The Big League of Public Auto Auctions

by Don Elliott on May 25, 2011

This past weekend in Indianapolis, Indiana, Mecum Auctions offered 2000 classic cars and other automobile memorabilia in a six-day auction event. Mecum’s Original Spring Classic was billed as the “World’s Largest Collector Car Auction.” At the same time, this auction could also have been billed as one of the largest public car auctions of all time.

In reality, this type of public car auction might not be for everyone. Many of the used cars offered for sale are rarely driven out on the highway. A few cars were museum quality, very expensive, and intended only for show. For example, Dana Mecum, patriarch of the Mecum Auction enterprise, auctioned a 1971 Ford Coyote, an original Indianapolis 500 racecar driven by A.J. Foyt, Donnie Allison, and George Snider. This perfectly restored #14 Sheraton Thompson SPL will never see the street. But for the auction bidders, this was one of the cars that attracted buyers from all over the world, collectors who pay premium prices for rare, one-of-a-kind cars.

Going to collector car auctions is kind of a rush. At this particular auto auction, entrants paid $15 per day just to watch the auction action. The car auction arena was decorated and lit to accommodate the live TV feed for the Discovery Communication HD Theater Show, “Mecum Auto Auction: Muscle Cars and More.” It was difficult to recognize the cattle barn at the Indianapolis State Fairgrounds. The conversion to high-end public auto auction included elaborate displays of the most sought after vehicles and auction memorabilia. Tiered VIP seating was available to members of the “Gold Bidder Program,” a two-year $500 membership that provides attendance for up to four people at all Mecum Auctions, automatic bidder registration and more.

Are there any good used car values at an auction like this one? Yes and no! If you are looking for a car to drive every day with all of the convenient accessories, this was not the place to shop. If you are looking for a unique vehicle that will turn heads as you drive by, you might try a collector car auction.

Prices ranged from a few thousand up to several hundred thousand dollars. The cost to register to be a bidder is $100. Prior to the car auction sale day, the auto auction requires a Bank Letter of Guarantee or a 20% cash deposit, refundable if you are not a successful bidder. Payment in full for the bid price plus auto auction fees of 8% on automobiles (up to 18% for memorabilia) is required within 24 hours after a successful bid is made.

Basically, collector car auctions and public car auctions operate in much the same way. The prices of the cars at a collector car auction are obviously much higher, but the registration, bidding and payment are very similar. The entertainment factor at a collector car auction makes it fun to attend, even if you are not a bidder.

Send us your comments about collector car auctions and your experience as a buyer or seller.

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