Sale of the Week

A 137-mile Beetle reminds us how far the collector car market has come

by David Zenlea
27 November 2022 3 min read
Photo by Bring a Trailer

We’ve become accustomed to living in the moment here at Hagerty Insider. Started in 2019 as a six-times-a-year magazine, we’ve evolved into the 24/7 website you’re reading today. Through quarterly Hagerty Price Guide updates, monthly Market Ratings, on-the-scene coverage of major auctions, Sales of the Week like you’re reading here, and a constant stream of auction reports (977 and counting), we zero in on what the collector car market is doing right now to better inform your buying and selling decisions going forward.

Yet it’s important, amidst all that, to keep in mind the bigger story of how our market is changing over the long term. Which brings us to this Bug, which spent much of its life on static display at a Van Nuys, California Volkswagen dealership. Barrett–Jackson sold it in 2012, with 108 miles showing on the odometer, for $26,400. Ten years and 29 miles later, it sold on Bring a Trailer for $51,000. Even accounting for inflation, that’s nearly thirty percent higher.

We’ll admit we don’t quite get the thrill of a classic car that’s never really been driven—especially one that is, going by production numbers, the least rare vehicle on the planet. Yet this frozen-in-time Beetle makes for a perfect “control” by which to study the changes in the market over the past decade.

The clearest shift is in the online auction world. Our friends at eBay Motors and Craigslist will note that plenty of old cars sold on the internet back in 2012. If you were determined enough, you could have figured out how to bid remotely at that Barrett-Jackson sale. Yet the two listings for this Beetle remind us how far online car buying has come in terms of access and sophistication. Take the photography—four poorly lit snaps for the older sale versus more than 200 professional-quality images for the more recent one. Such photography has pretty much become par for the course. So has the level of activity observed on the BaT listing: The Beetle, currently residing in Florida, got 98 comments and eight bids before going to a collector who appears to be based in Illinois; the underbidder immediately moved on to a Shelby Super Snake in New York.

Then there’s the growth in value. A VW Beetle is not an emerging classic like a Skyline GT-R or an E30 M3. It was, ten years ago, a widely admired classic and a cultural touchstone, just as it is today. If anything, this is the sort of “Boomer car” that is supposed to stagnate as the folks who remember the Summer of Love and whatnot slow their participation in the market. Instead, Hagerty Price Guide values for 1977 Beetles in excellent (#2) condition have nearly quadrupled since 2012, with Gen–X and younger collectors now accounting for the majority of interest in the model, per our insurance data. Although the appreciation has no doubt accelerated during the pandemic, it was already happening beforehand. Note that the first major leap was in 2019—considered, in retrospect, to be a slow period for the market.

The collector car market currently finds itself in a fascinating moment. Will the incredible growth we've seen in 2022 continue? If it doesn't, will it pull back, and how far? Will bidders descend upon Kissimmee and Scottsdale in two months time eager to spend or hunting for deals? These are important questions, and you can be sure we'll be asking them here in the coming weeks. But we shouldn't ignore the larger trends, such as how the internet has transformed buying and selling, how younger collectors are jumping into nearly every segment, and how, as a result, our cars are almost continuously becoming more valuable.


  • Bill says:

    51K for a ’77 Bug with factory A/C and a sunroof is ridiculous–even this no miles on it!

    • Brownfox says:

      Your comment is absolutely true, except that it misses the truth: it is the market that determines, not our opinions.

    • Blair_G says:

      Type 1 Beetles are far too common and parts are too easily available for supply to be a significant factor in market value, and let’s be honest with ourselves – they aren’t great in any way. Simply put, there are many more sought after cars that are more satisfying to own and drive. So basically the selling price of this ’77 bug makes no sense.

  • Larry D says:

    No more ridiculous than $100k for a ’77 Bronco or a ’60 Amphicar or a ’59 VW Microbus.

    • RR says:

      Larry D is correct, $51k for a Beetle is not nuts, a 150 mile anything is a bargain at $51k. It would be a great little showpiece, and if one doesn’t mind hurting the value a little – putting 20,000 miles on it over the next 10 years would most likely be a boatload of fun. And yes, I have multiple cars but still stand at amazement at what becomes the “it” car, Broncos and Amphicars, and 21 window VWs, but realize that 21 window is such an unusual absurdity, it has cool value thats off the charts. Lets hear it for automotive diversity!

      • Norm Johnson says:

        The reality is it would cost $50k to have someone properly restore a VW Beetle. This car is a bargain and over the long term a reasonable investment. That said drive the damn thing because it’s a fun toy, You will get far more value and enjoyment out of for the next 10-15 years.

