We now have reason to believe William Shakespeare was an early Woody Boater, and he also had a tough time selling his wooden fishing boat, but that’s a story for another day…

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

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75 Responses to “To Auction, or Not To Auction – That Is The Question…”
  1. ken MacStephen

    Mecum should help with your survey.. How long can they continue auctioning boats with such meagre results?

  2. RiverRat

    I only buy. I have never sold. As a buyer I have always encountered sellers that are out of touch with reality. They seem to want to get reimbursed for all the work thay have done on the boat, even if as in one case the boat had sat unused for years under a tarp in the woods for years, nullifing any work ever done. My brother and I see our job as bringing these people back to reality and telling them that they are a llittle off. I believe these folks got a little peeved and most still have their boats for sale. It is only worth what someone is willig to pay. Good Luck!

  3. m-fine

    The reality is that these boats are rarely worth even close to what the owners think. The price you can expect to sell at has nothing to do with your cost. They are called sunk costs for a reason (especially if you own a Century or a Canadian boat!).

    If you are putting the money in to enjoy the time on the water and build memories, GREAT! If you are putting the money into your boat hoping for a return on sale, good luck.

  4. Randy Rush-Captain Grumpy

    I would never sell a boat at auction, well maybe if I had some super rare boat maybe.
    I have bought boats at charitable auctions with good results because the sellers feelings are out of the picture.
    Not too impressed with that Mecum auction.

  5. ranger

    i was again disappointed at the results and confused….

    what was up with the cobra? last year terry’s cobra sold for 6 figures and the cobra in this sale which was hull#1 was in the mid $60k…what was the difference?

    is mecum educating its audience? …or is it as it appears… the boats are an afterthought to fill out the arena?

    i am getting tired of dear hubby poking me in the ribs saying, “I told you so…” hate that…

    i guess that if you wanted to get rid of your boat quickly than mecum’s might be the way to go but if your boat is special and requires finesse to bring the dollars it deserves than i’d put it with a knowledgeable company that sells boats for a living and be prepared to wait for the right buyer.

  6. Don Ayers

    18′ Cobra vs 21′

    Hemi power vs CC KBL

    The cobra was at a fair price from my point of view. As Brian R said his source said a 7 of 10 on condition.

  7. matt

    the difference between an 18 and 21 is dramatic. Two completly different boats. this one was special because of its serial number.

  8. Dennis J. Mykols

    It semmed to me, watching the live T.V. show, when the boats came up for bid, that none of the commentators knew any thing about THE boat, let alone boats in general!!! Iam sure the guys on the auction block decribing the boats to the audence were just as bad…
    They realy did a diservice to Mii Universe, they had her parked as so the TV cameras could not even get a good shot of her.
    We shared a dock with Miss Universe at the Buffalo vintage show in Sept, and it was a piece of art, showcasing that big v-12.

  9. Gary

    I agree, a rare boat might go to auction. For anything else it is not the place for an unreasonable reserve.
    1. will not sell at auction.
    2. I would consider buying a boat at an auction.
    3. The reserve will determine the amount of consideration for attending or even thinking about going.

    I thought the exposure on VIII was good but not nearly enough for those of us really into these boats. The one ting that drove me away was the commentary. It was obvious the commentators had no knowledge. How can you spend ten minutes explaining dual cockpits, what they are and what they are not.

    Selling or buying a boat amounts to having patience for the right boat or person to come along.

  10. Paul H.

    I thought the Mecum auction at Geneva actually brought some solid bids, but as Mfine points, out, sellers’ expectations seemed to be disconnected from reality – at that sale the reserves there were too high. Perhaps Mecum and/or the brokers out there deserve blame for this by allowing boats to be auctioned or listed on the web with ridiculous pricing? Should sellers receive guidance on this issue, and boats not be aqccepted for listing if the reserve prices are asinine?

    As for this auction, I did not see it occur and and have not seen any of the boats. The sales ratio might have ended up being better than Geneva. From this distant perspective though, I would call the results mediocre at best. I can see the GW only going to 700k for a number of reasons, and I thought the Cobra was fair enough. The Dicthburn was originally listed as a 1937, later revised to late ’20’s. It seemed cheap to me but obviously must have had significant issues that made determination of the correct year difficult. I thought the Century went for a great price for the buyer, and it is a very good looking boat (I did see that one a few years ago).

