$51K for a 137-mile Beetle? The last decade in a nutshell

Bring a Trailer/Scott_Ales

Amid the constant moment-to-moment shifts in the collector car market all that, it’s important to keep in mind the bigger story of how the landscape is changing over the long term. Which brings us to this 1977 VW Bug, which spent much of its life on static display at a Van Nuys, California Volkswagen dealership. Barrett–Jackson sold it in 2012, with 108 miles showing on the odometer, for $26,400. Ten years and 29 miles later, it sold on Bring a Trailer last week for $51,000. Even accounting for inflation, that’s nearly thirty percent higher.

Hagerty Insider began in 2019 as a six-times-a-year magazine, evolving into a 24/7 website covering quarterly Hagerty Price Guide updates, monthly Market Ratings, on-the-scene coverage of major auctions, Sales of the Week like you’re reading here, and a constant stream of auction reports (977 and counting), Insider zeroes in on what the collector car market is doing right now to better inform your buying and selling decisions going forward.

We’ll admit we don’t quite get the thrill of a classic car that’s never really been driven—especially one that is, going by production numbers, the least rare vehicle on the planet. Yet this frozen-in-time Beetle makes for a perfect “control” by which to study the changes in the market over the past decade.

The clearest shift is in the online auction world. Our friends at eBay Motors and Craigslist will note that plenty of old cars sold on the internet back in 2012. If you were determined enough, you could have figured out how to bid remotely at that Barrett-Jackson sale. Yet the two listings for this Beetle remind us how far online car buying has come in terms of access and sophistication. Take the photography—four poorly lit snaps for the older sale versus more than 200 professional-quality images for the more recent one. Such photography has pretty much become par for the course. So has the level of activity observed on the BaT listing: The Beetle, currently residing in Florida, got 98 comments and eight bids before going to a collector who appears to be based in Illinois; the underbidder immediately moved on to a Shelby Super Snake in New York.

1977 VW Beetle high angle rear
Bring a Trailer/Scott_Ales

Then there’s the growth in value. A VW Beetle is not an emerging classic like a Skyline GT-R or an E30 M3. It was, ten years ago, a widely admired classic and a cultural touchstone, just as it is today. If anything, this is the sort of “Boomer car” that is supposed to stagnate as the folks who remember the Summer of Love and whatnot slow their participation in the market. Instead, Hagerty Price Guide values for 1977 Beetles in excellent (#2) condition have nearly quadrupled since 2012, with Gen–X and younger collectors now accounting for the majority of interest in the model, per our insurance data. Although the appreciation has no doubt accelerated during the pandemic, it was already happening beforehand. Note that the first major leap was in 2019—considered, in retrospect, to be a slow period for the market.

The collector car market currently finds itself in a fascinating moment. Will the incredible growth we’ve seen in 2022 continue? If it doesn’t, will it pull back, and how far? Will bidders descend upon Kissimmee and Scottsdale in two months time eager to spend or hunting for deals? These are important questions, and you can be sure we’ll be asking them here in the coming weeks. But we shouldn’t ignore the larger trends, such as how the internet has transformed buying and selling, how younger collectors are jumping into nearly every segment, and how, as a result, our cars are almost continuously becoming more valuable.

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