Are online classic car auctions here to stay?

By: Alex Affat, Unique Cars magazine

Monterey sales slump cover Monterey sales slump cover

Auction houses around the world don’t seem to have suffered too greatly by recent world matters

2020 has been turbulent to say the least, and the classic car world we all know and love is, let’s be honest, rather superfluous in face of more serious economic and social factors.

But business is booming: despite concerns about bubbles popping and a tanking of classic car market. Auction houses globally made the rapid transition to online cataloguing, sales and transactions in the wake of Covid and stay-at-home orders around the world.

And while entry-level and mid-range estimates may have been noticeably more conservative – cars are being sold for decent money, left and right.

On local soil, our big litmus test came in the form of Shannons’ recent combined Melbourne and Sydney seasonal sales. It would have been more than reasonable to expect decreased buyer confidence, and subsequent interest – and yet just two cars failed to find a new home out of a total of 46.


On the larger global stage: RM Sotheby’s a few weeks ago held an 193-car online auction, which attracted over 550 bidders from 35 different countries, with sales totalling AU$23.5 million.

And while the attainable entry and mid-range classics continue to thrive: the top end hasn’t slowed down either.

At Shannons’ last week: a 1957 Porsche 356A and 1977 930 Turbo achieved very respectable $171,000 and $164,500 results respectively, while a 1960 190SL Mercedes-Benz fetched a handsome $161,500. At the top end of town, it seems that collectors are still more than confident in parking their money in blue-chip classics with global appeal.


The aforementioned RM Sotheby’s sale also played host to a AU$3.8 million world record sale of a rare Ferrari Enzo.

Across the board, we haven’t observed a significant drop in the quality of cars offered, or the sell-through rate in various auctions around the world. And while we hope the in-person viewings and festive atmospheres of live auctions are able to return in some form in the future - the ease and convenience of online sales, and their ability to instantly open the sale to any number of buyers around the world, will surely hold lasting appeal for auction houses both here and abroad going forward.


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