Five things to take away from the 2020 Arizona season-opener auctions
European collectors and traders who shunned this year’s Scottsdale auctions will be wondering what they missed out on. A significant drop in the sold numbers apart, the mood wasn’t all bad – here’s our take on this year’s gathering.
1. There were no great cars. True, but overall victor David Gooding offered a balanced catalogue with carefully filtered and sometimes unusual entries, albeit none at $3m+. By accident or design, it proved to be a move that worked in his favour.
2. If Scottsdale is no longer the place to sell a big-ticket lot, it’s a good clearing house for non-matching numbers, ‘retail red’, ‘my guy did it’ entries. Many experienced buyers picked up cars in which they saw promise at competitive prices – the ‘resto rod’ Miura SV at RM being a good example.
3. But there is a limit. The standards of the Big Three international auction houses were at stretching point sometimes, particularly over at Bonhams, which posted its worst result during Scottsdale week for the last six years. Many of the sub-$100k cars at the others were good value and snapped up by the US trade.
4. Bidding in the tent. There was a lot of it, which would come as a surprise for those used to European auctions in late 2019. The mood here is different.
5. Cars were selling. See point 4. Accepting there was a record number of cars at No Reserve – 70% in 2020 vs. 53% in 2015 – the sell-through this year was as strong as ever. This is the ultimate test of confidence in the market (and an improvement on Monterey), though some vendors finally admitted defeat, realising losses on only-average cars bought in haste during the good times.
“For the first time in two decades, I didn’t make the trip to Scottsdale. Last year already felt like it was returning to its blue-collar roots, which is fine, but it’s not our market. Owners of the best of anything don’t really have a reason to send them to Scottsdale now they’ve got Paris, Monaco, Villa d’Este and of course Pebble Beach to choose from.
“What’s more important was the depth of bidding for anything special like the 1937 BMW 328 out of 75-year ownership, which soared over its estimate. The trouble is, how many of those come up these days? It’ll be interesting to see who returns next year.”
Footnote: The following puts our world of multi-million-dollar collector cars into perspective. A chance meeting in an elevator with a burly bidder wearing a Barrett-Jackson pass prompted the following exchange:
“So you’re bidding at B-J?”
“Sure am, already bought something and goin’ back today. And you?”
“I’ll be at Gooding in Scottsdale.”
“Gooding? What's that?”
You can download a list of results for all three days, sorted by make and model.
Photo by Alamy