Question of the Weekend – Are the Barrett-Jackson Auctions Good for the Automotive Enthusiast?

A few weekends ago I asked if you would ever attend Barrett-Jackson, or any other collector car auction that will be held in Arizona next week. Many of you have stated that these auction houses merely inflates the actual value of the vehicles they offer, taking them out of the realm of affordability. Others argue that this provides a service to the collector when they want to get the maximum return on their investment.

And this is where many of the enthusiasts disagree on the value of Barrett-Jackson and the other auction companies. Most enthusiasts see the car as an object of desire, something to be used, cared for, and driven. Lately, there have been people that merely see these cars as an investment, to be cared for, and used infrequently, if ever. They are trailer queens, stored in climate controlled garages, and never really see the use they were built for.

So the question is this: Are the Barrett-Jackson auctions (or any of the other auction houses like RM, Gooding and Company, or Silver Auctions) good for the average automotive enthusiast? I’m sure you have an opinion on this topic, so express them now.

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  1. tonyola Avatar

    I think it does both – sure, people can get top dollar for their cars at auction, but it also sets starry-eyed and unrealistic price standards for sellers elsewhere – "Whaddaya mean my Maniac GT is only worth $50,000? The same car got $300,000 at Barrett-Jackson!" These auctions also encourage people to jump on price bubbles with the thinking that cars can be bought for sure-fire investments, like stocks and pork bellies. People get hung-up on over-restoration, matching numbers, and option combinations – "Only 37 Maniac GTs were built with both the mauve vinyl roof and rear seat ashtrays – that doubles the price!". Sooner or later, everything crashes to earth. It's happened before and it will happen again. So I guess the overall effect is more negative than positive.

    1. Paul_y Avatar

      I agree. Cars are not an investment, they are a hobby. Hobbies are not undertaken with a specific profit motive, because frankly, I fail to see the point of buying an over-restored muscle car that can't really be driven (even if doing so were in my budget; I'll just have to keep insisting that sub-$1000 Mercedes Benz W123s on craigslist are collectible until somebody believes me).
      A lot of it is driven by nostalgia on the part of the baby boomers, who have managed to ruin everything they touch in western civilization.
      I could really see the "values" (read: prices; not the same thing really) of a lot of these cars dropping off a cliff as the people who most lust after them simply die off.
      Of course, then we'll be looking at 6-figure prices on unmolested, numbers-matching CRX Si's, Evos, and STIs.

    2. mdharrell Avatar

      Before the Canadian contingent descends en masse: Manic GT.
      <img src="; width="500">

      1. tonyola Avatar

        I was making up the name Maniac – actually Bruce McCall used it first.

        1. mdharrell Avatar

          Yeah, but I couldn't resist the chance to work in a plug for the Manic:

          with a few extra photos:

          1. longrooffan Avatar

            I had never heard of the Manic GT previously. It is a good looking automobile, especially IMHO in white. And a left of the steering column ignition FTW! Thanks for sharing. And I agree with Tonyola.

      2. Deartháir Avatar


        1. mdharrell Avatar

          Nothing wrong with one, but I was mistaken anyway. The Manic GT isn't Canadian: It's from Québec.

          1. Deartháir Avatar

            An honest mistake. People think the Quebecois are Canadian all the time.

          2. mdharrell Avatar

            My friends in British Columbia assure me the preferred term is "Quebecers," but even the Citroën owners usually prefix it with one or more startlingly earthy adjectives.

  2. Jim-Bob Avatar

    I think it does a little of both. I am unlikely to ever be able to afford a 1969 Camaro RS/Z-28 in my lifetime due to auctions like this. However, in a way it helps preserve cars like that too as it gives them enough value to be worth restoring. Would anyone do a $30,000 restoration of an old Camaro if it was only worth $10k? A few might but most would not. Thus we have the big problem with old cars. Once they get past a certain age, enthusiast cars are all used up and need to either be scrapped or fully restored. Neither option will ever make them an enthusiastically driven car again. If you spend years of your time, blood, sweat, tears and money restoring an old car you probably will do your best to treat it with respect and rarely ever drive it in anger again. I don't care if that car is a 1976 Chevette Scooter diesel, the effort and cost makes it more valuable to the owner. That is the inevitable path of the enthusiast car though and all old cars past a certain age are enthusiast cars. After all, why would you choose to drive an unreliable old car instead of a new one if you weren't an enthusiast? It would make no sense. The auctions merely aggregate old cars in a common place that attracts monied enthusiasts or traders or whatever where they can buy such vehicles. So I say they are neither good nor bad. After all, is it better for a car to be restored or to be left to rot in a field where time and the elements slowly consume it and bring it past the point of no return? Is it better to see it scrapped?
    So where does that leave the enthusiast without a lot of cash to spend? Well, it leaves them with 10-20 year old cars that are cheap enough to buy on the used market but still have a ready supply of junkyard parts for the picking. You may never be able to play with a Ferrari Enzo, but you can find yourself a Nissan 300zx twin turbo or Suzuki Swift GT and still have fun driving it and modifying it. Likewise, you may not be able to afford the E30 M3 but the E36 M3 is in many ways a better car and substantially cheaper too. These cars may not impress the snobs but so long as they are fun for you, who cares?