  • Doug L says:

    I do like the old Beetles, even the fuel injected ones. The AC will slow it down but make it a lot more comfortable on hot days. But for 50 grand, I would choose something else. I am not the guy these expensive, unused cars are aimed at. It does look nice.

  • Gary Bechtold says:

    Crazy price but it is a museum piece.

  • Scott Ales says:

    I shot and edited everyone of those photos with my Samsung camera. I mean, phone!
    It’s actually the first time I tried using it instead of my dslr.
    Scott Ales

  • Mike says:

    To those saying that spending fifty grand on this car is absurd, crazy, etc…I understand why it may seem like it. To me, spending millions of dollars on a Hemi Cuda that was poorly built, couldn’t stop or handle as well as this Beetle, and would get the absolute daylights kicked out of it by a modern Honda Accord in a drag race, seems crazy to me. But someone loves those enough to spend millions on them, and $400K on a Porsche 911 that to the casual observer looks a lot like a $80,000 one, and I like Volkswagens enough to have been the winning bidder on this car. Some folks like Ferraris, but give me a vintage VW, a Model A Ford, a Chrysler Airflow any day over one. We all like what we like, and if we have the money, why not buy what we like?

    I am very much into the split and oval era VWs, as well as the 1960s models…but as a late 80s and early 90s kid, I grew up on late 60s and 1970s Beetles-those were the cars still being used as actual cars, often $600 beaters clinging on for dear life as they navigated the potholed, salt riddled streets of Chicago near the very end of their lives. When I was teen ager, my dad and I went and looked at a very low mileage ’71 Super Beetle, and we took my mom’s not low mileage ’68 to do so. In the ’71, the car ran beautifully–it was quiet (for a VW), smooth, everything had a very precise feel to it-heck, even the heater was almost like a blast furnace, at least in comparison to mom’s daily driver (how many women today would drive a car that required one hand on the steering wheel and the other hand holding an ice scraper for the inside of the windshield-but even at twenty years old, the damn thing fired up every morning even when other, modern cars on our block needed jumper cables when the temps went into the lower double digits).

    So why all that money for a ’77? After all, as mentioned in this article, they made an awful lot of these-it is the most produced car ever (don’t get me started on the Toyota Corolla, the current version of which has no design or even a single part shared with the original). While the same basic design, the VW Beetle did have a lot of changes over the years, and the 1975-77 Sedans in particular. The DM vs USD caused a huge price hike in German cars just prior to this, and sales of the Beetle fell off a cliff in the USA starting in 1974, and by 1975 the writing was pretty much on the wall without a doubt, yet VW kept making improvements in hopes of eeking out a few more years.

    So why spend this money on this car? I have a long history of Volkswagens and memories in them-my parents drove them during my childhood, I started driving them in high school (and collected anything VW way before that) and have spent many years and miles continuing to drive, own, wreck, restore, drag race, take them off road, learn and talk about these cars. By 1977 the U.S. spec Beetle Sedan was the most refined, well equipped and most capable of the original type 1’s basic design, and after decades of selling 300-400 thousand of them in the USA, they managed to move only a little over 12,000 of them in the final year here. Late model VW were, for many years, unappreciated (and still are in the hard core vintage VW scene), so a ’77 is actually quite uncommon, let alone one that is nearly new. And finally, I liked this car and had the money so I bought it. Anyone who wants to spend fifty grand on a muscle car or whatever because that’s what you like, fantastic. They don’t do anything for me, although I an appreciate one’s dedication and enthusiasm for them.
    I like musuems and have spent many amazing hours in them…the Henry Ford, Gilmore, A-C-D museum are all places one should go if you love cars. But no museum for this Veeddub..I am going to take great care of it, but I am also going to change the fuel hoses, get another set of wheels and new tires, and I am going to put some miles on it.

    • David Zenlea says:

      Kudos to you, Mike! Happy to hear this car has wound up with an enthusiast such as yourself.

    • Jonjonz, mhfm says:

      🎉Hooray for Mike!
      That’s exactly what I would do with it too. There’s a person near my residence who always has a few VW in the driveway; beetles and vans that have been or are being put in good order!
      Having grown up campaigning a beetle in the 60’s, including carrying a propane torch with a butterfly nozzle to de-ice the carb when it closed down in damp freezing weather, including pounding on the solenoid to get it to start in subzero weather and then not going anywhere because the tranny linkage/gears were frozen on New Years Eve; I drive by this VW display in my C8 and think; “boy I’d like to own one of those restored VWs!”
      Little did I know at the time that the little “bug” ( along with a later Corvair Monza) would become one of my favorite cars, ever!

      Drive the wheels off it….. if you can!

