Brian Jones/Las Vegas News Bureau
Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013 | 11:58 p.m.
Seventy thousand car enthusiasts from all over the world are arriving in the next 48 hours for the sixth annual Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction in Las Vegas. It revs up Wednesday afternoon with 75 collector cars cruising the Strip from our Convention Center to Mandalay Bay, where the kickoff party features country singer Clay Walker.
The auction is Thursday through Saturday, with 22 hours of live, high-definition TV coverage on Fox Sports 1 and 2, and the final eight big-selling hours on Saturday on the National Geographic Channel. There was a preview of these one-of-a-kind automobiles at the Gaudin Ford showroom over the weekend to benefit Keep Memory Alive.
Craig Jackson, CEO and chairman of the company headquartered in Scottsdale, Ariz., told me that his 40 auctioneers will sell about 700 cars during the Las Vegas sale, and some will surpass $1 million.
The most expensive cars will be in the first-time Select Collection area and include a 1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom Maharaja, a 1956 Mercedes-Benz Gullwing and two immaculate Ferraris from 1967 and 1968. Other precious automotive darlings include a 1927 Stutz, a 1957 convertible Cadillac, a 1931 Lincoln convertible and a 1967 Chevrolet Camaro two-door coupe.
“We’re seeing great momentum as we come to Las Vegas,” Craig said. “You are a city that thrives on phenomenal world-class entertainment, and our auction is no exception. It will be an unforgettable experience for all who attend.”
Expect to see celebrity-collector enthusiasts in the crowd bidding along. In past years, the auction here has played host to everybody from Jay Leno to John Schneider.
Barrett-Jackson was founded in 1971 and has staged the world’s leading car-collector auction and automotive-lifestyle events with shows in Florida, Reno, Las Vegas and Scottsdale. In addition to the frenzied bidding in Mandalay Bay Events Center, the parking lots will become a car enthusiasts’ dream zone, with Ford and GM providing Ride’N Drives, automobilia and vehicle displays from hot rods to muscle cars.
Last year, the company racked up $23 million in sales of vehicles, with more than 68,000 auto fans attending and spending another $660,000 in the automobilia sales area. This year, Craig predicts that it’ll be the largest event to date in turnout and sales. The highest sales last year were the 1967 Shelby at $330,000, a 1970 Plymouth hardtop for $297,000 and a 1967 Ford Mustang for $275,000.
Craig provided his unique perspective in a preview of the auction.
Now in its sixth year in Las Vegas, how has it grown, and what can we expect for this new auction weekend?
It’s growing. We’re nearly 700 cars as of this morning. We’ve added a new Select area with the most expensive cars, so we’ve really stepped it up. We’ve changed the TV coverage with Saturday all day live on National Geographic, so with Speed in Canada and the Caribbean, we’ll hit about 100 million homes on Saturday.
Is interest in collectible cars still growing despite the economy?
Yes, it is. People see it as an alternative asset, and the prices just keep going up. Our first auction was actually a very good one. We did about $30 million in sales just as the economy started to tank, and now we’re going to be back on par. We’ve got a great selection of cars this year, some of which will reach the $750,000 to $800,000 mark. Across the board, this should be our best Las Vegas ever.
When you say a car can probably go for $800,000, are we looking soon at a $1 million car in Las Vegas?
Well, the ’56 Mercedes-Benz Gullwing should bring well over $1 million. It has a reserve. The most expensive cars have reserves; that’s about six cars. Other than that, all the other cars are no reserve, but on the most expensive cars, we allow the customer to put reserves on them.
The market has changed, so, yes, we have cars up in that million-dollar area. It’s just not celebrities, but also captains of industry — a real car person. Car collecting covers all walks of life. Celebrities are one of them. You dream about this, it’s your passion, and it doesn’t matter what you do for a day job.
You expanded to Reno, but that doesn’t seem to have slowed Las Vegas?
In fact, it built momentum. It actually helped. We did so well in Reno that we’re going to have a lot of the customers from that area. We have more VIPs coming this year than we’ve ever had in the past. Reno pulled a lot of the Northern California and Silicon Valley money, and a lot of that interest will come down here to the Las Vegas auction.
We now use Las Vegas as a springboard to Scottsdale. We will be showcasing our salon cars for Scottsdale at Las Vegas, then the week after, we shoot a one-hour special for Fox Sports, where we’ll start promoting Scottsdale. We use Las Vegas to sell all of those cars but also showcase the cars on live TV and produce another hour of TV that will be shown later on the remote from Scottsdale.
You predict a little north of 700 cars on the block this weekend. Can that grow to 1,000 over the next couple of years?
It could. We’d have to add more days. The problem is the set-up time when we get the Events Center facility; how fast we can set it up. I asked last year could we auction on Wednesday, and my staff looked at us like we were moving in before midnight on Sunday.
That’s the leading factor right now. We’ve grown probably about as many cars as we can run in three days right now this year. Unless we can start setting up earlier or do a simpler set-up, it takes a long time to build all those facilities. … It’s a giant undertaking. Just setting up all the servers and the computers to start training the local Las Vegas people who work for us takes quite a while.
And you get bidding from literally all over the world via the Internet?
People can bid from anywhere, and it’s actually growing. The first year in Las Vegas with the crowd and the buyers took us by surprise. The lines were huge, so we had to change the whole process to make it smoother the second year. It’s a good problem to have. Since then, we’ve worked on all the systems, and now everybody has a great experience.
So the Las Vegas auction is here to stay?
That’s my goal, but with more days and more space. The demand is there because investing in car collecting at this level is better than gold bars. There are several indexes. Recently on Bloomberg and Fox Business, they showed the indexes, and collecting cars has outpaced all other investments.
A Gullwing I sold six years ago set a record at $575,000, but recently I sold two in Scottsdale for $2.2 million. They’re now going in the $1.5 million range. … Cars have been on a steep uphill run. Wait till you see what the six Select cars go for this weekend. You will be amazed. You’ll want to sell your stocks and invest in cars!
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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