    Overall, I think the idea of mixing the cars and the boats does not appear to be working. Is this bidder apapthy or the perpetuation by Mecum of unrealistic expectations from sellers? Probably both things. I have to say Mecum does a great job of marketinig and promoting their auctions, and the boats. They can’t be faulted on that point.

    I would think that an annual boat-only auction is a better solution, if Mecum wants to stay in the boat auction business. Vendors, dealers and sellers have to try to arrive at some realistic expectation of what the boats are worth, because if they don’t they will alienate those serious buyers who do show up and are prepared to write a check. How many will keep coming to boat auctions with such low sales rates? To allow these boat auctions to continue with unrealistic reserves looks like a waste of everyone’s time and effort. That said, who knows what the reserve was on Miss America? I don’t, and who would know where to set it? It is easier to be realistic on most of the more common boats, though.

  11. Jim Volgarino

    As a Woody Boater myself (62 Chris ski boat…we use it every summer!) I’m conflicted about values on these classics. If you are an investor, obviously you are looking for an ROI…the bigger the better. As a collector, enthusiast or just plain “want to be involved in the hobby” person, the value might not be a huge issue. I’m a coordinator for Rich Penn Auctions which is handling the Mikkelson Collection. Paul Mikkelson is a collector with a passion for boats, particularly the rare Larson Falls Flyers. He has invested lots of dollars and time into not only collecting and restoring, but when you visit with him he has an undying passion for the history of literally every item he has…and he has thousands! We know this decision to sell came with lots of anguish for Paul, but he wanted to work with collectors who could cherish his collection as much as him and I believe that is one of the major reasons he chose Rich Penn to handle the sale. Rich and his wife Sharon are collectors. Have been for more than 40 years. They got into the auction biz primarily because Rich would hear over and over again how auction companies simply would not treat the sellers and buyers properly and he wanted to change that. So now he and Sharon (along with a whole bunch of folks like me who share their passion for these kinds of things) handle these sales very carefully. He knows the passion and has the collections to prove it and he will tell you its tough to let things go. The hope is, in this particular case, that it will be the true collectors who will take up the responsibility of keeping these items in historical perspective. Indeed, some will buy hoping for an incredible deal. Others will pay whatever it takes to obtain something they have wanted. Others will even buy items they know they can resell. It will be a mixed audience. This will be a big auction that will break up one of the largest single collections of wooden boats, outboard motors, boat toys and advertising related boat materials anywhere in the country…maybe even the world. I’ve corresponded with some who say they simply want to attend just so they can see everything, this last time, in one location. Our sincere hope is that Paul Mikkelson comes out of this sale with positive feelings, knowing the people handling the auction did everything in their power to get as many interested people to attend (either in person or via phone or internet) and that those people will determine fair values for each and every item. This will be a no reserve auction, so Paul is rolling the dice in the hopes that those involved in this wonderful hobby respond by not only preserving a significant segment of our history but also rewarding Paul for his efforts to gather these items and agree to make them available to his fellow collectors.

  12. MikeM

    I thought that WB and Mecum did a great job promoting the Warner auction. I was excited at the prospect of auctions being a great venue for the sale and purchase of classic boats, but I think Mecum blew it. Everyone knew it was a “no reserve” auction yet a bunch of boats went unsold. As far as I know, and I haven’t checked lately, there is still litigation going on about some funny business on a few boats. That is not the way to introduce auctions to a hobby. I’ve heard the argument that “this happens all the time in auctions and the wooden boat guys just got “schooled”” but I’m not totally buying it.

    The auction at Geneva was a bust to, IMHO. So, unfortunately I think auctions will have a small part in our hobby going forward, unless someone wants to spend a ton of time and money convincing (and proving) that it is a mutually beneficial means of moving a boat to the Woodyboaters of the world.

    Having said all that, I think the Mikkelson auction will be great and as long as it goes “as advertised” it will be good for the hobby, Paul and a bunch of aspiring collectors.

