From the hats people wear at the concours to street-parked 300 SLs, to the incomparable scenery of California itself, Monterey Car Week is all about being extra. The event’s absence in 2020—along with that of so many other in-person gatherings—only heightened the effect this year. At the auctions, that translated to a car-buying orgy the likes of which we have not seen since 2018. Hagerty Insider was on the ground last week for the amazing sales; this week we’ve been at our computers, crunching the numbers. Here are the stats that stood out to us.
The sales total, which includes after-the-block transactions through Sunday, of course eclipses any in-person sales we’ve seen in the pandemic era, but the real story is that it also outperforms anything we saw in 2019, when the auctions both in Monterey and Scottsdale underperformed. To find a comparable performance, you have to wind the clock back to August 2018, when the Monterey auctions were headlined by a $48.4M Ferrari.
This year, the high sale was a bit more mellow—$20.465M for a very low miles (and very brown) McLaren F1. That is the highest sale we've seen at auction since 2018 and, given how infrequently eight-figure cars sell at auction outside of Monterey, will likely be the record for 2021.
That'd be the average weekly sales total for online auctions this year. The growth in these platforms has been the story of the collector car market throughout the pandemic, and their continued growth is the reason this will likely be a record year for collector car auctions. We've also seen ever more premium vehicles change hands via computer screen. Yet Monterey 2021 reaffirms the incomparable reach of a premier in-person event. In three days, they equaled four-and-a-half months' worth of online sales.
The key to Monterey's firepower is its ability to attract cars worth more than a million dollars. We saw 121 of them cross the block last week. For context, only 64 such vehicles were offered at auction during the seven months leading up to Monterey. The quality and rarity of these consignments—even by million-dollar standards—was exceptionally high, which explains why so many of them sold. More than two thirds found new homes, compared with a paltry 48 percent sell-through rate for such cars at Monterey 2019.
That's the percentage by which the median final sale price at Monterey beat condition-appropriate values in the Hagerty Price Guide. And remember: Our most valuation data update featured some of the biggest increases we've ever recorded. Zoom in on cars priced above six-figures, and the difference was even greater.
The incredible enthusiasm we’ve observed among collectors this year apparently flows all the way up to those with the deepest pockets. Some of the motivations for top-tier collectors are likely connected to their great wealth. Many no doubt have made a fortune in the stock market since we last gathered here and might be looking for an inflation-proof place to park those profits. Yet collectors and dealers alike tell us what’s underlying all of the growth is a widespread reassessment of priorities—and yes, mortality—during the pandemic. No one wants to wait one more year to buy the car of their dreams.