Investors, overseas buyers help maintain demand for classic cars

There is strong demand for early to mid-20th century cars at auction, but a declining base of younger buyers is a concern for some National Auctioneers Association members.

John Kruse, MPPA, of Worldwide Auctioneers, Auburn, Ind., says prices are strong for the highest-quality “brass” and “classic” automobiles. Kruse defines “brass” as cars sold before World War I and “classic” as those sold from 1925 to 1948.

Kruse and other NAA members say classic car buyers are active in U.S. and European markets. Overseas investors, Kruse says, are in some cases trading the uncertainty of fluctuating currencies for tangible assets.

Yvette VanDerBrink, of VanDerBrink Auctions, Hardwick, Minn., agrees with Kruse and adds that vehicles manufactured from 1941-1946 are especially popular.

VanDerBrink Auctions achieved higher prices than it expected during a brass-era auction in late 2011.

Although VanDerBrink says she believes brass and classic cars will always be in high demand, she says that across all collector car categories there’s a drop in interest among buyers under 32 years old.

She says the industry is trying to appeal to younger generations; however, there’s little interest from people who haven’t been introduced to the hobby by close acquaintances.

Also, many people in that age group aren’t yet willing spend the kind of money it takes to invest in collector vehicles, she says.

Kruse offers a similar assessment, saying that some enthusiasts worry that as the U.S. population ages, fewer collectors will be interested in cars from the brass and classic eras. He predicts, though, that younger buyers who eventually step into the collector world will likely desire to move up gradually to higher value, older and more hard-to-find models.

“I have absolutely no doubt or fear that the blue chip vintage cars are going to do anything but maintain and continue to appreciate over time,” he says.

“Over the course of a few years, folks that have money and like something, regardless of where they start, will begin to appreciate other styles and types as they learn more about it. The classic car era is really one of the pinnacles next to the sports cars from the ‘50s and ‘60s.”

At Worldwide’s auctions, Kruse has noticed a slowdown in purchases of cars valued at $100,000 or less. He attributes this to “average” investors not having as much disposable income as they have had in the past.

But demand for cars in the higher six-digits — what Kruse calls “blue chip” collector vehicles — is strong. A fully restored car that would rank 95 to 100 on a 100-point scale sells easily. Cars in average condition are just “OK,” he says.

Bartel & Co. Realtors/Auctioneers, Middlebury, Ind., has seen steady demand for its “vintage” car auctions the past five to eight years, says the company’s Brad Hooley. Its two annual sales feature about 100 cars each.

Hooley says the recession didn’t have a significant effect on classic car demand. Bidding has been strong for cars in the $15,000 to $35,000 price range, but Hooley says there has been some erosion in demand for cars valued at $10,000 or less, as well as those in the $70,000 to $100,000 range.

Bartel’s cars come from individual consignors and estate sales.

Hooley says a lot of his buyers and sellers, who travel in from both coasts, are looking to trade up or make the move, value for value, from one model to another.

Read on in the story from Auctioneer magazine

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