The real story of Scottsdale 2015 - by Simon Kidston
The average punter back home will skim the various auction headlines and conclude that nothing's changed: totals are up, the usual crop of records have been set and 2015 is likely to be no different to 2014. But they'd be wrong. Anyone who attended the season-opening Scottsdale auctions this week felt it: the mood was different, more cautious, and the bidding clearly reflected it.
Bonhams, the relative upstart in the USA playing catch up, was the only auction house to release immediate results. Their main rivals, RM and Gooding, needed time to add post-auction sales to brighten their figures. If you were watching live, you would have noticed how many no-sales occurred as bidders baulked at the sometimes wild pre-sale estimates. As a journalist friend of mine likes to say, this was "the market speaking in real time".
Anything with the numbers '911' adorning its rump has been red hot lately, but here we felt the first backlash: models which not long ago would have belonged on a used car lot were not necessarily rewriting the value guides at every turn. Ferrari Dinos, another darling of the market, were being bid to levels last seen a year ago. Mercedes-Benz 300 SLs, of which there were enough on offer to populate a rainbow, were no longer soaring to new heights. If owners were pragmatic, they cut their cars loose. If they weren't, you can probably still buy them.
The backdrop to all this, of course, is the plummeting value of the Euro which this week plunged to a new low, alarming economic forecasters and impoverishing European buyers in one fell swoop. At first glance the auction currency converter boards appeared to have malfunctioned, until you realised that one Swiss franc really was now worth one Euro. It's a pity there aren't more Swiss car collectors.
The fact is that whilst prices in dollars have at best flatlined, in euros they are still up compared to last year. The real problem, though, is not that the market has gone backwards. It's that sellers have tried to raise the bar one step too many, and found themselves on thin ice. Perhaps now the balance of power will shift back to the auction houses who will remember what it's like to tell owners what their car is worth, rather than vice versa.
Photo, top (unknown): "With today's value of the Swiss franc, these 288 GTOs might well be coming back to snowy Switzerland"