  13. Alex

    Buying:

    I will not buy a boat at auction, because I dislike the process. It’s downright unpleasant buying anything while people are barking at you over a p. a. system, so quickly you can’t understand them, and while “handlers” are goading you to pay ever more, with no time to think. An auction is designed to reach for the seller’s and auction house’s absolute top dollar, at the expense (literally) of the buyer. Why on earth play that game? To possibly save a few thousand dollars (if indeed the reserve allows someone to buy at fair market value)? No thanks.

    Selling:

    Auction houses generate a lot of pre-event hoopla: the glossy 4-color brochures, on-line advertising, reminder emails, etc. But you know, perhaps with the exception of the Liberty Gar, the boats come across like cattle, lot numbers and all. Were I ever selling a boat (as if), I’d far rather list it with a reputable broker or a well-known and well-connected restorer (i.e. Classic and Antique Boats). This would also allow me a hand in how the boat is marketed (photographed, described, romanticized). Might I be leaving money on the table this way vs auction? Perhaps, but if any, I’ll wager not much. (And certainly a tiny fraction of that which I’ve already handed across the table in restoration, improvements, and maintenance.)

    With all due respect to the hardworking folks at Mecum who have taken a risk with this category, I really wonder if there is a market need for boat auctions. After this weekend, I expect they are wondering the same thing.

  14. Alex

    I wrote above that I don’t like “handlers.” Amy Assiter (of Barrett-Jackson) is an exception. She can gently touch my shoulder and smile at me all day long, whilst she picks my pocket clean.

  15. Alex

    Whoa. I clicked “Submit Comment” before I read Mayer’s comment. How can I be in agreement with him? Is it too late to disagree?

  16. WoodenRookie

    I guess a question for Mecum and/or auction services is what is the percentage of units that don’t sell due to not making the reserve. There are lots of collector cars that fall into that category as well. But the only way to broaden your audience is to offer new products.

    Bill

  17. Bill

    I think a lot of what drives prices of cars and boats also is people reliving thier younger years and buying the things they remember from their teen and young 20s years the folks that were teenagers in the 60s and early 70s now are at a time when they can afford these cars so there fore the high prices chevys were going for the price someone bid on the cord to me the cord is far superior to a chevy most of the real classic boats are from the 20s and 30s and the guys that grew up with these are of a age where they arent looking for another boat maybe thats why the 55 cobra went for a decent price just my thoughts

  18. Alex

    agree with bill including the bit about the cord praying it’s not mayer in disguise also i guess its just say no to punctuation day on woodyboater please excuse me for punctuating my above comments next time ill read the memo ok

    • MikeM

      Alex you’ve got me laughing out loud I have just (barely) gotten used to the poor spelling on woodyboater but run on sentences are a whole different animal one of which I’m having a hard time with

  19. Dick Dow

    The Warner auction was a unique occurrence and a valid attempt at a boat auction because of it. Many in the audience were there because they knew or had dealings with Todd somewhere along the line and the collection was widely varied, ranging from unique and unrestored to completely done, amazing and rare. The Mikkelson event is likely to be valid for similar reasons – the collection is well known within the hobby and people who are interested will be there.

    That said, my opinion is that classic boat auctions are not likely to succeed now or anytime in the future as anything other than incremental business or a “side show” to the car events for a very simple reason – the size of the market. ACBS is the largest group in the hobby and the entire international membership is around 6800 people. Boating is not a particulary common “addiction” in general and is even less so at this level.

    There are millions of people interested in and familiar with cars, and thousands of car models that excite one person or another. There is value placed on customization of cars that does not carry over to the boating hobby. A rare or desirable boat that has been (even mildly) customized loses value when compared to an original example.

    There will always be a few people who are interested in, understand, appreciate and pay top dollar to get the car, boat, plane, motorcycle or other collectible they want. But cars and bikes are a lot easier and less of an ownership committment than boats or planes and you can usually walk home when they break down.

    Face it – The major auction houses are focused on cars, hope that the boats may bring a few more folks into the fold and if they sell, so much the better. Most of their core audience could care less.

