Waxingandwayneing’s Weblog

August 24, 2008

Men and their Toys

Filed under: Luxury — waxingandwayneing @ 3:13 pm

Upon buying the Oakland Raiders, Marvin Davis commented, “As men get older, the toys get more expensive”. And perhaps there is no greater toy for a grown man than a very, very expensive automobile. As part of the 58th annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance—the world’s premier celebration of the automobile—held during the third week of August, several auto auctions were held providing (aging) men (and women) the opportunity to accumulate even more of these toys.

The oldest and most prestigious of these auctions was staged by RM Auctions, celebrating nearly 30 years in the collector car industry. To get an idea just how expensive these toys can get, last May RM auctioned off a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder, formerly owned by Oscar winning actor James Coburn, for nearly $10.9 million. This was the most money ever paid for a car in auction history.

It is hard to comprehend how someone (in this case a buyer from the UK whose identity was not revealed) can justify plunking down $11 million for a car—albeit a very beautiful car indeed. Not knowing who the buyer was, we can only speculate that this buyer owns many other “toys”, with the 1961 Ferrari just another addition to his collection.

Tony Bell, an attendee of the recent RM Auctions event and an avid car enthusiast who lives in Aspen, noted that the recession seems to have slowed down the buyers a bit, but only just a bit. After all, this is the high-end of the market, whose buyers don’t depend on tax rebate checks from the government or 14-hour sales from department stores. When it comes to purchasing cars at the prices reached by RM Auctions, buyers seem to exist—recession or not.

The RM auction highlights included some lofty sales, including a 1961 Ferrari GT SWB Berlinetta, which sold for just over $4.5 million. A 1933 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Special Town Car brought in $2.31 million. Twelve of the automobiles sold surpassed the $1 million benchmark. And of those twelve, seven were Ferrari’s.

Overall, the total dollars changing hands at this auction exceeded $44 million, which was $2 million less than last year’s total. In fact, the economic slowdown does seem to have had some effect of the results this year. For example, the heavily-promoted Ford “Orange Crush” custom roadster had a pre-auction estimate of $175,000-200,000, but was sold for a “cheap” $100,000. A 1957 Chrysler Imperial Convertible sold for $162,500, well under its expected price of $200-300,000. Perhaps the bargain of the event was a 1972 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona Spyder, which sold for a “mere” $1.1275 million, well below the estimate of $1.3-1.5 million. Certainly there were cars that sold for more than the bid estimates, but they were in the minority.

In a bold marketing move, jeweler Black, Starr & Frost, rented space just outside the auction room, to provide the big spenders in attendance another reason to part with a bit more of their wealth. At first glance, having a high-end jeweler set up shop to compete with world-class cars seemed like a stretch. But The Molina Group, owner of Black, Starr & Frost since 2006, recognizes that many of the buyers of fine automobiles are investors, viewing the purchase of a showcase car as a means to make a profit over time. Fine gems provide similar opportunities for value appreciation. So Black, Starr & Frost graciously decided to provide the well-heeled auto shoppers an alternative way to spend their money and perhaps make a nice return on their investment. Most of the people who detoured into the Black, Starr & Frost were women, many of whom were thrilled to see a radiant sparkle coming from something other than a nice wax job.

So, perhaps the marketing geniuses at Black, Starr & Forest decided to provide an “out” for these male buyers, pumped up on the testosterone of a rare Ferrari, by allowing these buyers to purchase a bauble or two for their dates, to justify the investment just made on a sexy hunk of steel.

We all have our toys—men and women. Some of us display them, some of us wear them. Some of us drive them, some of us simple store them—in a garage, a jewelry box, or elsewhere. If these toys make us happy, all the better.

August 13, 2008

Why are We Here?

Filed under: The Meaning of Life — waxingandwayneing @ 10:17 pm

We drove up to Carmel this past Sunday. What a great drive—even if part of it was on Interstate 5. The beauty of driving, instead of flying, is the opportunity to see so much nature, as well as avoid all of the artificial influence of flying. I find that driving provides me with a therapeutic chance to unwind and mentally explore whatever issues might be clogging up my head.

The summertime landscape on I-5 is mostly brown, but in a very soothing way. Probably because brown comes in so many shades. The glorious hillsides covered in light brown grass portray the majesty of a sleeping lion awaiting the cooler evening. Rich, tilled soil in other areas gives hope to next season’s bounty. Where crops are exploding—and that occurs many places along our route—we are treated to a wide array of mostly greens, from the plentiful vineyards to the ever present lettuces, intermixed with the deep ruby-colored leaves providing an explosive contrast only nature can display.

So, amidst all this natural beauty—oh, did I forget to mention the incredible fog-shrouded coast and hillside of Carmel?—I am drawn deeply to measure my life against time. Not just my time here, but against my time over a larger scale. I cannot help but wonder, “Why are we here?” What does it all matter? Long before I was here and certainly long after I am gone, those hills will be brown, the soil will be rich, lettuces will burst out of the ground, and fog will roll in. These events will happen without my seeing them occur and without my playing any active role in making them happen.

My commitment to my Microsoft Outlook (especially my Tasks and Calendar), my Blackberry (I just love my Blackberry), balancing my checkbook, changing the furnace filter (every 3 months, thank you), my job, family, etc. are so important to me. At times, these matters are all consuming. But, to what end? Do these things really matter? What’s it all about, Alfie?

I turned 50 this year. Perhaps that is driving this contemplation. Milestones are markers that permit us to examine where we are, where we want to be. What probably consumes me most these days is what mark I will leave. Why am I here? At many levels, I feel very good. I have been married for 26 years, have 3 great daughters, live in a beautiful home, have been very successful in my career (could be more successful), have mentored many people, am a leader in my community, make people laugh (most of the time), and care about the world in which I exist. Any yet, I do not feel successful. There is so much more I can do.

So, why am I here? One thing I do know is that I am not content just occupying space like so many other people I observe. Going shopping, taking that trip, or attending that party is all about consumption—activities most people seem so content in which to partake and for which to live. But what do you really have to show for a life based primarily on consumption? How have you improved the world? How will you be remembered?

Shouldn’t we be focused on leaving a lasting mark, on guiding others to improve, on making this world better than it is now? I want to believe that is why we are here. Do you?

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