Sale rates in public auction are the most accurate barometer of the true state of the classic car market and, although there have been some recent exceptions, the current trend would appear to be less cars auctioned are selling - and, where they do sell, most achieved prices are below the pre-sale estimates that were established often several months ago.
For the same weekend as the Goodwood Festival of Speed, where Bonhams sold 70% of the 86 cars in their Friday sale catalogue and 26 of them did not sell, there were buyers for only 52% of the 122 Artcurial cars on the Sunday in Monaco and 59 were unsold.
Whereas the following weekend at Brooklands, 101 of the 128 classics consigned by Historics changed hands in Surrey during a 79% sold Saturday session, although 27 of the reserves set by vendors were too much for the registered bidders, more than 200 of whom were competing for cars on-line. By the Wednesday afternoon at Leominster in Herefordshire however, while 75 of the 123 cars in the Brightwells sale sold, 48 of them did not, and on Saturday afternoon at palatial Blenheim in Oxfordshire, both attendance in the Coys tent and obvious sales certainly ‘appeared to be’ well down on past pitches at the stately Oxfordshire venue.
The next day during Sunday trading in Dorset at the ‘Classics at Sherborne Castle’ event, there were buyers for only 38% of the 55 cars in and around the Charterhouse tent, from where 34 unsold cars had to be trailered back from whence they came. The following Tuesday in Surrey, 21 more classics did not sell at Sandown Park, where Barons sale rate was 48%, although the premium-inclusive prices paid for 15 of them did exceed their pre-sale estimates. Among market encouraging movers, a much viewed and restored 1970 Jaguar E Type S2 4.2 FHC sold for a £6700 more than top estimate £51,700, and a mint and upgraded 1964 Jensen CV8 for £48,950, again £950 above the guide.
The greater number of lower sale rates may just be a holiday time blip, of course. Although such a glut of unsold cars could be a timely reality check for auction car reserves, so many of which are now no longer achievable.