1935 Aston Martin Ulster Sports Deux Places sold for $2,151,765 (Bonhams)
  8. 1988 Porsche 959 Sport sold for $2,093,280 (RM Sotheby’s)
  9. 1965 Ferrari 275 GTB sold for $2,063,376 (RM Sotheby’s)
  10. 1936 Talbot Lago T150C sold for $1,715,126 (Artcurial)

The collector car world will next tune its market radar to the five auctions scheduled for Amelia Island, March 9-11. In addition to Bonhams’ alloy 1955 Ferrari 250 Europa GT and RM Sotheby’s 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB, Gooding & Company has queued up a formidable suite of modern Porsches. That week will answer more questions about how strong the top of the market is, and how the market will fare for the next few months.