      • Clare Snyder says:

        My first, last, and only beetle was a ’49 split back in ’74. The only vehicle I ever drove that could ice the carburetor and suffer vapour lock within 50 miles!!!! It had been well used and abused before I got my hands on it (as an emergency replacement for my ’67 Peugeot wagon when the front axle CV joint seized up and I couldn’t locate a replacement in Zambia) and I drove the wheels off it through southern Zambia and Botswana. About 50 MPH downhill with a tailwind and a white-knuckle grip on the steering wheel any time you hit the cable operated brakes with any authority at speed —-

    • Tom L. says:

      Way to go, Mike! I love the fact that you are going to DRIVE this car & not keep it as a museum piece / garage queen. These things were made for driving!

    • Daniel says:

      Make the best of it! German manufactering at it´s best in my opinion. I´ve a few bugs, last one, a 1973 1303, but seriously regret selling a 1963 standard version. Value is something that many know and create opinion on, but value is what we feel it is worth.

    • Brad says:

      Being an air cooled VW owner for 35+ years, I enjoyed this article. Like the new owner of this low-mile Beetle mentioned, I too am focused in on the very early Volkswagens of the 50’s but there is just something about an extremely low-mileage example, such as this ’77, that is very intriguing. Growing up in the Chicago-land area like Mike, I locked in on his comments. First off, congratulations Mike! I agree that this Volkswagen has ended in up in good hands and I know you’ll enjoy taking care of it for as long as you so desire. Being in Illinois, I hope to see the car someday at one of the state’s Volkswagen events (Effingham, IL = VW Funfest = always an enjoyable 2 days!). I’ll keep an eye out for a Bahama Blue Metallic with Cameo White interior sunroof sedan in the future. Enjoy!

    • Mike Dawson says:

      Mike, you are my hero. You saw it, liked it, could afford it, bought it and now you will drive and enjoy it.
      Kudos to you. My first ride was a ’71 Super Beetle, well worn by the time I got it. I loved that car until an oil tank truck backed over it….

    • Eric says:

      Good job Mike, who cares what the sticks in the mud have to say. Buy/drive what you like. Some of the negative comments come from the “flipper” crowd. I own a custom car and restoration shop in southwest Michigan (Blue Collar Muscle Rods & Custom) and there is a difference in owners such as yourself and owners that can’t appreciate, enjoy, drive, or spend money on the car, because they are solely focused on the flip to make money. They don’t own cars for the hobby, they own cars for the dollar. They will never understand your reasoning or enjoyment as this VW’s new owner. I know you will be a fantastic steward of the car and I hope to see it someday. As the shop owner, I work with people spending lots of money and get to see the joy they have as they take the keys of their ‘new’ old car. I’m an enthusiast too and have spent money on stuff that makes no sense but who cares, I worked hard for that money and no one has to care either, just enjoy admiring the car.

    • Brian says:

      Congratulations Mike!

      Anyone that questions how another car enthusiast spends their money on a car is NOT a car enthusiast. Everyone has their likes and dislikes and last time I checked we are still somewhat free to spend our money on what we want. 🙂 Enjoy the new drive and thank you for keeping the passion alive!

      BTW – for those that are thinking oh that is just another “VW Beetle Fan” – nope – I don’t care for them at all. But I am a huge fan of anyone that has passion for cars and car culture.

    • Jim says:

      Good for you, Mike! Buy what you like and enjoy it as much as you can. Very few true hobbiests make money on their hobbies, they’re for spending money in exchange for enjoyment. Having had a used 67 Squareback followed by a new 70 Bug in Chicago, they are endearing cars. I had very little trouble with either and they were terrific in the Winters. Foolishly, I traded the Bug on a new 75 Rabbit…big mistake! Enjoy your new car.

    • Bryon James says:

      Gongrats Mike. What an amazing purchase. Before reading your first comment I had a thought come to mind. The article, in the end, mentioned the younger market coming in to play. My thought was, younger market or not, how much of a factor does a persons upbringing have on these markets? We all try to speculate what a certain market will do but in the end I think a lot has to do with what each individuals childhood was driven by. It could have been what your parents drove or maybe what the old hot rodder two doors down was always adding to his Camaro.(yes, I’m a Camaro guy. Have had one since I started driving). Either way I feel that what we as individuals were influenced by as kids is a major contributing factor of what we drive and can afford as adults. This influence could also have an effect on how we live our lives. Someone that loves top dollar sports cars might align their personal lives in order to afford their dreams. Well let’s be honest, as car enthusiasts, we all have to have a certain amount of income to enjoy this hobby. Cheers to you Mike on attaining this dream car. And for those that know, two for blue!