    1. Dutch Avatar

      I agree with that last paragraph. Isn't it supposed to be about having fun with cars? If a 1000 point restoration is your bag, good for you. Me, personally, I like to whack on 'em. I do enjoy it, however, when an investor looses his ass like the house flippers did!

  3. njhoon Avatar

    I think it is a mixed blessing. On one hand it brings attention to and raises the hobbies status to non car nuts. On the flip side it brings in the 'investor' crowd vs. the ‘investor /enthusiast’. The investor crowd does put some of the cars I would like out of my reach, but also it makes cars that would other wise rot in a backyard or field worthy of restoration.
    That leaves us a way to make lemonade. Parts and cars that we know of we can get then resell. Two cases in point that I can think of right off hand a friend is a mopar guy, he had a 69 Charger and he put it on ebay. I told him if it doesn’t get 2500 I would give him that. It sold for 8K and it needed a ton of work. He also had a ’71 Barracuda convertible, not even a ‘Cuda. That went for 60K and was a basket case. He also finds Mopar parts in Junkyards then ebays them. One word – Profit.

  4. rovingardener Avatar

    I think the television broadcasts are really what has driven the striving for numbers matching 66 Nova's and Hemi Cuda's and the like that are relatively common place to price levels of Ferrari's, so now and for the past few years people have been setting unrealistic goals with their investment of time and money to try to make money on economical vehicles. I don't begrudge these folks their time and effort, but it is a bit cynical to put forth this much effort to ruin someones hobby by pricing them out of the marketplace.
    There is also the aspect of the People of Wal Mart versus the RM crowd who fancy themselves the people of Country Club.

    1. facelvega Avatar

      Agreed, the television coverage is what drives the prices up and lures in the wannabes and overzealous punters.

  5. citroen67 Avatar

    I think it is really good for the collector…but not so much for the enthusiast. They are two totally different people.
    I would love to go to a B-J auction and buy an uber-clean hot rod (only because it would be fun to have one to park in my living room), but that is it…and even then, I would be tempted to take it out and shred the rear tires via a big, stinky burnout! Actually, come to think of it…it would be fun to go to a B-J auction, buy a super low-mile, rare muscle car, and then stage a "donut show" in the closest empty parking lot! It would also be fun to bid on, and win some painstakingly restored hot rod, and then brag to all of the "car guys" that I have finally found an adequate vehicle to use for my rural paper route. IDK, I guess I just love the thought of pissing off rich "enthusiasts."

  6. dukeisduke Avatar

    Last weekend at our Corvair club meeting, we had a guy who sells collector cars for a living (mainly on consignment) do the program. He complained that companies like B-J drive up prices, pricing the little guy out of the market.

  7. Froggmann_ Avatar

    I would venture to say "absolutely not." On top of completely over-inflating the prices of some genuinely cool metal it also gives too much value to what used to be a low value market – replica vehicles. I remember a day when Plymouth Satellites had little to no value. Then BJ came along with shops like Barry's Speed shop who take a satellite turn it into a charger and get 60K for it. Now every moron who has a half-rotted satellite on blocks in their backyard thinks they have a gold mine sitting back there and won't sell the carcass for less then 10K when it's actual value is $300.

  8. pjstevens77 Avatar

    The Mecum auctions seem much more realistic in terms of good buys at collector auctions

    1. Jeff Glucker Avatar
      Jeff Glucker

      I agree with you…
      I've been to Mecum and I was surprised at some of the prices. Sure, some things still went for top dollar but most of the stuff was far more realistic.
      oddly enough, I will be attending Barrett this weekend… and mecum the following weekend. It will be interesting to compare the two in person.
      Watch for me on TV during the Mecum broadcast from Florida! (I made it on there last year when i went too, haha)