2015: 12 months in hard numbers, the K500 end-of-year report

2015: 12 months in hard numbers, the K500 end-of-year report 12th January 2016

So, after over $1 billion traded at the international auction houses’ top-tier sales in the year just ended, what’s happened to the classic car market?
 
Having crunched auction data from 2580 collectors’ cars offered for sale in 2015 (vs. an almost identical 2577 for similar events in 2014), we can reveal that the average sell-through rate of 85% was maintained and that the trend for younger cars continues: the average year of cars at auction in 2015 was 1961, versus 1959 last year.
 
Overall sales were up by nearly 20 per cent: a $1,050,586,580 gross against $886,136,697, which has meant the average value of cars sold at these high-end events (including buyer’s premium) was $503,077 ($404,444). In 2014 Bonhams sold the ex-Violati Ferrari 250 GTO for $38.1m, while in 2015, at RM’s New York extravaganza, the Ontario house sold the year’s most expensive car at auction, the ex-Fangio 1956 Ferrari 290 MM for $28m.

Artcurial packed 'em in at its February 2015 Paris sale - let's see what happens in 2016
Artcurial packed 'em in at its February 2015 Paris sale - let's see what happens in 2016
Strange, but true - there's an auction going on in there. Barrett-Jackson's Arizona sale
Strange, but true - there's an auction going on in there. Barrett-Jackson's Arizona sale

But the real picture is not that simple. Despite some individual peaks (helping to raise the K500 Index from 439.89 to 478.36) the background story is one of consolidation, oversupply of many ‘blue chip’ collectibles and, without doubt, too many auctions. Auctioneer Max Girardo’s bravura performance for RM in the Big Apple last December helped them to a $72.5m sale, yet drilling deeper into the numbers the 68% sell-through rate wasn’t great, 81% of the cars were hammered on or below low estimate and only two of the 21 cars sold beat top estimate.
 
We have said before that some balance needs to return to the market, for sellers to accept the wisdom of the auction houses and the latter not engaging in a bidding war on estimates to win consignments. Comparing both six-month periods in 2015, the percentage of cars sold below low estimate from January to June was 46%. This increased to 54% for the rest of the year. For cars sold above top estimate, a figure of 20% slipped to 13% by December, and by that month 75% of lots failed to beat their mid-estimate values.

Only last month Bonhams sold this fine, but unexceptional LHD Jaguar XK150 DHC for £427,100. Even in a period of 'consolidation', the market can spring a surprise
Only last month Bonhams sold this fine, but unexceptional LHD Jaguar XK150 DHC for £427,100. Even in a period of 'consolidation', the market can spring a surprise

Looking at the Arizona catalogues – which lack real star quality for the first time in years – we can see a beginning of a return to ‘trade sales’, with premier entries reserved for events such as Monterey, Paris Rétromobile or the Monaco Historics, venues more likely to attract international collectors and, importantly, their spouses.
 
Cars of the type that you really cannot “buy another next month” have flourished. We detail the highlights, good and bad below. In 2016 we will see few truly exceptional examples offered at the best events, and expect them to do well. Bonhams’ Monaco C-type Jaguar and Artcurial’s Rétromobile Ferrari 335S or Ferrari 250GT SWB come to mind. In the words of a well-known US Ferrari dealer, the others will need to be “priced right” to avoid more last-minute ‘grinding’ in the saleroom before once again selling below expectations.
 
But sell, we believe, they will. As ever, a pleasing original colour, interesting previous ownership, a rare specification and certainly ‘no stories’ will rule the day.

Sold! 'Shabby chic', but out of long-term (40 years+) ownership, 'matching numbers' and having the very best sort of 'stories': trips to the pub and cross-european adventures. $11.5m ex-Colton Collection Ferrari 250 GT SWB
Sold! 'Shabby chic', but out of long-term (40 years+) ownership, 'matching numbers' and having the very best sort of 'stories': trips to the pub and cross-european adventures. $11.5m ex-Colton Collection Ferrari 250 GT SWB
Bonhams' Jaguar C-type. High in the originality stakes,  eligible for ALL the best events and also from a well-respected long-term owner. We expect it to do well this May at the Monaco Historics auction
Bonhams' Jaguar C-type. High in the originality stakes, eligible for ALL the best events and also from a well-respected long-term owner. We expect it to do well this May at the Monaco Historics auction

K500 Index 2015: Sector-by-sector analysis
 
Pre-War European
 
January 2015 283.82, December 2015 261.55. The figures suggest decline, and we don’t see ‘grey porridge’ Rolls-Royce 20/25s and their ilk going anywhere soon. Read more...
 
Pre-War American
 
January 2015 459.01, December 2015 499.42. Don’t rush to buy that Duesie, pre-WW1 flivver or buckboard runabout just yet. Read more...
 
Ferrari (Pre-1958)
 
January 2015 693.59, December 2015 741.66. The sector to beat, currently heading the K500 index after 21 years of results. Read more...
 
Ferrari (1958-1973)
 
January 2015 623.69, December 2015 688.20. Another sector with growth slowing - in 2014 it opened at 574. Read more...
 
