A $30 million Ferrari led the parade of trophy cars sold during Monterey Car Week last week, although the classic-car market showed further signs of slowing.
Total sales for the more than 1,200 cars sold over five auctions at Monterey and Pebble Beach reached $397 million, the second-highest total ever for the auctions according to Hagerty, the classic-car insurance company.
Yet the sales marked a 16% drop from last year’s record total of $473 million. Combined with a series of high-profile disappointments on the auction block, the results suggest that inflation, higher interest rates and volatile financial markets prices are putting the brakes on the classic-car market.
“The cooling market we’ve observed for the past 15 months finally reached the Monterey auctions after having little impact last year,” Hagerty said in a report. The company cited “increased discipline at the higher end of the market, weakening demand from new collectors, and higher prices that have given pause to buyers at the upper end of the market.”
Classic cars have been among the worst-performing collectible assets in 2023, according to a new report from Knight Frank. Values have fallen 7% so far this year, while art values are up 12%, according to data from Knight Frank. Jewelry and watch values have also increased.
The rise of online auctions sites is adding to the pressure on live classic-car auctions, emerging as popular alternatives to sales events like Monterey. Sales at online auction forum Bring a Trailer reached $841 million in the first half of 2023, according to the company. Total online collector-car auctions pulled in around $1.9 billion last year, just below the $2.4 billion from live auctions, according to Hagerty.
The most important sign of weakness at Monterey Car Week was the “sell-through rate,” or percentage of cars that sold for their reserve price or minimum bid. This year’s sell-through rate fell to 68%, down from 78% last year, which means nearly a third of the cars auctioned failed to sell at their minimum price.
The highest-profile flop on the auction block was a 1964 Ferrari 250 LM auctioned by RM Sotheby’s. The car was expected to sell for between $18 million and $20 million. But the highest bid only reached $17 million, below the reserve price.
A 1960 Ferrari California Spyder was also a no-sale at auction, with the highest bid reaching $8.25 million. RM Sotheby’s said the car later sold in a private sale after the auction. The auction house didn’t disclose the price.
The most expensive car also fell below its expected range. Bonhams sold a 1967 Ferrari 412P for $30.25 million, which made it the the fourth most expensive Ferrari ever sold. Yet the “whisper number” or expected sales price, was over $40 million, and bidding for the car was light.
“The top of the market has proven resilient until recently, as demonstrated by slowing prices for Ferrari prototype racecars from the 1960s,” Hagerty said.
Some experts say Monterey and the overall classic-car market may be suffering from too much supply. Older collectors, especially from the baby boom generation, are starting to sell entire collections as they age, and it’s unclear if the new wave of younger collectors has the same appetite for similar classics, or if they prefer more modern cars from the 1990s and 2000s.
“As expected, there were just too many cars, auctions and venues,” according to K500, the classic-car intelligence firm.
Here are the three most expensive cars sold and what they went for.
1. 1967 Ferrari 412P Berlinetta
Sold for $30.25 million, by Bonhams
The 412P was the road or “customer version” of Ferrari’s celebrated 330 P3 and P4 race cars. Only two 412P Berlinettas were originally built, and Ferrari converted another two 330 P3s to 412Ps. The car sold was the second of the original 412P models off the factory line and raced at the highest level.
2. 1957 Jaguar XKSS Roadster
Sold for $13.2 million, by RM Sotheby’s
The XKSS was essentially a converted race car, after Jaguar withdrew from racing following the 1956 season. The company decided to turn its D-type racers into customer road cars, adding a passenger door and weather protection. Jaguar only made 25 of them. Nine were destroyed by a factory fire, so only 16 remained, which makes them one of the classic-car world’s ultimate trophies.
3. 1962 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Coupe
Sold for $9.5 million, by Gooding & Company
The 250 GT SWB Berlinetta captured wins at Le Mans and Sebring, along with numerous other races around Europe. Between 1960 and 1963, Ferrari made just 165 SWB Berlinettas. This car was in “remarkably original condition,” according to Gooding, since it had never been restored. Finding Ferraris in such good condition without major restorations is highly rare, adding to its value.