Top Brass: Bonhams’ $15.7m Amelia Island sale

Top Brass: Bonhams’ $15.7m Amelia Island sale 8th March 2019

The Bond St team confounded the sceptics today with a barnstorming sale of cars from the very early days of motoring. Any serious Brass Era enthusiast was either in the room, on the telephone or – and this might surprise some – bidding online.

Auctioneer Malcolm Barber (above) took charge of the disposal of the late Don C Boulton Collection, a selection of best-of-the-best Brass Era and Brighton Run machinery, mostly in superb running condition. On occasions, so moved by events was he, that Barber left the rostrum to personally appeal to bidders in the busy saleroom.

It was great theatre, and a touching tribute to one of the world’s great collectors.

At a glance:

* Gross: $15,600,460 ($13,000,969)
* Percentage sold by number: 83% (2018, 86%)
* Top-selling car: 1930 Cadillac Series 452 V-16 Roadster by Fleetwood (pictured, below), $1,187,500 gross, $1,075,000 net (est. $1.25m to $1.5m)        
* Well sold? The Don C Boulton Collection
* Well bought? We tipped the ‘preservation’ Lancia Flaminia Pininfarina Coupé. It sold for a bargain $22.4k inc. premium
* One to take away? The 1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE 3.5 Coupé went at half its low estimate: $29k net, $32.48k gross

Of the more familiar fare, if it was offered at No Reserve it sold, if it was expensive and wasn’t, it didn’t: cars such as the 1964 Shelby Cobra 289 and the 1951 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Super Sport Cabriolet.

The Brabham-Cosworth F1 sold just below low estimate for $1.1m gross (perfect for the 2020 Monaco Historics) and auctioneer Rupert Banner managed to pull the top-selling 1930 Cadillac Series 452 V-16 Roadster over the line at $1.19m all-in. He’d make a great dentist.

The lack of more modern entries? You can’t have it all ways – a catalogue bursting with really old cars won’t appeal to everyone.

Returning to the Earlies, these were most likely bought by septuagenarians from 90-year-olds or deceased estates. And they will be additions to multi-car collections. The long-expected death of this market has, once again, been exaggerated but perhaps only for the time being.
Bonhams at Amelia Island, 7 March 2019 (2018)

Gross: $15,600,460 ($13,000,969)
Number of cars not sold: 18 (14)
Number of cars withdrawn: 1 (3)
Total number of cars: 108 (101)
Number sold: 90 (87)
Percentage cars sold by number: 83% (86%)
Percentage by value average low/high estimate: 59% (53%)
Percentage of cars met or sold below low estimate: 71% (71%)
Percentage of cars sold below avge of estimates: 84% (85%)
Percentage of cars sold met/exceeded top estimate: 8% (10%)
Average price of cars sold: $144,449 ($128,722)
Average year of cars offered: 1950 (1965)
Percentage of cars offered at No Reserve: 65% (53%)

Photos by K500