Market and auctions

Online RM Sotheby’s mixes things up

Cliff Goodall’s view

Photo credit: RM Sotheby’s

You remember how I always say that the experience of participating in an auction has to be a simple one? Well, you can forget that because the RM auction was exactly the opposite. And yet despite this, the auction went very well indeed!

It didn’t look promising at the start: the online auction was divided into three parts (each segment ending on a different day) and for each segment a different currency was used: the cars that went under the hammer on the 26th were in Europe – and hence the sale was in Euros. Those of the 27th were in the United States – with offers in US$ – while the final day featured a Porsche collection from Switzerland – and here the bidding was in Swiss francs. But wait, it was even more intricate than that: not all the cars offered in Europe were of European production or registration and vice versa. For example, if you were in the market for a Ferrari, you found them in both € and $ and comparisons weren’t exactly easy.

Just like behind the wheel, everything you need to know to fully understand the situation. 15 days after the conclusion the auction in Paris, RM Sotheby’s sees a drop in average prices but an increase in turnover

n fact, when I had to make the call to state whether it went well or not I wondered if I should consider €, $, or Swiss francs (CHF). In the end, I simply decided to pretend I was a European collector and then analyse everything through a single currency (1 € = 0.83 $ = 0.91 CHF).

Lower average prices, but a very healthy sales percentage

At this point I have to admit my faults and I can tell you that it was a great sale for the RM team. Of the 101 cars “brought” to this online sale, only 32 remained unsold with an excellent performance of 68.31% (in Paris they only managed 57.50%) and in terms of value they reached 80% (61% in Paris) of what they had hoped for (about €9.05m against an estimate of €11.31m) with just 26 lots without reserve. The average price, however, was much lower at €131,249 against €322,000.

2015 Porsche 918 Spyder sold for €911,000

In an attempt to understand, I believe that more than one reason was at play here: for starters, the fact that they pretended as if there were three auctions in one by orienting sales to individual markets. Secondly, I believe that a large part of the success was down to the very reasonable, if not decidedly low estimates given to the models on offer. It was an encouragement which in troubled times paid fruits. Hence, the low average price was no surprise.

1968 Ferrari 330 GTC sold for €379,500

Let’s take the top lot from the auction, a 2015 Porsche 918 Spider with just one owner and 5,500 km on the clock from new. The car changed hands for CHF 1,001,000 (about €911,000), perfectly in line with its estimate of CHF 975,000-1,100,000 but 5% cheaper than the cheapest one sold over the last 24 months and 15% less than the best price obtained in the same period. Of course, we should consider the fact that the market for modern hypercars is decidedly volatile (like mobile phones, everyone wants the latest model) but considering the fact that this model has not yet made headlines with character-changing attributes, I believe this should be chalked up as a good deal. Interestingly, The Swiss collection of Porsches consisted of just 7 cars (i.e. just under 7% of the cars on offer), although it also accounted for somewhere near 35% of the overall takings.

1962 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL sold for €53,000

Another deal of the day was a 1968 Ferrari 330 GTC. Red with black leather interior sold new in Italy and then it ended up in the Middle East. The estimate of €340-380,000 was particularly low and so the sale on the edge of the upper limit (€379,500) did not surprise me that much. This sale places the 330 among the cheapest ones sold in recent times, slightly above the cheapest example sold from 2019 onwards. Here, however, I should clarify an important side note: the car had Kuwaiti documents, meaning that this price does not include any duties and transport costs required to bring it back to Europe, which will make that figure quickly rise above €400,000.

2014 BMW i8 Coupé “Ex-Diego Maradona”sold for €44,000

Another bargain, this time a decidedly tempting one, was a 1962 Mercedes-Benz 190SL Roadster. Ok, the livery was not among the most charming (white with red interior) and the car had slight traces of rust, which will have made many enthusiasts run away. But it had just one owner since 1965 and the engine was rebuilt in 2015. Again, it had low estimate ($60-80,000) and the sale at $63,800 (about €53,000) was about half a fairly decent-restored car. Considering that for the next few months we will have to stay at home and wait for the vaccine to arrive, the idea of spending this spring in the garage tinkering on this car would have done it for me. Chapeaux to the man who took it home.

2003 Alfa Romeo 147 GTA, 3.2-litre V6 engine, 247hp sold for €27,000

Not all VIPs have the same recognition in the world of collecting, Steve McQueen and the Queen of England multiply the value of their cars, but it’s not the same for everyone. A standard 2014 BMW i8 can reach anywhere between €55,000 and €80,000 depending, of course, on specifications and mileage. The RM example was white with a black interior and had travelled just 10,500 km in the hands of… Diego Armando Maradona, “el pibe de oro”. I strongly felt that the estimate of €60-80,000 was reductive because it failed to consider the VIP factor. And instead what happened? Sold for €44,000 “all inclusive”. And instead what happened? Sold for €44,000 “all inclusive”. The fact that the car was in Dubai no doubt played a part due to shipment and re-registration costs but there has to have been a mistake somewhere in the communication: it should have done much, much better. Or they could have offered it to Qatar, as an additional attraction for the 2022 World Cup!

2002 Chrysler Prowler, 3.2-litre V6 engine, 253hp sold for €25,000