From my perspective, watching auctions like Barrett-Jackson has always been a bit of detachment from reality. The numbers thrown at cars over the past decade are simply unfathomable to most and somewhat laughable at the same time. The frenzied auctions for economy cars with truck motors in them have been staggering; simply being witness to the Hemi ‘Cuda insanity was astonishing. In many ways, it strikes me as a historian much like the famed “Tulip Mania” in 1600s Netherlands. Speculation on the value of tulips reached the point where a single tulip bulb was worth around 10-15 times the average worker’s salary. For a flower. The resulting semi-insanity ended up partially ruining the Dutch economy, though it was not solely to blame and leaves out many other events that transpired. To me, watching shows like “Antiques Roadshow” often raises similar issues. In particular, recently the show has revisited older shows to display updated appraisals. In general, nearly all of the speculated values a decade on are lower, sometimes significantly. There’s one area that isn’t though – the Asian market, which if anything is much stronger than it was a decade ago thanks to the surging Chinese economy. For some time, the focus on muscle cars eclipsed the old money; very special coach-built pre-War cars used to be where the go-to value was. And while the E30 may be a flash in the pan with people lamenting when they could have bought an example for $10,000 that’s now worth 4 times that, consider this: in 1956, someone bought a Mercedes-Benz 540K special roadster for $2,167 (about $18,600 today). The last one that sold cleared $7.85 million dollars. How’s that for a good investment?
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