In the weeks and days leading up to last weekends big Mecum Kissimmee Auction in Florida, and even during the auction, we received a number of e-mails and calls from our viewers with a range of comments and opinions about classic boats being sold at car auctions, and auctions in general.
So in response to those recent viewer comments, and with the upcoming Mikkelson Collection Auction in May, the subject of auctions in our hobby is a “Hot Topic” these days.
With the Mecum Kissimmee auction just completed yesterday, we thought today would be a good day to reach out to the Woody Boater community and ask you for your opinion on the subject of selling classic boats at auction.
1. If you were planning on selling your classic boat, would you consider consigning it to an auction company and why?
2. If you were planning on buying a classic boat in the near future, would you consider buying one at an auction?
3. Do some people feel that they have so much invested in their restored boats, that the reserves they place on the boats for auction are too high and that’s the reason many boats never sell at auction?
Recently, we have heard many people say “There has to be a way that we can sell our classic boats for a reasonable price.” Is it the poor economy, or is the market weak right now for classic boats in general?
Let us know what you think, and don’t hold back!! And you always have the option of commenting as “Anonymous” if that’s more comfortable. We are all in this together and you can always say what’s on your mind here at Woody Boater.
Monday 9:45 PM – Here’s a response from Scott Ales @ Mecum Auctions in regards to today’s story / viewer comments. It’s easier to read here than in the comment box. – Texx
Scott Ales commented…
Okay, that should be enough commentary for me to make a few points. You better get a cup of coffee for this one.
1. All the so called experts were quick to point out my asking price was way too high when I advertised my Riva in 2008. In two years I couldn’t even get someone to come and look at it! So, I called Dana Mecum who I have been friends with for over 22 years. We sold the boat for $775,000 plus 7%. I’m sure the Riva owners were not complaining about that. We felt the service would be beneficial to other owners. We were right, anyone want a list of sellers?
2. Todd Warner contacted Dana through a friend and Dana passed his name to me. Todd and I had spoke about my Riva previously, I wasn’t his biggest fan. He felt it was worth $500k. I wasn’t too excited to prospect him because of that but did so anyway. After 100 hours on the phone (just ask my wife) and two visits including one with his bank (I related well with them since I serve as a board member of a local community bank) Dana and I believed the value was there to conduct an absolute auction. We did so and Todd was able to pay the bank off. EVERY boat was sold. There was a commission paid to the auction on every single boat, period. The web is a easy place to say whatever you want without having to back it up. “Just consider the source” my dad used to say. That comment fits well here. The problem is, no one will claim being the source but they sure have a big mouth!
3. I have been attending auctions since I was 11 years old. My first purchase was a set of bull horns at a farm auction one mile down the road in Muscatine, Iowa. I am not an expert in many things but I do understand and know auctions. When I am responsible for selling anyone’s assets I take it seriously. And if an item is selling cheap I will always do my best “REAL TIME” to get someone to bid. It is my job. I routinely will call or grab someone I know and tell them to bid. They bid because they trust me. They have seen me buy and sell successfully and they know I would not tell them to bid if it wasn’t a deal. Heck, I did it yesterday on the Century.
4. Over half of the $7 million dollars worth of boats Mecum has sold in the last 2 years were on the open market for 1-3 years! Waiting for the big hitter is great if you have that kind of time. But if you think about it, they hadn’t sold in some cases after being out there for 3 years! And we charge 10% on both sides. Brokers (and they should) charge 10%. Is it worth it to actually sell your boat for another 10% commission or should you just keep dreaming about it, paying storage, insurance and upkeep?
5. If someone wants to question my passion for wood boats BRING IT ON!!!! I started working on woodies back in 1974. The boat was our family cruiser in Davenport Iowa. Summer Affair, 31′ bullnose Connie that we docked at our pukey little Mississippi river cottage between LeClaire and Princeton. Then Debra and I completely refinished our 1963 Chris Craft 45′ Constellation which we bought for $25k. We were 22 and 24 years old, no one ever thought we would finish it. We did, in just 3 months. 5 coats of primer on the sides, she rolled and I tipped the final coat, stripped the toe rails and teak decks, and replaced several planks on the transom. I’ll dig out a photo for Matt to post later. My brother was so inspired he bought a 40′ Conqueror and actually lived on it for several years. Debra and I then came to Florida specifically to buy damaged boats from Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Of the 30 boats we handled we lived on two. A Marine Trader trawler and one of my favorite boats, a 44′ Midnight Lace. I could go on, just let me know if you want more.
