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Collector Car Auction Survey

Who Does it Best?



(C) Copyright 2012-13, VMR International, Inc.  All rights reserved.

Collector car auctions have come a long way from their roots in the 1960's.  Back then they were mostly local affairs, attended mostly by enthusiasts who loved cars for  what they were, not as a potential investment.   With the collector car hobby boom of the eighties, auctions popped up everywhere.  National advertising brought thousands to the big auctions, ready to feed what appeared to be the public's insatiable appetite for old cars.  Then the bubble popped.

Events shrunk or folded, and consolidation shored up weakened players.  But underneath it all the industry began to remake itself.  By the beginning of the new Millenia, interest was back and values were rising.  A myriad of publications, television coverage, and the internet all served as promotional vehicles for those left standing.  Professional marketing reared its head, too, with terms like "lifestyle" and "branding"  liberally applied to different auctions.

But at the end of the day, it's not who delivers the best ad campaign, turns out the most attendance, or puts on the flashiest show.  What's really important is who delivers the best auction experience for the people that matter:  those buying and/or consigning at auctions. 

Our auction survey asked visitors to who buy and sell at auctions to rate their experiences with the different auction companies.  After indicating if they were a dealer or private party and declaring how may auctions they attended each year, one simple, two-part general question was asked:  Which Auction Companies have you done business with, and how would you rate your experience?  Possible responses were "Excellent" (4-points), "Satisfactory" (3-points), "Fair" (2-points), or "Poor" (1-point).  The ratings were totaled and then divided by the number of responses for that particular auction company to arrive at an overall score.   A section was provided for general comments as well. 

One thing that surprised us about the results was how close all were in overall satisfaction, with the lowest less than 18% below the highest.   Another was how polarized the responses were.  Many auction houses received a similar number of "excellent" and "poor" ratings, suggesting that personal experience varies widely.  Still, all received ratings that indicate that in the vast majority of cases they are serving their customers well.  Remember, too, that respondents to surveys such as these are usually biased on the negative side (people love to complain much more than heap praise) bringing down the overall score of all.  Expectations play a roll, too.  Silver's clientele don't expect all the frills -- just good, honest service which Silver always delivers.  For an auction such as Barrett-Jackson, however, the intense promotion and marketing behind it sometimes may set expectations too high, making for either jubilation or disappointment at hammer time.  Branson, Gooding & Company and Bonhams did not receive enough responses to be considered statistically significant, so are not included in the results.

Unvarnished, here are the tabulated results:


Total Points (4.0 max) Auction Company Comments
3.0 RM Auctions Very low percentage of "poor" responses against the highest number of "excellent" scores.  RM had the 2nd largest sample size, after Barrett-Jackson.  RM's high-end sales set the standard.
2.90 Silver Auctions Surprising ranking.  Silver did not receive a single "poor" rating.  Mitch and crew prove you don't need expensive cars, fancy props and a big marketing budget to run a good auction.  Silver's laid-back style and up-front policies make it easy to come away satisfied from one of their sales. 
2.80 McCormick's Palm Springs Collector Car Auctions The two McCormick sales held each year are becoming ever more popular, and justifiably so.  Keith and company received all positive remarks in the comments section of the survey.
2.80 Auctions America From the ashes of the Kruse train wreck, Rob Myers and company have done a remarkable job with this relatively new operation.
2.77 Worldwide Auctioneers A strong showing in the "satisfactory" category kept Worldwide in the hunt.
2.67 Leake Auction Company Few "excellent" ratings but a very low percentage of "poor" responses.  Leake scored the largest share of "satisfactory" ratings of all the auction companies--a sign of consistent competence.
2.63 Mecum Auction Company "Fair" and "satisfactory" were how most customers rated Mecum. 
2.48 Barrett-Jackson B-J garnered the most response and tied with RM for the highest number of "excellent" ratings. It also received the highest number of "poor" ratings, which really hurt its overall score.  This dichotomy of responses may be a reflection of the particular type of consigner and buyer B-J attracts.