    The points are well made above that if you get involved in boating for the fun and because you love being on the water and around “boat people” you will not regret it. If you go into it thinking you can make a buck on restorations – unless you are really good and do it yourself – you are likely dreaming.

    BOAT is an acronym you know – Break Out Another Thousand… (Worth every penny to me!)

  20. Bill

    to go a little farther on my previous comment when i was a young lad back in the early 60s a young lady back in my home town on lake huron had a 18ft cobra . back then i had a 18 ft century resorter we had a river that used to run into the lake and i remember following the cobra on several occasions ideling down the river out to the lake and then seeing the cobra standing up then and raceing off and i always said to myself someday ill have one of those now ive been lucky enough i now have a 18 and a 21 cobra my dream has come true if not for that experence i probably wouldnt have a cobra

  21. Chris / Hagerty

    There are alot of different things going on here. Collectibility, Usage, Valuation,…. as a “collectible” mahogany wood boats are hugely undervalued from a historic and “what’s left in the world” standpoint”….the problem? We live in a vacuum. Our world is too small to get the attention needed to drive the values, we may be lucky, cuz if they run the values up to what they “could” be, very few of us would be here… I think that there was an assumption that there were enough paralles between classic cars and boats and the driving interest of ownership, that the big classic car auction houses were testing the water to see if there was crossover investment potential. I think they saw similar cost of restoration, motors to be worked on, and something beautiful when done. BUT, unless that car guy has access to water or alot of time, he may never use the boat. You also need mass exposure to gererate broad appeal. Look how much exposure classic cars get on TV, print, movies….it’s just a numbers game. We have very few crossover clients on our books. For us there are 75 car guys for every boat guy. Look at what is going on in the classic car world, it hardly slowed down in the last 5 years, Monteray topped 182 million for the week of Auctions with a 85% sell through, average sale price 84k, all top ten sales were over 1.4 million.

  22. steve bunda

    The dollar value of a wood boat is determined by the buyers, I feel the added cost of the auction commission on both ends of the sale puts the cost of many wood boats out of reach . Especially a boat with many unknown qualities and the possibly of hidden issues.

  23. Alex

    Hey Matt / Texx: I thought the question was “Will it Blend?” Am I missing something? Or was that question, like, SO last year.

  24. Mark

    The success of an auction is only as good as the quality and quantity of buyers that actually know the products. Until there is a serious network of people involved and the word gets out to the right buyers there will be speculation and dissapointment.

    So go drive your beautiful boat around the rich part of the lake and tell everyone they can get their own at an auction !

  25. dave

    It saddens me to see boats at the auction market in places like Clayton because there you have all wooden boat enthusiasts and now of the good boats are selling, in fact most of the boats do not sell and it is one sad site…televising something like this only amplifies the disconnect between the perceived value and the real value. It actually devalues the entire hobby. There is no ROI and in fact this makes it worse.

    The reason people watch the antique roadshow is because they all want to image what it would be like to hear that the garage sale purchase is worth $40k. Televising boat auctions right now is a great way to further erode the value of these great boats.

    Better to create a tv program showing these boats being constructed, film a contemporary race boat doing 75 mph and the owners howling or a bunch of guys getting together and all talking boats out or have Peyton manning take out his dual V10 powered Stan Craft and interview him.
    Build on the connection of fun, speed and what looks great and others will join in.
    Maybe then perceptions of a rich mans game and it looks good on him when a boat does not meet reserve will change.

    • ranger

      here! here!

      i’ll match our characters with their characters any day!

    • Philip Andrew

      Well said Dave. I totally agree. Watching all those beautiful boats passed in does our hobby, the values, the supporting industry and the heritage of these boats a huge disservice.
      It is also true that there are more boats on the market than there are people wanting to own them. Many of them way overpriced and so they stay on the market further stagnating prices.
      While some of these boats might be considered a sound financial investment most of them are not. They are cool rare old works of art that you can have fun in and create memories in. Still kicking myself over that Coronado. For 27k I would have swum to the states to pick it up. Now that was a sound financial investment.

  26. Pete

    Let’s say no more boats auctioned off and everyone participate in a new TV reality show with their wood boats called Woodyboater. Matt can setup with one of the major TV stations to start filming in the spring.

