Ask the Appraiser

Will other classic car values benefit from the record Mercedes sale?

by Dave Kinney
21 May 2022 3 min read
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You have undoubtedly heard the old saw “a rising tide floats all boats.” To some extent, that could be true here, if by "boats" we mean "extreme limited production race-oriented supercars from the 1950s”. Photo by Jaguar

Values almost always change over time.  It’s not hard to find examples in every market, including in the world of fine art, real estate, furniture, and cars. What was desirable to one generation might not speak so loudly to the next.

In the early 1970’s, Rolls Royce Phantoms and Silver Ghosts were top (value) dogs, alongside a number of Packard and Duesenberg models. You could, believe it or not, find a Ferrari 250 GTO for less than $10,000. Not a typo—what is now a heavy eight-figure car could be had for less than ten thousand dollars.

Eight days before the official announcement, Hagerty posted an article about the rumored sale of what would soon be a game changer in the world of automotive valuation. So, let the armchair speculation begin.

One of the two 300 SLR Uhlenhaut coupes just sold for more than $140M aggressively asserting itself as the most expensive public-facing sale of a car that we know of. In fact, it’s now one of the ten most expensive items of all time to sell at auction. Let that sink in; aside from seven paintings and one sculpture (by our count), a car beats out all art, jewelry, and any tacky, overdone Malibu property that has ever come up for sale at auction.

Fine Arts Appraiser Edie Yeomans of Appraisal Associates in Toronto, Canada, a Fellow of the American Society of Appraisers, presented her own take on this sale in relation to another well-publicized sale finalized this month. “This spring auction season can be summarized in the sale of two works – Andy Warhol’s “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” (sold for $195,000,000) and the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut coupe.”

“This spring auction season can be summarized in the sale of two works – Andy Warhol’s “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” (sold for $195,000,000) and the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut coupe.”

Edie Yeomans, Appraisal Associates

“The word ‘icon’ is bandied about quite a bit these days,” she continued. “Understandable, given the number of great works of art that fell under the hammer. Under the definition of icon—or a ‘person or thing that is idolized or revered’—both the Warhol and the Uhlenhaut fit the bill. Marilyn Monroe was idolized, Mercedes-Benz is a revered brand, and both sit under the two primary pillars of ‘status’—social and economic.”

So what, exactly, does this news mean for other cars in the marketplace?

First, let’s be clear. We don’t exactly know yet, but what we can do is engage in some additional informed speculation.

You have undoubtedly heard the old saw “a rising tide floats all boats.” To some extent, that’s true. Let’s get specific and substitute the word “boats” for “extreme, limited production race-oriented supercars from the 1950’s”. Or, the extraordinarily rare and exclusive cars that were prohibitively expensive when new and continue to be so today.

This news, in other words, effects Jaguar D-Types. Aston Martin DBR1s. Don’t forget the Maserati 300S, the Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa, and a handful of others. Those cars are directly affected.

“It’s probable that a number of these cars will soon double in value” says Rob Sass, the Editor-in-Chief of Panorama, the Porsche Club of America’s magazine. “Think about it. The $100,000,000 ceiling wasn’t just punched through, it was shattered.”

Another car that collectors will likely re-evaluate? The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, in both the Coupe and Roadster version.

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The 300SL already a blue chip collector car, may get a boost from the sale of its ultra-rare race car cousin. Sandon Voelker

Why? Well, the easy answer is that Mercedes-Benz now owns the banner that says, “The most expensive car in the world is a Mercedes-Benz,” and consider the the direct cousin to the 300 SLR is the production version, the 300 SL. First up for a value increase is the rare and early aluminum version of the Gullwing, currently listed in the Hagerty Price Guide/online valuation tools at $6,700,000 in Condition #2 (Excellent). The standard steel 300 SL’s, both coupe and roadster, will most likely have a knock-on effect increase in value.

That smashed ceiling will, without doubt, give others permission to spend more on other cars considered icons. With Wall Street in a tumble, interest rates rising, and real estate looking more and more overvalued each day, those who consider old cars an “asset class” will be taking a closer look at everything from Abarths to Zagatos.

In the meantime, don’t expect the sale price of this 300 SLR Coupe to be eclipsed anytime in the near future. Both Mercedes-Benz and the as yet unnamed buyer have quite firmly planted a flag on the most expensive car in the known universe.

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