The Market


Getting serious: RM’s May 2020 online sale

Getting serious: RM’s May 2020 online sale 25th May 2020

It wasnt that long ago that the Canadian giant’s extravagant auctioneers would bring the gavel down with a theatrical, “Sold! The RM way!” Cue whoops and applause from a busy saleroom. This week, the fate of nearly 200 motor cars will be decided quietly on the click of a computer mouse...

After dipping its toes in the water last year, and converting the March 2020 Palm Beach auction to online-only at the last minute, this is RM’s first really serious attempt at cracking internet sales on a big scale. A catalogue listing almost 200 cars that include the Holy Trinity of recent Ferrari supercars as well as a brace of 250 GTs and other 1960s classics: this is a typical large-scale North American auction, moved from a big white tent direct to the homes of bidders worldwide.

 At a glance:
* Average mid-estimate value: $147,074
* Number of cars offered: 192
* Percentage of cars offered at No Reserve: 18%
* Average year of cars offered: 1979
* Buyer’s premium: 10% flat rate
* Ones to watch: 1985 Ferrari 288 GTO ($2.2m to $2.4m); 1995 Ferrari F50 ($2.5m to $2.75m); 2003 Ferrari Enzo ($2.6m to $2.9m)

The auction opened online on 21 May and will finish in stages from 28 May onwards. The exact finishing times per lot are spread over slightly more than a day to allow clients to bid on multiple lots. A ‘no sniping’ feature means that if a bid is placed within the final two minutes, the auction will be extended by an additional two minutes to prevent a bidder from trying to place a high bid in the final moments of the sale. Our experience with the Porsche poster sale held earlier this year suggests that while some cars will sell on time (or not meet their reserve), last-minute tussles over others could extend finishing times considerably.

Already, all lots show bids against them, but don’t mistake that for extraordinary interest in the event. Over to RM: “Bidding starts at half (50%) of the published low estimate, and the final bid must exceed the reserve price in order to sell to the highest bidder. Whether the reserve has been met will not be disclosed until the auction has ended. Note: When a motor car or any other lot is sold subject to such reserve bid, the auctioneer (RMS) may bid on the Consignor’s behalf in an amount not to exceed the amount of the reserve bid.”

When bids do come in, these are shown with a prompt for the next winning increment, which can range from just $10 to $20,000 on lots over $1m. The days of cheeky mimed saleroom offers of, “No, not $10k, I meant will you take another $5k!?” have been suspended.

Note the low percentage of cars at No Reserve, unusual in a North American sale, but perhaps not surprising given the early days of such events. RM would probably say the estimates are keen, and it has kept the buyer’s premium to 10% – European outfits, take note.

As to the cars, if Palm Beach was anything to go by, and given the continuing appetite for classics in the US, most of the catalogue has appeal. The 288 GTO – delivered new to Germany, stolen in France in 1985, recovered in the US with a fake chassis plate, returned, sold to the US then suffering a minor crash in 2010 – won’t appeal to those for whom only perfection will do. But maybe $2.5m all-in would be right for this car.

Apart from the big, more modern Ferraris, the older-restoration 1958 250 GT Pinin Farina Coupé with bespoke commissioning for first owner Carlo Vitale (co-owner of Wax & Vitale S.a.S., Genovese importer of luxury goods) is a Ferrari for old-school collectors that’s been on the market for a while, first at $995k, then $895k, latterly $795k. RM prices it today at $575k to $675k, again most likely on the money.

Commenting on the $13.6m gross Palm Beach sale, we remarked, “Many of the prices would not look out of place at a regular sale in the US.” It was, we concluded, “Pretty much business as usual.”

Let’s see what happens in a week’s time and what that bodes for Monterey Week, when RM rolls out the heavy metal, all of which will be offered over the internet with not a $10 Coke or $1,000 hotel room in sight.

Photo by RM Sotheby's