Questions about the state of the entry-level collector car market

Monterey 2011 came and went with more questions asked than answered. Most of us expected the very top of the market to do extremely well, and with more than thirty million dollar-plus cars sold and a total of $200 million in sales, that is precisely what happened. If you consigned a well-preserved, original example of an elite collector car or a true No. 1 restored example of a blue chip car, invariably, you did well. Solid driver-quality examples of more common cars, however, struggled. There were some downright scary results among some of the no-reserve lots at Russo and Mecum.

For example, at Russo, a 1973 E-type SIII roadster with a four-speed and air in good colors hammered for just $27,500 after the seller lifted the reserve. The buyer may be partying like it’s 1999, but the seller, who realized the twelve years ago price, certainly isn’t.

The question that Hagerty Price Guide publisher Dave Kinney raised in a conversation yesterday is a good one: Does the rather dismal performance of these entry-level cars indicate a further softening in the market, or is it merely indicative that the price of airfare and the fact that even the local Monterey Days Inn cost more than $300 a night last weekend, there simply weren’t that many buyers present who were looking for relatively inexpensive cars? As Dave suggests, perhaps the better test of this market will be at the Auctions America sale in Auburn, Ind., over Labor Day weekend. We’ll be there. Stay tuned.

Rob Sass is the publisher of Hagerty magazine and the author of the book “Ran When Parked: Advice and Adventures from the Affordable Underbelly of Car Collecting.”

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