Over the past 28 years I have only missed the January auctions in Arizona and Florida once, when eight years ago, I decided it would be wise to stay home for the birth of our first child on January 17th.
Don’t let that dalliance fool you: Barrett-Jackson and the sales that grew around it were so critical to my business that in years past I’d spend months preparing cars for sale (as many as twenty a year) then shut the store down and head west with a simple, “I’ll see you in Scottsdale…or in February” on my answering machine (when such things were still in use). I even ended up living in Scottsdale for a month or more when the traditional “auction week” became more of an auction month. In all, it is safe to say I bought and sold hundreds of cars over the years in January, for myself and clients both.
But as 2020 taught us, nothing is guaranteed. Long before Barrett-Jackson rescheduled to March and others shifted to online or indefinite status, I decided I wouldn’t be going to Arizona this year. Or to Mecum’s incredible Kissimmee sale, either, as great as its roster of cars was.
Whether it be a result of having missed all of the usual events (such as Monterey) in 2020 and miraculously not spontaneously combusting, or simply an inexplicable bit of maturity, I realized that as much as I love buying or selling cars, it’s OK to hit the pause button. Nice, even.
Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed trading cars via Bring a Trailer, friends, and internet forums over the past 10 months or so since the world shut down. But the desire to hop on a plane for four or more hours to do it in a tent full of people just wasn’t there.
That isn’t to say I didn’t try a work-around. At Mecum, I was tempted to the point of having friends with eyes I trust inspect and be ready to buy on my behalf the incredible unrestored 6200 mile DeTomaso Mangusta (Lot F184.1) and the 1965 Shelby GT350 “Advanced Prototype” PR Car (Lot F176) that caught my eye. I also phone bid on the ex-Carroll Shelby 1986 Dodge Omni GLH-S (Lot F144.1) that a friend was selling at no-reserve just in case it was so cheap I needed to own it.
Alas a lot of the magic of a live auction is that it’s, you know, live. You want to be there in the flesh to get a real feel for the cars yourself. As an absentee bidder, one tends to be more reserved when the bidding is underway. Especially if one makes a point, as I did, to stand in their garage at home surrounded by the car or cars they already own to further illustrate the point that life does not depend on adding more. What made it even easier this year to fold, besides not being there, were the very strong prices it seemed almost every car was selling for. Passing up a bargain can be extremely difficult (or at least I am told it is with shoes, for example) but it’s easy to stop bidding when the prices blow past ones maximum bid- especially if you aren’t even in the room.
So, while my 27-1 January auction attendance record is now 27-2 after 2021, and no transport trucks arrived after the fact, I’m OK with that. The last year has given me more time to think about maintaining my collecting focus and executing well-thought-out purchases rather than impulsive ones. It has also given me a whole lot more leverage, so that when it does make sense to rejoin the live auction scene I can say, “You know this is the first car I’ve bought at auction in over a year.” After all, that’s almost as good as getting a bargain. Right?