The Market


Inside track: What really happened at the 2023 Monterey auctions

Inside track: What really happened at the 2023 Monterey auctions 21st August 2023

The streamers on the famous ramp have showered the winner of this year’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Congratulations to veteran US collector Jim Patterson with his 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster, bought here at auction barely a year ago and restored in time to take 2023 Best of Show. Away from the 18th fairway, collectors, dealers and journalists are scratching their heads at what happened over three days of frantic auction activity. Here’s our insiders’ view.

Before we talk business, let’s reflect on the divide between the evolving market and the continued rule of pre-War cars at the world’s toughest concours d’elegance.

As you can see in our separate drilldown of this year’s stats, the overall results have slipped from a record-breaking 2022 but were not on the panicked scale some felt after 2019.


1. Overload. As expected, there were just too many cars, auctions and venues for anyone to cope with and remain totally focused until Saturday night at the Portola, often the venue where records are set.

2. Setting the right tone. RM had an almost unheard-of run of five cars in a row unsold on Saturday. Bidding on the sixth would have to be an act of faith: “What do others know that I don’t?” At least that happened at the end of the auctions, otherwise contagion can occur.

3. “I think I’ll wait”. Who really needed to buy a 300 SL Roadster / Gullwing / Daytona / F40 / DB5 / Dino this week when any ordinary example can be bought off the shelf? Anything special is another matter and the money is there for the very best, almost unique (colour, history, originality) cars.

4. Short-term pain, long-term gain… at least most of the time. Several cars were sold within a year or so after purchase and generally resulted in a loss. Just because it was going up when bought doesn’t guarantee a profit in the short term. At the other end of the scale, the ex-Steve McQueen Ferrari 275 GTB dropped over $4m in nine years. ‘The King of Cool’? Maybe less to today’s buyers.

5. Movers and shakers. Few models hit the heights and it’s hard to spot a trend. Genuinely special Porsche 911s, not the modern product of the marketing department in Stuttgart, did well. Cars such as the $417.5k and $500k 964 Carrera RSs, and the $1.4m Singer with three miles recorded.

You can download a list of all cars sold by Bonhams, Broad Arrow, Gooding & Co and RM Sotheby’s sorted by make and model HERE.

Photo courtesy of Rolex