    • Texx

      Hanks Boat Auction – It’s listed in the Woodyboaterville Yellow Pages under Classic Boats…

      I think it’s 1-800-VAR-NISH or 1-800-OLD-BOAT

  27. Scott Ales

    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!

    • MikeM

      I think I should get a hat too. Rick reads faster but we both started at the same time.

      While you’re at it, throw one in for Alex. He can’t read. His six year old reads and types all of his posts. That may explain some of his recent posts…..

    • Rick

      Now its becoming almost like a club. Are we going to have a secret handshake also?

  28. Bob Kays

    Scott .. Very interesting, watched most of the boats and a few cool cars.

  29. Tom Gruenauer

    Scott,
    A few questions, if you don’t mind.
    I learned about this auction here on Woodyboater ony. Was it in classic boating (I’m not a subcriber)? Was it listed in Canada? Would a post card to ACBS menbers to costly? I’m trying to get my opinion straight but I do not have enough information.

    • Jim Volgarino

      Tom–Interesting you bring up promotion of these auctions to let the hobby knows what is happening. I am in charge of coordinating communication for the Mikkelson Collection auction and have found it difficult to reach the hobby. Send a card out to all ACBS members…we’d love to but it can’t be done. Not allowed.

  30. Scott Ales

    Yes, this is correct. ACBS will not allow you to use their mailing list. Read the disclosure in the front of the book. We have a huge in house mailing list from the Warner Auction and our other boat auctions. If you register on Mecum’s info net you would have received several email notices also. We used a number of email blasts, obviously it has been on Woodyboater for some time now. In Wooden Boat magazine, Classic Yacht and a number of others. Not to mention it was stated on air in our previous TV show. People wonder why we charge 10% instead of 7% on the cars. When you start running ads in 20-30 places full page it gets pricey. We also have a PR firm which works our events to hundreds of journalists and writers.

  31. ranger

    scott,
    Thank you for the information and education! perhaps it is the pace of an auction that throws me off and makes me think that the boats aren’t given the attention (i think) they deserve; everybody has seen a ’57 chevy!

    i love the people, the boats and the shows…yep, one of my favorite things to do next to actually being out in the boat is talking about the boat (just ask my husband, i will stay at a rest stop or gas station until the last question has been answered – what schedule?)…so, it really is up to all of us to educate and inform and move the lifestyle forward.

    we will sometimes grab strangers off the dock that we’ve been talking to and take them for a ride and everytime we have come back in with new friends. folks that are still exchanging emails with us and interested in where the next show will be…i think i get a bigger kick out of watching them enjoy the ride than they do having it!

    okay i know i drifted off topic…thanks again for the education!

    • Texx

      You and Randy are good ambassador’s for the hobby, and we appreciate everything you do. It’s what the hobby needs these days…

      • Randy Rush-Captain Grumpy

        You talking about me ? Or some other famous Randy?

        • Texx

          Her husband is named Randy, but you are also a great ambassador for the hobby Captain Grumpy!

          There is only one Captain Grumpy here at Woody Boater… one Captain Krunch and one Captain Crunch… There, now have it straight… I think.

    • Jim Volgarino

      Hey…if you’re meaning me, I’d love a hat. Follow Mecum religiously. Just got involved actively with Rich Penn who I have known for 30 years and he voices so many of the same concerns you have noted here. The collectibles hobby in general is a tough one to crack and Rich is focused primarily on specific collections. Some of them are as diverse as Paul Mikkelson’s and some are as narrow as neon signs. I’m amazed at what people collect and stash away for years before they are finally faced with having to do something with it.

    • Marty Feletto

      Scott – I just read most of the comments and specifically your responses and from my perspective you are just right on the button. As you know, I am 2 for 2 with Mecum in 2 different years. I brought the boats to sell, dropped the reserves to the market, and both sold. I also spent the days leading up to the auctions with the boat on display and educating/ talking to possible buyers. If you have an important boat and want it sold – Mecum can get that done for you!