6. Fillers for our auction? Really? We just set a new world’s record for the most vehicles sold at a single collector car event!! Over 2200 vehicles. Do you really think we needed to run these 18 boats to survive? They are a pain to deal with in every way. Why do it? Service. When a customer comes to us with their car needs and also want us to handle their motorcycles, boats, RVs, or memorabilia, we want to have a program that helps them. It’s called serving the customer. I would have to say that Dana deserves some credit for figuring this out over his competition. Think about it, he just sold $56 million dollars worth of assets in 6 days. I’d say he is a fairly sharp operator. The owner of Miss America was told his Ferrari was worth $55k, we sold it for $90k. His truck was appraised at $15k, we sold it for $43k. The best offer he ever received for the Ditchburn was less than what we paid him. Get it?
7. TV time, this may come as a surprise to some but we have no control over the announcers on TV. AT ALL! The alternative is, oh yeah, there is no alternative. We go out of our way to try and authenticate each and every boat. The Ditchburn was a classic example. None of the experts could tell us, and we called many. In the end we finally resolved the year when the owner sent in the title. Which brings us to the next point.
8. Everyone waits till the last minute. Our auctions are so successful we sell the prime spots 3 months in advance. It took the car people 15 years to figure this out! You cannot get good coverage when you call one month before the auction. You have to start early to get the word out.
9. Educating the buyers. That is everyone’s job! If you are reading this then you are responsible. Here is the number 1 problem with non woody boaters. They think the boats are too much work! I challenged two fellas walking by the Ditchburn this week. “Wow, that’s a beautiful boat.” One said to another. “but they are too much work.” I overheard them and chimed in. “What kind of work?” I asked. “Well, it’s just a ton of work to own one of these.” Again, I asked, “specifically what? Once it is restored like this boat with modern materials it could be used as much as your collector car IF, you care for it the same way.” So I explained that you would need to repaint the body and replace the tires, and interior of any collector car if you let it sit outside. I then asked him if he ever threw a coat of varnish on his wooden furniture? They just don’t know. That is our issue. Education.
10. All the negative talk in the world will not stop this train. There will always be people who need to sell their assets sooner than traditional methods. Auctions are here to stay. Whine, cry, joke, love, hate, even litigate, the train has left the station. If you want to get on board run yourself up ahead to the next stop, if not, auctions will sell your stuff later when you go to woodyboater heaven. I think all the negative political ads wind us up.
11. The market drives the values. It is a supply and demand system. Everyone was scared that the Warner auction would ruin the market. I spoke to three brokers six months after the sale who said they had their best months in years following that sale. Not to mention all the support businesses who benefited from it! Like insurance, transporters, restorers, advertisers, clubs, the list goes on. You want to kill all that activity? My only question is, WHY? Anyone make any money from the Warner sale besides Mecum? A broker called me to inform me that one of the boats we sold should have brought $200k instead of $90k. If this is true then why didn’t he or anyone else buy it and pocket the $100k profit? Something is only worth what someone else is willing to pay. And the Antiques Roadshow is a joke! Like Storage Wars on TV, I get a kick out of people saying what something is worth without ever actually seeing what it sells for. This is tremendously misleading and is at the root of the issue. NADA doesn’t write checks and neither does your home appraiser. Think about the trouble that caused recently in our economy!
12. Mecum is driving the prices down. Funny, I asked to insure my Riva for $1 million. They would not write the policy no matter what the premium so I had to settle for $500k. Imagine if my boat had been stolen the day before I sold it. I would have been out $200k. The bottom line is, there are no experts when it comes to value. Just good guessers. As soon as you think you can pick out the boats that will sell they don’t! And the ones that you feel are way off do. It’s just the world we live in. After 39 years of attending, bidding through, selling at, and conducting auctions, I have learned that.
If you actually struggled through this you deserve something for it. First person to post a reply gets a Mecum hat! Except you Matt!
In the end, I am the wooden boat’s biggest fan, and differences I have with people in the hobby will be overcome by my passion for the boats. Don’t take that personally, it’s a good thing. The best way to get me to do something is to tell me I can’t do it. I’m listening….
Celebrating 25 years, Nobody sells more than Mecum, Nobody!
Scott Ales – Mecum Auctions