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.


1 Comment »

  1. Amen, sister!

    Comment by Nora — August 25, 2008 @ 4:34 pm

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