  32. Scott Ales

    Marty is the fifth and final hat. Gee whiz, if I knew a hat would create such a positive response I would have been handing them out for the last two years! Just kidding. Marty is one of Mecum’s Superstars. He got it instantly and was completely responsible for our first year success in Monterey. Can’t thank you enough, we look forward to serving the hobby for years to come. Your role was quite significant Marty. I now understand that you are one of the movers and shakers of the Riva club! Great job, keep it up. In fact, you’re getting one of the Riva chrome logo hats too. What color, blue or beige?

  33. matt

    Scott, they will do anything for a hat.. Jim, regarding getting the word out.. Mecum is by far the best marketer in getting the word out.. Almost out of proportion to what is sold to be honest. I own a marketing firm as well as doing Woody Boater, and we created in a way Woody Boater to get the word out about stuff. the ACBS is a club, as is the Chris Craft Antique boat Club.. Marketing is not in there mission. The chris craft club does push stuff out there, but honestly the ACBS does not have it in there DNA.. And thats OK, they do it through events and shows. You target for the Mikkleson collection is clearly boat people, but also car people. They are in fact the same. The only issue is that the car guys are terrified of the boats.. A subject that Scott and I are all over. Woody Boater will and can reach the internet crowd regarding boats, But you need to place an ad in the Rudder to reach the print crowd, and the Brass Bell. Otherwise, I would also consider hemmings and .. Crazy idea here, Throw a couple juicy items on ebay to sell, and tease the market. Throw an outragiuos price on it in a buy it now, and tell folks that they may get it cheaper at the auction.. Use eBay as a marketing tool, not just for selling.. Hope this helps. Matt

    • Rick

      Matt know just how much we will debase ourselves just for a re-labeled package of hotdogs!LOL

    • Jim Volgarino

      Matt–I said it was tough to reach the classic boat people, not impossible. Both Rich and I, in former lifetimes, come from marketing backgrounds so understand the challenges, particularly today. We’ve covered the various pubs (as you’ll see over the next couple of months) and I’m busily hitting forums, chatrooms, sending emails to anyone who I think will have some interest in this collection. It will be interesting to see if all this effort works.

  34. brian

    I would never purchase at an auction for the same reasons Alex pointed out. Too rushed and frankly nothing I will ever buy is going to be that rare that I will be fighting another buyer over it.

    Sell? I would take the chance but again to be honest it would only to be to take advantage of someone else and their wallet.

    It has been my experience that of the classic cars and boat that we have purchased, the better stuff were the items which I did research on and then waited for the right one to come along. My few impulse buys stung me in the ass and the prospect of getting burned AND paying a company rather than the owner for that experience is not something I am eager to repeat.

    All of the Auction houses could all go bust tomorrow and I would not shed one tear.

  35. Don

    New to posting, but this topic is interesting. To auction or not, the real question is the value of old boats. Having collected cars for more than two decades, and owning a wooden boat almost as long, I can tell you that all of my classic cars have appreciated at a significantly higher level. Fair to say that the cars are an investment I can enjoy while the boat is just something I enjoy using and working on. Will I lose money on it? Probably. But here’s the funny part — when my wife and I entertain, our guests love touring the garage workshop and looking at the old cars (Vettes, British race cars, old Benz, unique motorcycles, etc.)… but they go crazy over that wood boat in the boathouse. The wow factor of varnished wood beats gleaming metal or polished fiberglass every time. And they’d much rather spend time on the woody than out in one of the old cars. I’ve managed to introduce many friends to the classic car hobby, none to classic boating. Go figure.

  36. Tom Carter

    I’m just not getting it: why are so many sets of panties all wadded up? It’s commerce, folks. You offer, I buy, or vice versa. The price is whatever we agree on. Why does the venue matter?

    For those dissing auctions, I ask: have you ever felt like you got “burned” at an auction? You need to learn auction theory and self-discipline. I’ve had buyer’s remorse after a couple of auctions, but I learned a lesson: do your homework, and decide what price would make you happy to pay? IN ADVANCE! Then exercise your self-discipline to simply stop bidding and walk away. Simple, no?

    Don’t conflate our religion of old wood boats with commerce.

    See you on the water, or in the shop.

