Data Dive

Have bidders tapped the brakes?

by John Wiley
3 June 2022 3 min read
Image
. Photo by Andrew Trahan

As we all know, markets move in cycles, and there’s no shortage of influences on collector segments. The last two years have provided ever-increasing motivation for owners to consider unloading their vehicles, and sellers have to this point found buyers willing to meet their constantly-higher asking prices. Even considering 2021’s dramatic bump in values across the enthusiast car market, we’ve still seen prices increase significantly in the first quarter of 2022, and the Hagerty Market Rating is at an all-time high. However, we’re beginning to hear from industry experts about a potential market slow-down. A wealth of data, information, and anecdotes can cause confusion, so which is it—an incredible era for sellers or the beginning of a retrenchment?

It’s possible, of course, to find anecdotes that illustrate either scenario, but a better perspective might come from high-level data. Since the pandemic began and people were stuck at home, price appreciation accelerated. That’s visible in the Hagerty Market Rating, but we can also view it another way. Looking at vehicles consigned to an online auction and matching them to their Hagerty Price Guide entries, we can see how many have been bid above the associated condition #1 (concours-ready) value.

In this case, we see a peak in July and August of 2021, with 15-16 percent of vehicles getting bid above the condition #1 value. Clearly, the bidders were in a rush to win auctions, and sellers were all too happy to meet the increased demand. Unfortunately for them, demand has tapered, failing to keep up with the ever-higher prices. To be clear, we're not saying values have fallen. Price Guide values have risen so much over the last two years that a sale at 100% of today's number #1 value is in many cases more than 110 percent of that same car's value from mere months ago. However, the decline in bids above #1 value does indicate a slow down in appreciation.

Sellers, for their part, don't seem to be getting that memo. The sell-through rates of those vehicles bid above the condition #1 value show a gradual trend down from a 90 percent to a dip below 85 percent for May 2022. That's not a fall-off-the-cliff decline, but it shows that more sellers are not getting the big payoff they were hoping for, and that the market fever might be breaking.

Is it possible that only average cars are coming up for sale? If that were the case, we might still see records being set for the very best examples. However, after a flood of records in 2021, fewer cars in 2022 are resetting the high bar for their model. The interactive app below features the latest record price data. In aggregate, the share of records (the percentages button) is lower than 2021. For specific vehicles, such as the 1994 Toyota Supra (the counts button), one record price was set in 2018, two in 2019, one in 2021, and none since.

While auctions are the most visible part of the collector car market, the vast majority of classic cars are sold privately. And then there's an even larger, murkier piece of the pie: cars that haven't sold at all. Even a car parked on blocks experiences changes in value. Using Hagerty insurance policy data, we get a unique lens on this segment. When people think their car's value has increased, they can call to change it on their insurance policy. The same goes if they think the vehicle has depreciated. Of course, any one policy can fluctuate for a number of reasons unrelated to the market—for instance, someone might up their value after completing a restoration. In aggregate, though, the ratio of value increases to decreases on Hagerty policies helps us measure market sentiment. Surprising no one, it trended way up through the summer of 2021, but it slowed towards the end of the year and then appeared to have peaked in January 2022. Since then, value increases are still at an elevated level but aren’t trending higher. The private market, just like the auctions, still has plenty of heat, but the temperature is no longer rising as quickly.

What can we expect for this summer and beyond? The August auctions will likely attempt to capitalize on the recent record sale of the 300 SLR for $142 million, and it's indeed possible certain vehicles will succeed on that front. Yet we may see Monterey's sell-through rates suffer if sellers continue to take summer 2021 appreciation rates for granted. Aside from those blue-chip collector cars, though, we will probably see the market continue to cruise more evenly for the rest of the year.

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Comments

  • Don Homuth says:

    The Law of Trends: “No trend lasts forever. It can’t.” Pretty much covers everything.

  • Paul says:

    I wonder how much of the money being spent is otherwise in the market and has taken a hit recently?

  • Dr. Who says:

    All collectible markets periodically suffer from high volatility. That is why it is important to buy something you love and will hopefully drive. Personally I have chosen driving over profit with a carefully chosen low milage NB Miata. I could afford a much more expensive car, but why – when the Miata always puts a grin on my face. I have found driving a “slow” car “fast” rather than a “fast” car “slow” is much more to my liking! You can even snap off a couple of red-line shifts without breaking the speed limit! BTW it sounds good too!

    • Capn Eddy says:

      I agree with Dr. Who. I’ve had a dozen British Sports Cars over the years – from MGA to XKE – but the one that consistently brought me the most joy was my ’59 Bugeye, which I, reluctantly, sold in 2001. Driving those 948cc’s flat out was even more exhilarating, to me, than driving the E. While talking about past rides with a neighbor, I became nostalgic about the British car character. “Here’s what you need” he said, as he pressed his garage door opener. “The roadster the British cars were supposed to be”! – Lo, and behold, a Special Edition 2001 British Racing Green NB Miata appeared.
      It always starts, it doesn’t leak, and the electrical system was not designed by the “Prince of Darkness”. That was in 2011 and, searching the internet, I found an absolutely pristine NB in Seattle with only 10,500 miles on it. I grabbed the first plane from the Bay Area, consummated a fair deal, and my wife and I joyfully drove it home. While the NB enjoys many contemporary improvements over the Bugeye – ABS, CruiseControl, Airbags, 6 speed, ect. – it evokes the same, fun-to-drive, character.

  • Eric Rosel says:

    Great article! I bought a Chevy K 10 in 2015 at a mecum auction for $25,000. I was so excited but when I sat down after giving the auctioneer my bidder number the gentleman sitting in the row in front of me said I overpaid by 10 grand. I felt stupid.

    After I drove this around town on weekends for a couple of years I threw the keys to my 16 year-old son and for the past two years we’ve had the time of our lives with that truck!

    I overpaid and now it’s worth twice the money…..and frankly don’t care either way

  • Larry Jackson says:

    The way I look at it is my cars are drivable art.

  • thomas c stokes says:

    Hang on to the ones you love….

  • Greg Parker says:

    The very best examples of their type will virtually never drop in value. They are always in short supply.

    They may stop climbing periodically, particularly if there is a recession, but they will hold their value, and then resume increasing in value once the economy recovers.

    That’s been my experience, over about forty years, anyways.

  • Jerry says:

    At some point, the prices have to level off. Is someone going to pay one million dollars for a run of the mill 68 Dodge Charger or 69 Chevelle? Of course not. Just like everything else, as the price goes up, the pool of available buyers shrinks. Very rare cars may continue to rise as the uber rich shuffle their collections around, but the average bidders will at some point simply become disinterested. The real thing to look at, are cars that have not been hot items. When prices of desiresble items go up, the undesirable becomes desireable.

  • Joe E says:

    I imagine that the drop in the stock market in 2022 so far has probably reflected the pause in car appreciations.

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