Thursday, February 5, 2015

"Market Price" At Auctions


Duesenberg SJ Dual Cowl Phaeton: $750,000 at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale 2015.


In 1960 I tried to persuade my father to buy a Duesenberg out of the classified ads in Road & Track.  The asking price was $12,000, about the same as a new Ferrari 250 GT, and six times what he paid for the Plymouth he was then driving.  I justified the proposal as an investment.  He chuckled and declined. If the proposal had come--seriously--from someone other than his adolescent son, he would have laughed and laughed.

But if he had had the interest, facilities, and knowledge to maintain a Duesenberg,  Dad might have made out OK on his $12,000 investment.  In the 1980's and later, Duesies were going for north of $1 million.  Some had less than perfect provenances and were not previously owned by Clark Gable or another famous person.  Nor were they the most desirable SJ (supercharged) dual-cowl phaeton model like the one above.  Duesies just aren't bringing the money they used to.  Quite a few other classics from the '30's failed to meet their reserves at the same auction.

On the other hand, I never thought I'd see muscle cars from my youth go for $500,000 or more.  Or an Amphicar go for $100,000.  Or Fiat Jollies go for $60,000.  Some of us Baby Boomers are rolling in money, and voting with our Letters of Credit.  What 60-something of today remembers Duesies fondly? Classics from the '30's have not just peaked--they're seeking a new floor.

The TV guys who cover car auctions like to speculate about the next "coming cars."  Gen 3 Camaros?  Gen 3 Mazda RX-7's?  Of course the point of this speculation is to get in on the ground floor and ride the market up.  Buy that immaculate Gen 3 Camaro or RX-7 for $20,000 now.

Whatever the "comers" turn out to be, I doubt that 60's muscle cars will be going for the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $500,000 in 2035.  We Boomers will have shuffled off this mortal coil.  What 60-something, then, will remember COPO Camaros and Hemi 'Cudas fondly?  A Super Mario Brothers game still in its shrink-wrap might be a different matter.  Apparently many people now in their 20's aren't even getting drivers' licenses unless they must.  My guess is that Gen 1 iPhones will go for big bucks in 2045.  Maybe pristine Teslas too.  Aston Martins, Ferraris, and Lamborghinis, not so much...

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