The Corvette Enthusiast’s Preview to the Scottsdale Auctions


The Corvette Enthusiast's Preview to the Scottsdale Auctions
Image Credit: Bonhams

As the holidays draw to a cold and snowy close, being an avid Corvette lover, your thoughts wander to the Daytona Sunset Orange Metallic coupe safely tucked away under the custom car cover in your garage and wander briefly what color the new C7 will be when it is unveiled on January 13th in Detroit. Like many Corvette “car guys” you’ve thought about several details of what the new generation of cars would look like and how they would perform compared to your C6. More than once you cursed yourself for being too late to purchase one of the hundred and fifty $995 tickets the National Corvette Museum sold to be one of the privileged few at the formal introduction of Chevrolet’s halo car to the media.

You click the remote again and ironically SPEEDTV® is showing a special edition program of Barrett-Jackson’s “Sixty Years of Corvette”. As you watch some outstanding Corvettes being auctioned at Barrett-Jackson’s prior year event you sit up and notice your outlook is starting to change. Seeing Corvettes has that affect on you.

Watching the program starts you thinking about that 1967 Corvette 427 you always wanted to buy and the ZR1 you had to sell when you bought your C6 in 2005. You bought the ZR1 as a graduation present for getting your MBA in 1990, and was the car that whisked you and your bride away on your honeymoon to Lime Rock® Raceway a few years later. You spent countless hours in the cocoon of that car. It held a lot of memories and had been an important part of your life. Every day since you sold it you have regretted it. As the hour long program quickly drew to a close it was followed an hour later by another Barrett-Jackson® show, this one about this year’s Scottsdale auction.

Suddenly you are hit with an epiphany: a fix for your restlessness, a way to appease your wife for the lousy Christmas gift, a way to avoid the cold, snowy weather, and a way to see some great cars and possibly find a replacement for your C4 ZR1. You’d go to Phoenix for the auctions! A brilliant solution! As you watch “Scottsdale 2013: The First Look” you grab your laptop, which you haven’t turned on during the holiday so you wouldn’t have to deal with any work related issues (re:problems), and sign on to the Barrett-Jackson website, to review the current list of consigned cars.

The Corvette Enthusiast's Preview to the Scottsdale Auctions

For the real auto enthusiast there is nowhere else to be between January 13th and 20th. This year’s auction is running concurrently with the North American International Auto Show, AKA Detroit Auto Show, where the new Corvette C7 will be unveiled to the press on January 13th and a few days later to the public on January 19th. Headlined by the Corvette C7 unveiling, over forty other cars will make their debut at the 2013 show. Other important reveals include the Cadillac ELR, an electric extended range model, the revised Mercedes Benz E Class and the twin turbo, 560 HP BMW M6 along with a new 4-series coupe to replace the 3-series coupe. That is pretty exciting stuff! But it is stuff that will be seen again at other large metropolitan car shows like the Chicago show in February which draws over 1,000,000 attendees.

Now understand if I were one of the invitees to the media introduction on January 13th, I would be there “come hell or high water”. Snow, ice, blizzards or anything short of the apocalypse could not prevent me. But the car will not be shown to the public until Saturday, January 19th. So what’s the difference, what’s so important about six days, you ask?

Well there are a couple of things that muddy the waters. Ideally a real enthusiast would split the week and do both events, the Detroit Auto Show® the first half and Barrett Jackson® the last half. But the overwhelming reason to be at the NAIAS®, the C7, will not be unveiled to the public peons until Saturday and though all days are good at Barrett-Jackson®, Saturday is the day not to be missed, it’s the best. It’s the day when the most coveted cars cross the block. And as I reported a few days ago there is a 99.857% chance that Barrett-Jackson® will in fact have a C7 there to support the auction of an early production C7 for charity, most likely the number 2 production VIN. So in essence you not only could preview the C7 at Barrett-Jackson, you could buy one if your pockets are deep enough. Enough said, forgo snowy Detroit in January in favor of seventy degree sunny weather, a chance to see the C7 up close and a possibility to buy back your memory laden first Corvette. Really not much of a choice but one hell of an epiphanic plan!