Ferrari (Post-1973)
 
January 2015 262.73, December 2015 366.66. Welcome to Testarossa Territory. Read more...
 
Post-War European
 
January 2015 462.69, December 2015 525.09. Despite lacklustre performance from a past favourite, the Mercedes 300 SL Roadster (698.28 down to 538.22), and Aston Martin DB5s fixed around the 3000 mark, this is where the market’s interest has been concentrated in the last 20 years and we don’t see that changing. Read more...
 
Post-War American
 
January 2015 450.01, December 2015 416.87. Given the sheer volume of cars traded in the US, it’s inevitable that the odd highpoint will be drowned out by the many thousands of other sales. Read more...
 
Porsche
 
January 2015 471.17, December 2015 479.46. Another static performer. Early 911s have risen so far and seemingly reached a plateau, while later 930s, 964 RSs and 993 Turbos have benefitted from the halo effect of the chrome bumper mania of the last three or four years. Read more...
 
Post-War Racing Cars
 
January 2015 548.01, December 2015 588.85. Events drive this sector, and the never-ending popularity of Goodwood, the Mille Miglia and Le Mans Classic creates the demand for eligible cars. Read more...
 
Affordable Classics
 
January 2015 213.03, December 2015 215.74. They are ‘affordable’ for a reason: thousands were made, and many thousands can trade them worldwide today. Read more...

The Big One of 2015 selling in the Big Apple: RM's $28m 1956 Ferrari 290 MM
The Big One of 2015 selling in the Big Apple: RM's $28m 1956 Ferrari 290 MM

Top ten cars sold at auction 2015

1.    New York, RM Sotheby’s: 1956 Ferrari 290 MM - $28,050,000
2.    Paris Rétromobile, Artcurial: 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider - $18,171,600
3.    Monterey, RM Sotheby's: 1964 Ferrari 250 LM - $17,600,000
4.    Monterey, Gooding: 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider - $16,830,000
5.    Monterey, Gooding: 1962 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta Bertone - $16,500,000
6.    New York, RM Sotheby’s: 1962 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato - $14,300,000
7.    Monterey, RM Sotheby's: 1998 McLaren F1 - $13,750,000
8.    Monterey, RM Sotheby's: 1953 Jaguar C-type - $13,200,000
9.    Monterey, RM Sotheby's: 1956 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Competizione - $13,200,000
10.  Monterey, Gooding: 1982 Porsche 956 - $10,120,000
 
2015 (2014) – The top international sales*
 
January – June 2015
Total gross cars: $517,303,376 ($366,926,461)
Number of cars not sold: 214 (204)
Number of cars withdrawn: 14 (3)
Total number of cars 1,559: (1,281)
Totalnumber of cars sold 1,345: (1,077)
Percentage cars sold by number: 86% (84%)
Number of cars sold below low estimate: 618 (N/A)
Percentage of cars sold below low estimate: 46% (N/A)
Number of cars sold below avge of estimates: 916 (N/A)
Percentage of cars sold below avge of estimates: 68% (N/A)
Number of cars sold above top estimate: 269 (N/A)
Percentage of cars sold above top estimate: 20% (N/A)
Average year of cars offered: 1964 (1959)
Average price of cars sold:  $384,612 ($340,693)
 
July – December 2015
Total gross cars: $533,283,204 ($519,210,236)
Number of cars not sold: 163 (182)
Number of cars withdrawn: 7 (3)
Total number of cars 1,021 (1,296)
Total number of cars sold 858 (1,114)
Percentage cars sold by number: 84% (86%)
Number of cars sold below low estimate: 461 (N/A)
Percentage of cars sold below low estimate: 54% (N/A)
Number of cars sold below avge of estimates: 644 (N/A)
Percentage of cars sold below avge of estimates: 75% (N/A
Number of cars sold above top estimate: 115 (N/A)
Percentage of cars sold above top estimate: 13% (N/A)
Average year of cars offered: 1957 (1958)
Average price of cars sold: $621,542 ($466,077)
 
2015 – All
Total gross cars: $1,050,586,580 ($886,136,697)
Number of cars not sold: 377 (386)
Number of cars withdrawn: 21 (6)
Total Number of cars 2,580 (2,577)
Percentage cars sold by number: 85% (85%)
Number of cars sold below low estimate: 1079 (N/A)
Percentage of cars sold below low estimate: 50% (N/A)
Number of cars sold below avge of estimates: 1560 (N/A)
Percentage of cars sold below avge of estimates: 72% (N/A
Number of cars sold above top estimate: 398 (N/A)
Percentage of cars sold above top estimate: 17% (N/A)
Average year of cars offered: 1961 (1959)
Average price of cars sold: $503,077 ($404,444)
 
*Data is for: all RM Sotheby’s; all Gooding & Co; Artcurial Paris, Le Mans Classic and Rétromobile; Bonhams Scottsdale, Amelia Island, Aston Martin, Goodwood Festival, Members’ Meeting and Revival, Zoute, Simeone Museum, Monterey, London Bond St, Mercedes-Benz Museum, Chantilly. Percentage calculations are based on hammer (net) prices vs. pre-sale estimates. Gross figures include buyer's premium but exclude VAT. $US conversions based on rate on the day.