2014 Q2 collector car market recap: Is the classic car market slowing?

Although spring and summer’s warm weather typically inspires more drives and events for collector car enthusiasts, it doesn’t necessarily translate into more activity at auction. Despite a handful of massive sales held from April through June (Auctions America’s Spring Auburn and Mecum Indy, for example), the second quarter is often a deep breath taken between Scottsdale’s January mayhem and Monterey’s August charge. In essence, at this point in the year everyone is simply more concerned with driving what they’ve purchased than purchasing something to be driven.

That said, Q2 auction totals have increased each year since 2009, ranging from 9% to 23%. Not so for 2014, however. While the first quarter’s Scottsdale auctions saw healthy growth and the Monterey auctions are shaping up to be earth-shattering, year-over-year growth during the second quarter of 2014 was essentially unchanged in terms of gross dollar volume ($172M in preliminary totals vs. $176M in 2013).

Part of this is due to fewer auctions being held this year versus last (notably Auctions America’s Spring Carlisle sale), with the net effect being that slightly fewer cars were offered and sold than in 2013 during Q2, though the average sale price rose by 2% to offset those changes.

Comparing the first six months of 2014 with the same timeframe in 2013, dollar totals are only slightly ahead, but that still equates to a doubling compared to 2009. Compared to the same point in 2009 the average price paid per car is up by nearly 20%, though the median value is down a similar amount, indicating that most of the growth is being driven by the top of the market. Nowhere will this be more evident than in Monterey this year, where the top 5 cars sold during the week have the potential to eclipse the amount paid for all 882 cars sold in Monterey in 2011 ($200M).

So the question remains: is the market slowing, or is it continuing to thrive? Activity through June suggests the former, as the 2.5% year-over-year growth would be the lowest since 2009 if it held for the year. A slew of impending record-breaking sales, however, will be a powerful counterpoint. As is often the case, the truth is likely somewhere in between and will vary depending on your perspective. For every observer who will see strong Monterey totals as a sign of health in the market, another may see it as owners cashing in at the market’s height. Looking back at year-to-date performance, at least, there are signs that enthusiasm is waning. In August, though, that may be a difficult thought to remember.

Top 5 Q2 North American Auction Sales

  1. 1964 Ford GT40 Prototype Coupe sold for $7,560,000 (Mecum, Houston, April 14)
  2. 1971 Plymouth Cuda 426/425 Convertible sold for $3,780,000 (Mecum, Seattle, June 14)
  3. 1975 Lamborghini Countach LP400 Coupe sold for $1,210,000 (Bonhams, Greenwich, June 1)
  4. 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Coupe sold for $1,000,000* (Barrett-Jackson, West Palm Beach, April 11)
  5. 1963 Shelby Cobra 289 R&P Roadster sold for $955,800 (Mecum, Indianapolis, May 13)
    *proceeds benefit charity

Top 5 Q2 North American Auctions

  1. Mecum, Indianapolis (May 13): $35.9M (-25%)
  2. Mecum, Houston (April 14): $32.0M (+29%)
  3. Barrett-Jackson, West Palm Beach (April 11): $24.9 (+40%)
  4. Auctions America, Auburn (May 8): $18.9M (+239%)
  5. Mecum, Seattle (June 14): $14.8M (new)
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