There's just something special about being at an auction. It's the atmosphere, the buzz that self-generates from the perfect mix of great cars and the interested parties who are there to see and touch them and, if properly equipped in the wallet, to buy them.
But what to do if you can't be there in person? Watch it live, of course.
Barrett-Jackson is the king in this realm, as SPEED has been broadcasting hours upon hours of B-J's annual Scottsdale auction for years. In terms of viewership and cultural recognition, the results speak for themselves. As a result, SPEED now carries other B-J auctions throughout the year.
Mecum, too, shows its sales on television, with coverage provided by the Velocity variant of Discovery Channel.
But premium cable and satellite channels aren't your only options to catch an auction. Several companies broadcast their sales live on their websites, and for the purposes of this little tome, I'm speaking of Gooding & Company and RM Auctions.
It's Amelia Island Concours weekend, and both auction houses are hosting sales in the area. Gooding's is under way at this very moment, and I've got it playing in a separate browser as I navigate the rest of my Hagerty work day. The beauty of a Gooding auction is the brand familiarity from sale to sale. What you see from the webcast is company president David Gooding sitting at the podium alongside auctioneer Charlie Ross, with his familiar British charm. The black stage, the vibrant blue backdrop. And, of course, some of the finest automobiles in the world. If creating "the third place" is possible in an auction broadcast, Gooding certainly comes close.
While being in the room for a huge sale—a $16 million Ferrari, for example—has a certain undeniable thrill, watching an auction online is a great way to spend a couple hours. You haven't shelled out countless thousands of dollars just to get to the auction site, for example (unless you use a Mac). And to have the auction running in the background while you work is really no different from streaming Pandora. You listen passively to Mr. Ross as he calls out the bids, and when the car or the price piques your interest, you open that tab and watch to your heart's content.
Take the 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder, lot 15, for example. It's on the block right now. Bidding opened at $1m and went very quickly past the $2.6 million low reserve, to eclipse $3 million on its way to a $3.35 million hammer price. Several late bids on the last call kept the sale going, and the tension up, which is great entertainment. Porsche 550 Spyders rarely cross the auction block, so any chance to see one sell is a real opportunity. And when the crowd erupts in applause—and you do, too—you almost forget you're still sitting at your desk.
Stefan Lombard is Managing Editor of Hagerty magazine.