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Market Latest: What Happened in Scottsdale

The dust has barely settled on the world's longest running auction bonanza which takes place every January in Scottsdale, Arizona, led for the past 40 years by US colossus Barrett-Jackson but now joined by RM and Gooding amongst others. It's been a few months since the last major auctions, so the results here influence the early market sentiment for the coming year. We were there to survey, analyse and report what happened. Here is US automotive journalist Rick Carey's take:

There was a time when "Scottsdale", the loosely defined geographic description based on Barrett-Jackson's Arizona auction location, attracted the best cars in the world, and buyers to go with them.

That paradigm has shifted.

The Big Daddy, Barrett-Jackson, has evolved into an event. It is defined by a generous spectator gate of a couple hundred thousand day-trippers. Each of them pays something like $30 a head to see the spectacle and shop the vendors, 200 of them selling everything from sunglasses to helicopters.

Millions watch the forty hours of live television on SPEED TV, the network's second biggest draw after its NASCAR events.

Craig Jackson, Steve Davis and their team of very accomplished professionals (a full time staff of only fifty pulls this off four times a year) carefully and assiduously target their audience with accessible, intriguing, cars. The consignments are known quantities to the American audience, leavened with a mix of American Classics and late model sports and luxury cars. It is an Event with a capital "E", and it works.

Half-price Ferrari 166 barchetta had spent most of its life as a coupe

RM Auctions and Gooding & Company followed Drew Alcazar's Russo and Steele to move into the vacuum which Barrett-Jackson's evolution has created.

B-J's final numbers aren't out yet but the total is between $60 and $70 million. Russo and Steele report $21 million, a recovery from last year's maelstrom-induced disaster that would be characterized as miraculous except it is the result of a year's diligent work by Drew and his team and ten years' effort at client relations. RM's total was $30,995,075, up 57% from 2010. Gooding sold $34,980,900, up 5%.

Figure $1.5 million for Scott Brandt's first time Motoexotica sale at Manheim to open the spectacle and $5 million for Mitch Silver's Ft. McDowell auction and the total will wind up well over $150 million in ten days of nearly continuous selling.

Gooding's presentation was slickest of weekend
Max Girardo at RM sends another one on its way

Yet out of something like 3,000 units that crossed various auction blocks just 10 brought hammer bids over $1 million:

• Gooding's Ferrari FXX s/n 146357 at $1.9 million hammer

• RM's Ferrari 166 MM s/n 0024M at $1.7 million

• RM's 1933 Packard Twelve Sport Phaeton s/n 100602 at $1.6 million

• Gooding's Fiat 8V Supersonic s/n 106000035 at $1.55 million

• Russo and Steele's 1970 Plymouth 'Cuda Hemi Convertible s/n BS27R0B363502 at $1.55 million (shades of 2006)

• Gooding's Duesenberg J Dual Cowl Phaeton s/n 2270 (J-243) at $1.35 million

• Gooding's 275 GTB Alloy Long Nose s/n 08053 at $1.3 million

• RM's 300SL (steel bodied) Gullwing s/n 5500601 at $1.25 million (a car they sold at Monterey in 2008 for $700,000 hammer)

• RM's Duesenberg J Dual Cowl Phaeton s/n 2136 (J-116) at $1.125 million (sold at Hershey in 2004 for $594,000); and

• Gooding's 275 GTB/4 s/n 10063 at $1 million.

Auction fever can be expensive: it cost this bidder $1.375m
Alloy bodied 275GTB originally had three carbs and silver/ black livery: $1.43m is a record

Median sales (half sold for more, half for less) were modest: $132,000 at Gooding and $71,500 at RM. That compares with median sales at the 2010 Monterey auctions of $181,500 for Gooding and $101,750 for RM.

The bottom line is that the high end of the market has moved away from Scottsdale. The bidders have money, as the sell-through rates of 95.6% at RM, 93.1% at Gooding, about 70% at Russo and Steele and, of course, 100% at All No Reserve Barrett-Jackson conclusively demonstrate. The consignors bring cars the auction companies figure will appeal to their clients, and the bidders confirm the judgment.

Qualitatively Scottsdale 2011 was the most positive, upbeat, affirmative, enthusiastic in years. At least since 2006.

 It is the base of U.S. car collecting, a base that is broad, liquid and growing.

7,300 mile 300SL roadster at Gooding will need some TLC on top of the $951,000 purchase price
Only in America: handbag-sized Autobianchi cost new owner $82,500

Editors comment:

Considering that, as Rick mentions, Pebble Beach has now displaced Scottsdale as the venue of choice for those wishing to consign 'blue chip' cars to auction, it's surprising how many new records were set in Arizona. Add the 10% buyers premium, and you get to $1.705m for the Fiat 8V Supersonica, $951,500 for the 'barn find' low mileage 300SL roadster, $1,430,000 for an alloy bodied Ferrari 275GTB (three carbs) and, maddest of all, $1.375m for a normal Gullwing. Not forgetting, at the other end of the spectrum, $82,500 for a tiny Autobianchi Bianchina; when news reaches Italy they'll probably restart production.

$2.09m for FXX confirms Ferrari's marketing prowess
55 years of faithful Fiat 8V ownership were well rewarded: $1.7m

It wasn't all highs, though. The Ferrari 166 Touring Berlinetta was good value at $412,500, $880,000 wasn't expensive for a Daytona Spyder and nor was $781,000 for a Ferrari 333SP racing car, whilst the immaculate Jaguar XK120 roadster with spats was probably the bargain of the weekend at $88,000.

What differentiates auctions Stateside from their European counterparts, apart from the dazzling scale and variety of the offerings, is the spontaneity of bidders when they want something, and equally the pragmatism of sellers to let something go and move on even if the bid doesn't match their initial expectations. It's a lesson for all of us.

$1.55m for this 'Cuda: is the muscle car market back?
A Barrett-Jackson ringmaster- it's not quite Christie's...