    Tom

  37. Jeff Thom

    I too don’t look or post too often on woodyboater but I was watching to keep updated on the Mecum Auction and interested in whether the Miss America boat would sell to someone for it’s engines or the boat’s prominence. I have been a Mecum fan for quite some time and I agree wholeheartedly with your point Don. My friends spend much more time looking at our U22 than they do looking at our 1956 Corvette. While I am fairly certain that the value of the Corvette is probably the only one that has appreciated, we would probably consider selling it, long before we would consider selling the boat. That just proves further that true value is in the eyes of the beholder.

    Thanks Matt and all for your great coverage of the auction. I truly appreciated it.

    Jeff Thom

  38. Jeff Thom

    Does anyone know whether the Miss America $700,000 bidder was a motor buyer or a boat buyer? I would be suprised if it was both but I it’s possible.

    Jeff

  39. Don

    Thanks, Jeff. Same here — I’ve bought cars at Barrett Jackson and sold a few. If the price is right anything in my garage is for sale.

    But I’ll be buried in my wood boat.

    Best to all, good job Matt and Texx

  40. Brian Robinson

    To the anti-auction woodyboaters here, I have to ask: have YOU tried to sell a boat lately? It is a crap boat market out there people! There are too few classic boat buyers out there I am sorry to say. There are so many incredible deals on the market right now I cannot even count. I say it all the time: The biggest problem with our hobby is the inability to sell boats in a timely manner.

    Mecum has sold more vintage boats in the last two years than every boat broker throughout the country – combined. Something like 185 boats. You can’t argue with that track record. Following this past weekend’s Kissimee auction many said “oh well, that is the end of Mecum auctioning boats, the sales numbers were too low” – same thing after the Geneva Lake auction. Hello? They sold six boats out of twelve… 50%. In the reserve auction game, that’s not too bad. Look at the literally thousands of classic boats listed on the internet right now, how many have sold in the past two years? How many of those listings are at least five years old?

  41. Scott Ales

    Tom has it right. The Mecum boats were on display from Tuesday till Saturday. The buyer of the Greavette came on Wednesday, then sent Don Price in for the professional inspection on Saturday morning. The competing bidder on that boat had Lance Wilson inspect the boat in my warehouse a week before I took it to the auction. I would say that is plenty of time to decide what you are willing to pay.

    I am completely lost on the logic stated about paying fees. If I offered a new Ford pickup at 1/2 price but you had to pay a 10% commission to a salesperson would you pass? It is very simple, decide what you want to pay, back out the fees and bid to that number. Last year the art auction market alone sold over $11 billion. Who knows how much is sold in total! Most importantly, if there were no auctions you would have ZERO market values to review. There would be NO NADA for cars and trucks. This is the most beneficial aspect of each transaction. Market Results. Using someones asking price is a huge mistake. Transactions set the market, not hearsay.

    Look at the difference between the Warner collection and the Mittler collection. All of the Warner boats were paid off and removed from his inventory, gone. In one day. Less than 30% of the Mittler collection is sold to date. Doug Morin is doing a fantastic job at selling them one by one. But every time someone looks at the boats and passes they become worth less. Gee, if Joe came here last month and didn’t buy maybe the price is too high. Neither method is the best. They serve two different sellers. One wants to be done on a date certain. The other is perfectly content selling the collection over several years. What I like about the auction venue is the ability to review the results or actually watch the auction! Anyone know what the results of the sold Mittler boats are? You can never really be sure without the public venue. But I completely respect their right and decision to sell this way.

    • Jim Volgarino

      Great response Scott and I appreciate your candor. Unfortunately auctions get a bad rap because no one really knows the work that must go into staging something like that, particularly on a large scale. Without auctions we would have no idea what the values are. I have a close friend who has been in the automotive wholesale business his entire life. He tracks the trends on pricing, knows what is and isn’t selling and makes his decisions according to that research. And where does that come from? Auctions. Without them he’d have no idea what to buy or for how much and his dealer customers wouldn’t get what they want to make available to the buying public. It will be really interesting to see where the Mikkelson Collection lands. Paul has devoted a great deal of time and money in preserving an interesting part of our history and as an enthusiast I’m thankful the collection exists. The question now will be…are others willing to step up, pay a fair value for these items and continue to preserve something we all have a continued interest in experiencing.

