The Market


A 'stop-go' 12 months: Classic Car Auction Yearbook 2020-2021

A 'stop-go' 12 months: Classic Car Auction Yearbook 2020-2021 17th November 2021

Once again, the redoubtable authors Adolfo Orsi and Raffaele Gazzi have made sense of what has been another topsy-turvy year of online and ‘live’ action in the world of classic car auctions.

Rather than using an image of the year’s top-selling car, this time the authors chose a photograph of the much-missed and genuinely groundbreaking figure in the auction scene Robert Brooks, who died in August. A nice touch, and testament to the man who did so much to make the classic car scene what it is today.

The latest Yearbook – the last for Gazzi, who is hanging up his spreadsheets – follows the usual format of an introduction by the principals of the major salerooms (the least interesting section of the book), then dives deep into an overview of the figures, before looking at the Top 15 highest-selling cars and a complete run-down of all cars offered and sold by make and model. Cars that have been traded more than once are given their own section, and it’s revealed that, unsurprisingly, they tend not to do as well as genuinely fresh-to-market machinery.

The rise of online auctions has proved a challenge to the traditional players in the market, and this is reflected in few really big cars finding buyers online, even though they could be offered by the international Big Three on established ‘named’ platforms. With Monterey Week inaccessible for much of the world, and so many blue-chip cars selling discreetly by specialist brokers, the average price of car has fallen.

Overall, though, as K500 has reported all year, business is up on a lacklustre 2019, even before the pandemic hit. North America remains the most buoyant market, and the phenomenon of ‘stop-go’ – when events were cancelled or rescheduled, with attendances strictly controlled under Covid restrictions – affected Europe worse of all: no Rétromobile, Monaco Historics, Le Mans Classic, Goodwood Revival or Villa d’Este Concorso d’Eleganza sales.

As you’d expect, the instantly recognisable, ‘gold standard’ classics such as the Mercedes 300 SL ‘Gullwing’ and Roadster, Ferrari F40 and McLaren F1 are confirmed to do well, even after a short dip post-2015. Interestingly, Ferrari’s domination of the figures is proved to be waning: in 2014-2015, the Italian marque provided 34% of the results by value; this year, that figure has dropped to 20%.

Only three Ferraris are listed in the Top 10, one of the lowest numbers in the history of the book – clearly a result of so many significant cars traded ‘off the grid’ away from the public arena.

In summary, it’s another must-have for that groaning bookshelf. Visit for further details, and where you will find a list of bookshops eager to sell you a copy. Recommended.

Photos by K500