  • David Pasicznyk says:

    Has “Tulipmania” hit the classic car market?

  • Mike says:

    Thanks for the positive comments ! I’m sure I’ll get some flack for driving this car, but as some have said, that’s what they were made for. And while I won’t be taking it off roading of of the Apache Trail like I did my 1990 Mexican Beetle, this Bug will get some use. It’s being delivered to my home but I have to put 20 miles on it the first day to get it to my garage. Sounds like a good start to me! My fiancé has yet to drive but I think this one should be a nice one to start that experience with, too.

  • Hooper says:

    Having many passionate VW friends through the years and spending countless hours riding in, driving them and of course repairing them, VW’s have a soft spot in my heart with many great memories. I’m a muscle car guy through & through but I always gravitate over to check out the VW’s at every car show I attend! I remember when I moved from the Midwest to Phoenix AZ back in the early eighties and saw my first Bug with A/C. I was like whaaat? a VW Bug with A/C? How in the %#*$! did they do that? Well, they did (probably just for Arizonans LOL) and now Mike owns owns a beautiful blue A/C equipped 77 Beetle! Way to go Mike! We can’t take money with us when we go so it’s okay to spend it on a few of the things we love while we’re here.

  • Patrick Simonik says:

    Congrats Mike! Enjoy EVERY moment! I never considered myself a car guy, but because I could never see the value of buying a new car, I’ve always owned used. Beetles, Studebakers, Vans, Trucks, ETC, ETC…Now I am investing, some might say dumping money, into restoring an 87 VW Vanagon tintop syncro, that my wife and I will travel and camp in. A 90 Miata is our summer beach buggy, a 93 Chevy Silverado is our beast of luxury work truck, and our daily driver is a 95, 940 Volvo wagon that I bought from the original owner with only 92,000 miles on it. And now each of them are increasing in value, as apposed to depreciating like a new one does. Thanks all!!! Happy Motoring!!!

  • Roy says:

    I learned to drive, in ’66, at 16 yrs old, in my late sister’s VW beetle. 1st attempt with clutch, w/my bro inlaw by my side, I drove it almost thru my dad’s tin back walled garage. Many times driving it thru the Boston area snows/storms, with zeal. Passed many a stuck cars, in snow, while on my way to Catholic evening classes. Still have warm and fuzzy memories of that Beetle, taking it my 1st summer as an independent kid to meet up w/family in the mountains of NH, lakeside Newfound Lk. I felt like a king, driving by myself those 200 mi. That Bug was a First Love. Surprising how my sis let me drive it so much.

  • Mike says:

    Again thank you all for the very positive comments! I years-winters, summers etc., driving Beetles around Chicago, and used them for my daily cars regardless of weather or distance. I grew up in the 1980s and 90s on a block that had garages often open in the summer with guys working on cars: my VWs, my dad with his ’51 MG TD and 69 E Type Jag, my buddy Eric two doors away who had motorcycles and various cars (his dad had a 71 Super Beetle with a/c as his daily driver in the 1980s, Mark across the alley who had a 66 Chevelle, a ten second ’67 Nova and friends with many different muscle cars, Steve a few doors down with a Super Bee, ’70s Lincolns and a ’72 or so Charger-and also liked Japanese cars Marty who’s dad was restoring a Bug, etc and a couple of blocks away you could find another friend wrenching on his Datsun Z car…so I was exposed to a lot of different vehicles and while I did not always want to own everything they were working, I did appreciate them all-these were all cars with personalities, and to me, that is what counts.

    My thinking when it comes to cars does not always make sense to everyone (my daily driver, and I mean every day, year round) from 2014-15 and for all of 2019 was my 1931 Model A Tudor, I do love cars of many different varieties. I split time between Chicago and Arizona, and this ’77 is with me in Arizona. I put a few miles on it today going to the DMV to get plates for it. What a nice car-and dare I say, refined, VW had made the Beetle by ’77. I have some work to do-changing brake fluid and rubber brake system parts, fuel hoses, etc, and a few detail items on this car, but overall it is a really nice and original example. Grateful to be part of you the community of car nuts like you all!

  • B says:

    Just catching up on the comments on this story.
    I’ve owned several Camaros in the past. Enjoyed restoring and driving them. Sold the last one which I had for 20yrs when I found a 30k mile Beetle for sale. People refer to them being mass produced but they are very rare when you live surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean in Eastern Canada. Lol
    First car I rode in with my father when I was kid. After 18 months of restoration, this has been the most fun we have had in any car! Not concerned about incurring mileage, too much fun to leave parked.
    Great purchase Mike! Enjoy it and drive it. Life is too short. If you don’t enjoy it now, someone after you will!

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