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Monterey Auctions Continue to Slide After 2014 Classic Car Peak

(Bloomberg) -- Auction values of blue-chip cars are down.

After four days of sales during the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance weekend, and its related events, the world’s most esteemed auto auction houses reported $344.9 million worth sold of cars, trucks, and motorcycles. That’s down 13.1 percent from last year’s $396.8 million total and down 13.8 percent from 2014’s peak of $400 million in sales.

A second consecutive year of down numbers for the Monterey sales is an important market indicator, because investors and enthusiasts use them as a gauge for the rest of the auction market and the general collector car market abroad.

“The message stemming from this year’s Monterey Auctions is that all but the most exceptional examples of a given model continue to level out,” McKeel Hagerty said in the Hagerty sales recap Monday morning. “Sellers who were testing the market have likely missed their window for now.”

Bright Spots

There were some high points during the cold, foggy weekend in Monterey. Seven cars sold for more than $10 million and accounted for a record-high 32 percent of overall sales. That's significant because those seven cars alone represented nearly a third of total sales: "Even more than usual, the economics in Monterey were centered on the very top of the market," Hagerty's Jonathan Klinger noted. And records were set for prices paid at public auction for a British car, an American car, a French car, and a prewar car.

The average sale price for a car sold by Gooding & Co., Bonhams, RM Sothebys, Mecum, and Russo & Steele was $479,642. In 2015, that number was just slightly lower, at $456,067.

What’s more, cars made in the years from 1950 to 1979 seemed to hold their place in the collecting echelon. They saw a 58-percent sell-through rate, which was more than both the prewar and modern-classic groups. In general, cars from the 1950s through the 1970s also sold for much larger percentages above their estimated values, Hagerty reported.

The Big Winner

The overall top seller for the weekend was the deep blue 1955 Jaguar D-Type Roadster that RM Sotheby's sold for $21,780,000, which was slightly below initial estimates. That was followed by a 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Spider that RM Sotheby's sold for $19,800,000 and a 1959 Ferrari 250 GT California LWB Alloy Spider that Gooding & Co. sold for $18,150,000.

Gooding was the winning auction house of the week, with cumulative total sales of $129.8 million and 114 of 137 lots sold, for an 83 percent sell-through rate. Last year, Gooding had slightly less in total sales ($128.1 million) but had a higher sell-through rate, of 89 percent.

In general, bidding in Monterey was sluggish, with sell-through percentages the lowest they’ve been since 2000. According to Hagerty data, the sales rate for cars priced at more than $100,000 dropped 15 points, from 72 percent sold last year to 57 percent this year. And even cars priced for less than $50,000 saw a three-point drop in their sell rate.

“It seems that buyers are more in tune with the new market-adjusted prices than sellers at the moment,” Hagerty said. “They are not allowing themselves to pay for future gains now.”

To contact the author of this story: Hannah Elliott in New York at [email protected] To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Rovzar at [email protected]

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