Over the last 10 years, the market for collectible cars has grown steadily. According to Antoine Mahé, Specialist at Paris auction house Artcurial Motorcars, while 2016 was the year of “readjustment” for some models, truly exceptional examples continued to fetch high prices as auction. In February of 2016, Artcurial set a world record for a car sold at a public auction: a 1957 Ferrari 335 Sport by Scaglietti, sold for a whopping $35,711,359.
With similar impressive results expected to continue, the most important antique, classic, and vintage car auctions of the year for international collectors will happen in February. Pro Tip: An antique car, by law, is over 45 years old and requires a special type of license plate. Classic cars must be at least 20 years old, but not more than 40. Vintage cars are generally manufactured between 1919-1930; some, but not all, qualify as antiques.
One of these important automobile auctions is Retromobile 2017 by Artcurial Motorcars on February 10 (the same sale that saw that world record-selling Ferrari fly off the market for many millions last year).
In preparation, we chatted one-to-one with Mahé to get a sense of the most telling market trends of 2016, see which highly anticipated cars will hit the auction block, and forecast 2017’s next huge car collecting craze.
Speaking of readjustments in 2016, some market players, or auction houses and dealers, have noticed a slowdown in the market due to the growing number of overall players, as well as the rising number of vehicles available for sale. Have you experienced this effect?
Antoine Mahé: It is necessary to differentiate the various segments of the market. For some of the models that have benefited from a strong price increase in recent years, we have noticed this phenomenon: a Ferrari BB512 Carburetor version, which was worth at best €90,000 in 2010, was able to get to €350,000 in 2015. This strong upward growth led to many more cars coming to the marketplace. Thus in 2016, fewer cars were sold because they were offered at an excessively high price, while demand had somewhat dried up.
At the same time, when we showcased a superb “youngtimer” (a European term that generally refers to cars between 20-30 years old, not old enough for “antique” registrations) with low mileage and clear history, we saw piqued interest among collectors, as well as the arrival of newer enthusiasts who were not regulars at earlier auctions.
So with the increasing number of sales channels, market players, and sales, are car collectors becoming smarter at making decisions?
AM: We have noticed that collectors enquire and research more, and more easily, on the car they are interested in. This is particularly due their ability to bid for and buy cars online, allowing them to follow auction results and access a larger number of automobiles on offer.
Their demands today certainly require a very professional approach, both in the expertise on the condition of the car and in the valuation. We spend a lot of time explaining that prices advertised on the internet do not necessarily reflect the reality of the market.
How does Artcurial select most of its lots and collections for a sale?
AM: We take great care in selecting the vehicles we offer in our auctions, and each specialist or consultant at Artcurial Motorcars is, first and foremost, an enthusiast and a collector. Each selected lot may have provoked a different emotion, either for the model, its condition, its history, or its rarity. Sometimes we even surprise ourselves by falling in love with cars we never expected to have a taste for.
What is the most remarkable model or collection that was sold at Artcurial?
AM: In addition to the 1957 Ferrari 335S Spider Scaglietti, the sale of the Baillon collection in February 2015 was a major event that strongly influenced the market for vintage automobiles and the consideration of the conservation in strict original condition.
A record-breaking price certainly sets the bar high for this year's Retromobile auction. Which cars are you most excited about this time around?
AM: The 2017 sale will offer a diverse selection of collectors’ cars, from automobiles dating back to the Golden Age of French coachbuilding, when France built some of the best cars in the world, to finely-tuned competition machines with a successful racing history.
or one, the collection of Hervé and Martine Ogliastro will be offered for sale at the Salon Retromobile auction; a fitting return for the gentleman who once ran this event. There will be a total of eight automobiles from this collection, all with exceptional provenance, coming under Maître Hervé Poulain’s hammer:
- 1901 De Dion Bouton Type G Vis-à-vis
- 1908 De Dion Bouton B1 Torpédo
- 1938 Citroën 7C Coupé
- 1936 Talbot Lago T150C
- 1936 Delahaye 135 Sport Roadster by Figoni & Falaschi
- 1935 Bugatti 57 Atalante
- 1957 O.S.C.A. Type S273
- 1967 Bizzarrini 5300 GT Strada
- 1967 Bugatti Type 52
Another highlight is the 1948 Ferrari 166 Spyder Corsa Scaglietti. This was the 7th competition-client Ferrari to be built. Delivered new with an Ansaloni body on a long wheelbase chassis, the car was raced by leading drivers of the day, including Giuseppe Farina, Giampiero Bianchetti, and Raymond Sommer, and won outright at Reims in 1948. It continued to shine on the race track until 1956 when it was given a splendid new body, styled by Scaglietti, that prefigured the design of the iconic 500 TR and 750 Monza.
This is an important part of Ferrari’s early history, still fitted with its original engine, and is eligible for all prestigious historic motor racing events.
Looking ahead, do you think the development of electric cars will have an impact on the market? Will modern-day cars be a good investment, as much as vintage cars?
AM: The development and the enthusiasm for electric power applied to the automobile has already yielded some repercussions on the market for collectible automobiles. Indeed, we have seen a strong enthusiasm for electric vehicles that were built during the period of fuel shortages of World War II, such as the Peugeot VLV or the Pierre Faure.
In the upcoming Retromobile auction, we will offer an electric Breguet from 1942, which at the time featured technologies inspired by aviation. As for modern electric cars, they can be only compared to "vintage" vehicles once they truly are vintage, so we will have to be patient. However, the problems related to electronic cars - their aging or programmed obsolescence - will need to be addressed for these cars to be remain desirable.
That's a great point. Aside from the growing enthusiasm for electric cars, what market trends do you foresee for the remainder of 2017?
AM: As the market for vintage automobiles cannot be the subject of precise predictions, it’s safe to bet that in 2017, we will see some major trends confirmed. For example, we’ll see an increasing craze for automobiles from the ‘80s and ‘90s. The most beautiful cars, because they are in a superb original state of conservation, have benefited from very high quality restorations, or have an exceptional history, will continue to see excellent results at auction. Cars in average condition will hardly evolve in terms of prices.
See stunning antique and vintage automobiles up for offer in Retromobile 2017 by Artcurial Motorcars (February 10), as well as RM Sotheby's Retromobile (February 8), Coys' Coys at Olympia (February 18), and H&H Auctioneers' Classic Cars (February 23).