The Market

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Amelia Island 2021: Bonhams’ $20.7m auction

Amelia Island 2021: Bonhams’ $20.7m auction 21st May 2021

Bonhams proved that last year’s healthy result for predominately very early cars offered in Florida was no fluke. Over a 10-hour marathon yesterday, the Brits generated another $20m+ gross and this time the entries were older still.

The average year offered in 2021 was 1944. In 2020 it was 1953.

Pushed back by two months due to the pandemic, the 2021 Amelia Island auctions are the first to be held on a truly worldwide stage since lockdown hit within days of last year’s event. Gooding decided to sit this one out; RM Sotheby’s will hold a one-day sale on Concours weekend. And with travel from Europe nigh-on impossible, it's very much a home-market affair, a sort of 'Hershey-lite'.

At a glance:

* Gross: $20,691,120 (2020, $21,247,141)
* Percentage sold by number: 82% (2020, 78%)
* Top-selling car: 1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K factory upgrade Spezial Roadster, $4,900,000 gross, $4,450,000 net (est. $4.5m to $5m)        
* Well sold? Just about anything – great effort by Bonhams
* Well bought? There's probably someone delighted to have finally nabbed that 1908 Curved-dash Flivver – we just don’t know that market well enough to comment

The top-selling Mercedes had been sold at Bonhams' Mercedes-Benz factory sale in July 2014 for the equivalent of $4.1m. Given the value of an original 540K Spezial Roadster today, say $6m-$8m, Bonhams and the vendor did well to sell a car upgraded in period to a 540K and with modified coachwork to give it the Spezial Roadster look. Readers can judge from the photo, top, how well-executed that conversion was.

A star of the event was the 1913 Mercer Type 35K Runabout that sold for $2,425,000 all-in. Estimate: $1m to 1.5m.

Regular man at the rostrum in the US Rupert Banner was more animated than usual with bids coming thick fast throughout the auction from the room, the telephones and the internet. Viewing from a screen in the UK, business looked pretty much as normal. Most of the cars were showy; it takes all sorts. Liberace would love ’em.

But the figures speak for themselves, however unfashionable this part of the market might be to more recent collectors. Compared with 2020, fewer cars sold below low estimate and nearly a quarter beat top, and that’s with not so many offered at No Reserve.

Unless the battleship that is RM Sotheby’s hits the rocks tomorrow, this augurs well for the Monterey sales in August. By then, Gooding will be back in play and the whole world will be craving some action. We cannot wait.

Bonhams at Amelia Island, 20 May 2021 – results (2020)

Gross $20,691,120 ($21,247,141)
Number of cars not sold: 19 (26)
Number of cars withdrawn: 6 (1)
Total number of cars: 106 (116)
Number sold: 87 (90)
Percentage of cars sold by number: 82% (78%)
Percentage by value average low/high estimate: 70% (51%)
Percentage of cars met or sold below low estimate: 53% (73%)
Percentage of cars sold below avge of estimates: 66% (87%)
Percentage of cars sold met/exceeded top estimate: 23% (8%)
Average price of cars sold: $195,199 ($183,165)
Average year of cars offered: 1944 (1953)
Percentage of cars offered at No Reserve: 49% (55%)

Photo by Bonhams