Keep in mind Barrett-Jackson® may be the biggest and most glamorous of the Scottsdale auctions taking place the week of January 13th but it is only one of five major collector car auction events going on simultaneously and geared for every conceivable taste in cars. It is interesting to see first-hand the various formats of the different auctions, even if the segment of the collector market may not be your primary interest. In addition to Barrett-Jackson, four other companies also have major auctions taking place: Russo & Steele, Gooding & Company, RM Auctions, and Bonhams. Each of the five auctions has a distinct personality and focus on specific collector car segments. In addition, the number of consignments is vastly different among the companies, ranging from 120 consigned cars to over 1200.

The current auction market for collector cars is considered to be very healthy and prices are rising accordingly. It is important to realize that like other businesses and investments the collector car market was hit hard by the economic down turn. Some auction companies dropped over 30% in sales the years following the crash of 2008. Some segments of the collector market were hit much harder than others. As a result the extent of the losses to auction companies varied based on the market segment the company focused primarily.

The hardest segment hit was the “muscle car” category. In Scottsdale prior to 2008 it was not unusual to see several “muscle cars” hammer down above $1 million. We have not seen that type of bidding on “muscle cars” return. As an example documented, original “hemi-Cudas” were consistently selling above a million dollars prior to the market downturn. By 2009 the same or similar cars were bringing half that amount. Car sales in excess of $1 million in 2012 came entirely from the “blue chip” classics. A 25% to 35% drop in prices was commonplace throughout the muscle car market. Other segments suffered as well but not to the devastating degree that “muscle cars” were. It not only affected sales it affected consignments. Collectors would not risk selling their prized automobile in such a volatile market.

The Corvette Enthusiast's Preview to the Scottsdale Auctions
Image Credit: Mecum

The segment of the market that was least affected was the top tier, blue chip cars. These are generally the historic, rare, award winning, high dollar cars. For Corvettes these would be the fully documented, NCRS certified award winning, matching number, rare optioned C1’s, C2’s, or C3’s. Last year Mecum® Auctions sold a rare, fully documented, award winning 1969 Daytona Yellow L88 Convertible for $610,000 at their Kissimmee auction. It should be pointed out that in the auction market Corvettes are generally considered a “segment unto themselves” and not considered a part of the “muscle car” category. Though, like most collector cars, their values also fell following the crash of 2008, but not to the degree that true “muscle cars” suffered.

The other segment of the market that has grown significantly since the crash has been “entry level” lower priced cars. This category is generally populated with “potential” cars, cars that are likely to appreciate in the next several years. These are cars that have hit the “fully depreciated” stage of their value lives and have begun the “upward appreciation” climb. For Corvettes these cars would be the some of the C3’s, and the majority of C4’s, and C5’s and even C6’s.

The Corvette Enthusiast's Preview to the Scottsdale Auctions
Image Credit: Barrett-Jackson

Predictions for this year’s auction market are optimistically strong. Sales and prices are expected to be up across all segments. In the Blue chip category, based on the strength of the Mecum® 1969, L88 sale, Corvette enthusiasts should keep their eyes on other L88 and L89 cars being auctioned this year. There are more than a couple of excellent L88 and L89 cars scheduled to cross the block and all but one of the major auction companies have one to sell. In the “entry level” segment keep an eye on the C4’s with rare RPO’s but particularly the ZR1’s. There is upside potential for these cars. Overall the Corvette segment of the market is expected to be strong in this year’s auction and there are several to choose from. If you’re a Corvette enthusiast you can see several outstanding examples during auction week in Scottsdale.

Join us tomorrow as we preview this year’s Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction in Scottsdale.

Rick Tavel writes about automobiles with an emphasis on Corvettes and the hobby in general. You can email him at [email protected]


A Real Commemorative Edition
Barrett-Jackson to Auction a C7 Corvette on January 19th In Scottsdale
Corvette Auction Preview: 1968 L88 Corvette at RM’s Arizona Auction