Although new auction records were established for several models, the average price paid for classics fell dramatically during 2016. For while there were buyers for 7537 of the record 11,375 collector vehicles auctioned in Europe as a whole, the average paid per EEC auctioned car fell by £4727 per car, a fall of 9% in value in one year. Of the 5885 cars from the 8929 offered that I personally saw change hands for £166.5m at UK island auctions last year, the average sum handed over for a classic sold under the hammer amounted to £28,292 with premium, nearly 15% less than in 2015 sales.
Even more surprising perhaps is the average price of the 1652 classics that I reported on being sold for £189.31m on the Eurozone mainland auctions also fell by the Sterling equivalent of £48,286 per car last year from one year earlier, and, lest we forget, average prices paid in 2015 had been £27,130 lower too than those seen in 2014. Statistically, and contrary to so much other shallow punditry that peddles permanent boom in what will always be a cyclical sector, the prices of most, though by no means all mainstream classics have softened dramatically during the past two years.
Real world sale rates achieved at the 107 classic auctions attended at home and abroad varied from a 17% low at Newmarket in July to 100% at New Bond Street in September. The £40m total sell out of 423 ‘No Reservists’ at Milan in November meanwhile was by far the highest grossing sale of the year. Whereas the average sale rate for the whole of my last year’s catalogues worked out at 66% of auctioned cars selling in the UK, 4% fewer than in 2015, and an average of 68% on the Continent, again 4% less than the average achieved at auction one year earlier.
In terms of both the numbers of cars offered and sold as well as their sales total, RM Sotheby’s topped the auctions chart on the Continent by selling 546 of the 589 cars consigned for their Paris, Monaco and Milan fixtures, 33% of the cars sold on the other side of the Channel last year, and achieving a 93% sale rate and grossing £76.22m by year end, 40% of the industry total for 2015 in Euro Europe. In second place were Artcurial, who, in shifting 366 or 79% of 464 of their clients’ cars for £57.85m, took a 31% euro-market share. Bonhams Europe were third, securing 20% of the market with the sale of 173 of the 286 cars auctioned for £38.01m and achieving an average of £219,711 per car sold, the highest on the Continent. The 1953 Le Mans raced Jaguar XKC sold for 7.25m euros (£5.72m with premium) in May at the Fairmont Monte Carlo was the highest-priced Brit auctioned in Europe last year.
In Brexit-land, more collector cars were auctioned in a single sales season than ever before and, by selling 374 mainly higher end classics in 9 sales for £45.57 with premium, Bonhams were the UK market leaders with a £121,845 average per car sold figure and a 27.37% market share by value. In second place were Silverstone Auctions and their CCA subsidiary, who sold 436 mainstream cars in 9 UK sales for £25.44m, an average of £58,349, and 403 more accessible classics in 6 sales under the CCA gavel for £5.44m, an average of £11,033, a combined 16 sales total of £30.88m with premium. By selling 65 top cars for £21.65m in Battersea Park in September, an average of £333,077 per lot, RM Sotheby’s took third place by value with a 13% UK market share, while H&H were fourth with 563 cars sold for £14.73m, an average of £26,162 and an 8.85% market share.
By volume however, once again ACA consigned the most cars for their 5 sales at their single King’s Lynn venue, where they sold 938 of the 1268 cars offered for £8.4m including 5% buyer’s premium, the lowest charged and an average of £8955 per car sold, and took a market-topping 15.9% of the UK market by volume. Although with 929 of their 1312 cars sold stat in 2016, the Midland Silverstone and CCA brands were right behind the Norfolk firm. The 8 Brightwells sales for Traditional classics (at an average price of £11,986) and Modern classics (at an average of £4977) saw 846 of the 1193 consigned cars sell for £8.27m, a 4.3% UK market share by volume.