Televised Classic Car Auctions
Most of us have seen the televised classic car auctions on TV. Both Barrett Jackson and Mecum have regularly scheduled telecast. If you have not attended one of these in person you really should put it on your bucket list to do.
If you want to test the waters of what a collector car auction is like there is probably one near you. I recently traveled to North Carolina to attend the Greensboro Classic Car Auto Auction (GAA). It is not televised but is streamed live online. They also do other car auctions during the year but do three Classic Car Auctions. Unlike Barrett Jackson and Mecum they do not tour around the country. They have a very nice permanent facility in Greensboro, NC. It is very well done and has some excellent facilities including an onsite restaurant.
You can attend any of these auctions as a spectator or as a buyer. If you want to bid on a car you MUST be pre-registered before you can bid. It is best to register before the auction so that you have met all of the registration requirements which usually includes a letter of credit or similar from you bank. Remember there is a buy’s fee added to all final bid amounts. A 7% fee is added at GAA and is not included in any sale prices shown on this page.
Do your homework
I have attended many auctions but have never bought a car at one. I have participated in a lot of online auctions as well, both eBay and other. I have bought several cars from these auctions. With only one exception, every time I regretted not seeing the car before purchasing it. In most cases I felt I greatly overpaid for my purchase.
I have watched the televised auctions and often felt that some of the cars sold very cheaply and others were way overpriced. Even sitting in the audience/bidder area of a live auction I have felt that some of the cars sold too cheaply and again, some seemed too expensive. At the most recent GAA Classic Car Auction I attended there were two bidders sitting next to me who were constantly predicting a car on the auction block would “break the bank” just to see it sell far below their expectations. They were also often surprised at how high a certain car had sold for. It was clear they had not done their homework! In most cases I had looked closely at each of the cars and could explain what the reasons, other times I was just as shocked as they were.
If you are going to attend such an auction and it makes no difference if it is Barrett Jackson, Mecum, GAA or some other local auction, DO NOT BID ON A CAR YOU HAVE NOT THOROUGHLY INSPECTED!
What to do
You have heard of people saying it is a twenty-footer; meaning it looks great from a distance but is not nearly as nice up close. DO NOT TRUST TV OR STILL PHOTOS AND ESPECIALLY DO NOT TRUST THE SELLER’S PRINTED DESCRIPTION. It is very easy to get excited about first impressions and written descriptions. Many sellers will intentionally describe a car as “original” to imply that it is numbers matching and never been restored. More times than I can count I have found that the seller was not saying it was a survivor, it simply had not been modified. It may not be numbers matching but has the correct type of engine for the car. The color may be correct but it has been repainted, often more than once.
When you do your inspections it is easy to think you will remember everything when the car goes across the auction block. Unless you have a better memory than most, that is nearly impossible. Once you have looked at twenty or thirty cars you might be interested in and several hundred you find interesting you will never remember which ones had great paint and which ones were painted by a drunk.
Don’t just look at condition, check the numbers. If you don’t care about originality that is ok, just make sure what is there is what is represented. I spoke with one fellow who was looking at a car he once owned. He explained that when he had it there was a very expensive engine under the hood. It now looked similar but the expensive engine had been replaced with a “junkyard dog”.
Now, don’t misunderstand what I am saying there are some good buys at these auctions but there are also some terrible cars there. Just remember, no seller takes a car to auction to loose money! Some sellers are just like we find everywhere, they may not be quite as honest as you and I. The auction company is not responsible for cars that are miss represented.
All of the auctions listed are multi-day auctions. The first days are for the less expensive cars with the values going up everyday until the final day. That does not mean there aren’t some very good cars in the early days it just means be real careful. As I have done my inspections at GAA and other auctions I have been sucked into a car from a long ways off thinking it was terrific just to be greatly disappointed when I looked it over closely.
At GAA this time the final day of the auction had cars that were far and above in quality to anything offered on the previous days. Again, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a lemon or two hiding in between all the diamonds on the last day.