Auction Report

Thursday recap: High energy and big sales, but signs of softening prices

by Hagerty Insider
27 January 2023 4 min read
Photo by Brandan Gillogly

Main themes: 

  • A number of cars bought for a premium during the pandemic are selling at a loss, disappointing sellers but giving hope to buyers looking to enter the market. 
  • Barrett-Jackson concluded the fourth day of its 7-day auction, pushing its total to $46.3 million thus far. 
  • RM Sotheby’s completed its single-day sale with a 91 percent sell-through rate and $44.6 million in total sales, besting 2022 by $1.3 million. 


  • One of two 1969 Chevrolet Corvette ZL-1s built sold for $3,140,000 – a record for a C3 Corvette and besting the third highest C3 sale by nearly triple.  
  • A 2014 Ferrari LaFerrari sold for $4,075,000 – likely taking position as the most expensive car of the week. 
  • 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 sells for $3.36M, which is up 22% from its prior sale price set in 2016. 
  • 1971 Lamborghini Miura P400 SV sold for $3,580,000, the second highest Miura sale ever and 261% higher than its sale price at auction in 2011. 

Four days into Arizona auction week, we’re seeing lower prices than at last year’s market peak, but there’s still plenty of enthusiasm. Thursday was RM’s first and only day of auctioning and Barrett-Jackson’s fourth, bringing what seems like more buyers than ever to a smaller footprint under the Arizona sun. So far, 1098 cars have been auctioned for total of $90.9 million.  

The field is noticeably less crowded than previous years with Arizona staples Gooding & Company and Worldwide Auctioneers absent, but the participating auction houses brought more vehicles, bringing the total offering to 13.5 percent more vehicles offered compared with last year.  

Despite fewer auctions, the energy wasn’t diminished. Quite the opposite; Barrett-Jackson’s cavernous salesfloor was already packed around noon — something we typically only see during their prime-time lots. But, this strong attendance didn’t translate to the same wild pandemic-era buying sprees we’ve seen over the last two years.  

The estimates that auction houses place on cars are not an exact science, but comparing bids to estimates helps provide some idea of the market’s appetite. Today, only 26% of RM’s lots hammered above their low estimate and only 6% hammered over the high estimate. Compare this to one year ago, when 70% landed above the low estimate and 31% shot above the high estimate. This indicates that the rampant buying enthusiasm we’ve seen during the pandemic has dissipated.

What’s more, it suggests that expectations were high—possibly too high. RM’s Elkhart Collection sale in October 2020 was one of the most anticipated gauges of the developing COVID-era market and quickly became the start of the “those prices are insane” period. A 1939 Talbot-Lago T23 Major Cabriolet bought for $173,000 at Elkhart in 2020 sold for only $89,000 today. That’s not an outlier—in fact, a prominent theme appears to be that the fever has clearly broken. 53% of repeat sales involving vehicles bought at auction after August 2020 and auctioned again this week sold for a loss—so far. 

To wit, a 2012 Lexus LFA bought for $730,000 only five months ago on Bring a Trailer went unsold at RM with a $660,000 high-bid before selling off-block for $675,000. Perhaps the seller decided to cut their losses, speculating that the market might get worse before it gets better.  

Still, for cars bought before the pandemic classic car boom, sellers continue to enjoy the benefits of the last few years of appreciation. A 1999 Lamborghini Diablo VT Roadster sold for $456,000 after selling for $236,000 on Bring a Trailer in 2019. 

A pair of ultra-rare Speed Yellow 964s illustrate this perfectly. A 1993 Porsche 911 Turbo S “Lightweight” and a 1994 Porsche 911 Turbo S X85 “Flat-Nose” were first offered together at RM’s 2018 Amelia auction. The 1994 “Flat-Nose” sold for $654,000 then and sold on Thursday for $830,000, a 27% increase. In contrast, the 1993 “Lightweight” went unsold in 2018 with a high bid of $860,000, later selling on Bring a Trailer for $975,000 in February 2022, near the peak of the market. Today, the 1993 “Lightweight” sold for $962,000, a loss of $13,000 in less than a year after its last sale. 

As Corvettes account for more total sales than any other model in January and already stand at over $6.77m in sales this week, it’s fitting that the big car of the night was a one-of-two 1969 Chevrolet Corvette ZL-1. It sold for $3,140,000 – a record for a C3. This big sale continued a trend we saw at Mecum’s Kissimmee auction earlier this month, where ten C2s each exceeded $300,000 and several Corvettes sold for record prices. We will see if the trend continues tomorrow at Bonhams’ sale, where a one-of-twelve 454/425HP 1971 Chevrolet Corvette ZR2 roars across the block.  

Another mid-century American classic, a 1965 Shelby 427 Competition Cobra, failed to find a new home despite a high bid of $2,200,000. It was a disappointing result considering its fascinating provenance as Elvis Presley’s hero car in the film “Spinout”, period race history, and being the only Cobra featured in Shelby’s Cobra Caravan promotional tour. Several vehicles with ties to Elvis have sold at public auctions in recent months, including his private jet at Mecum Kissimmee. Perhaps collectors are trying to take advantage of a market before Elvis’s fanbase ages out of the hobby.  

Two Italian classics crossed the $3-million threshold: a 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 at $3,360,000 and a 1971 Lamborghini Miura P400 SV for $3,580,000. That’s the second-highest Miura sale ever, but it was a modern Italian hypercar that took the top spot today. A 2014 Ferrari LaFerrari, the sole example finished in Blu Elettrico, sold for $4,075,000, likely becoming the most expensive car to be sold this week. 

Friday offers an opportunity for more high value cars, including a trio of ultra-rare Ghia-bodied Chryslers at Bonhams’ one-day auction. In a rare occurrence, their top-dollar car is also the oldest one to be offered, a 1912 Simplex 50HP 5 Passenger Torpedo Tourer originally owned and raced by Eleonora Sears. 

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