  42. Scott Ales

    Hey, it’s shorter than last night’s entry! I’ll keep trying to say more with less.

    Sorry everyone, it doesn’t seem that bad while I’m typing it in the little box!

    • Jeff Thom

      Mr. Ales,
      I am a huge Mecum fan and I love this great country we live in. I have a right to sell something for the price I want, using a reserve if I choose. I have a right to buy what I can afford, no matter what it is worth to someone else and Mecum has a right to get paid for the work they do. I respect what Mecum has accomplished and done for classic car and classic boat enthusiasts. Keep up the great work!
      Jeff

  43. Texx

    Scott – I know Matt will agree when I say that you can say what ever you want, and as much as you want here at Woody Boater. That’s why we published the story, to create a forum for discussion.

    That’s what sets us apart from the others…

  44. Dave in florida

    mr.ales,i too am a fan of mecum,i also have a wood boat,not a classic like most of the other woodyboaters on here,but to me its a personal love.your tv coverage is great and very enjoyable.i also belong to AOMCI,souther and national chaptors,see you in tavares,ps:wish i had a hat but i’m to late.:-(

  45. Alex

    Next time I’ll bring lawn maintenance-grade ear protection, a chick that looks like Amy Assiter (but who’s on MY side), and my lucky rabbit’s foot. Also, Gru’s Freeze Ray, to slow things down so I can think. There. That might make being yelled at and spurred to spend palatable. And I just might get that 25′ Sportsman for a steal there. Or, if I’m selling one, I just might sell it for a fortune. Hell, maybe I can do both! Buy one cheap and sell it high. At the same event. The tractor can just drive the thing in a circle. ‘Cause you CAN have it both ways! To be with it, I’ll drive to the event in a Delorean DMC. ‘Cause it’s Back To The Future hyping mahogany over a loudspeaker. “This sort of thing ain’t my bag, baby.”

  46. Dave

    I’ll preface this by saying that Mecum sold a boat for me last year. Did I get the high price I wanted ? No. Did I recoup 15 years worth of investment ? No. Did I successfully sell my boat for a reasonable price (in today’s market) and move on to other investments ? Yes. Let’s face it; everyone would like to think their boat is worth more than it is. Get real. Those wealthy Arab oil guys just ain’t out there. We all like it when someone’s Riva sells for $700k. Does that make anyone’s ’57 Century worth more ? No. Wood boats are like cars. We buy them because we love them; They are usually NOT good investments. The reason that more boats do not sell at auctions (Mecum auction or otherwise) is that people still have unrealistic expectations. I personally spoke with 3 sellers at the Geneva auction; they all set high reserves “hoping for that big-spender to come along’ When people set high reserves, the boats don’t sell. When the boats don’t sell, we all sit here on-line and have these discussions. Bottom line: Love your boat, use your boat, and quit worrying about what it’s worth !

  47. mark edmonson

    Im posting these thoughts for Dennis Spillane DDS

    You know what? The first auctions hit the freak high prices and the rest are spectator events. Face it many people think there boat is worth more than the last high sale. We all need to get real. The prices will be down 20-30% for the foreseeable future. Just like th McMansions and collector cars. At some time we all will be happy to break even or loose some money on a toy we have enjoyed and made memories with. The population with the expendable income is getting older and not there anymore. The hobby will redefine itself and still thrive. Let’s really get honest on what these boats are worth. Did you really buy it as an investment? Seriously ? Do you buy lottery tickets for your retirement too? Do you ever invest in something without be willing to lose the whole thing?

    So very true, The older generations that remembers the antiques are passing and the baby boomers do see the flair and beauty in the original boats, only post war boats.

  48. Jim

    I would buy a boat at auction. I have attended the Clayton Auction for several years. If nothing else it gives you an idea about what people are willing to pay. I have bid on several boats but have yet to buy one. You can never quess what any particular boat will sell for. A pile of crap will sell for a ridiculous amount and a nice boat won’t sell. The no reserve boats sell but the reserve boats didn’t sell. I talked to the auctioneer a week later and they were very disappointed in how this years auction went.