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Analysis: RM Sotheby's Villa Erba Sale

Updated: Jul 5

The annual gathering of the great and the good of the motoring world on the shores of Lake Como, for one of the world's most renowned concours events - Villa d'Este - operated under a cloud of rain.

Meanwhile, along the shores of Lake Como at Villa Erba, would the RM Sotheby's sale operate under the same cloud of rain? Let's find out.

The Headlines

We'll start at the top level. RM had 55 vehicles on offer, 47 sold giving a sell-through rate of 85% much improved on the 57% sell-through rate seen in 2019 at the same event. Note: 62% of the lots on offer were no reserve.

The sale grossed €54m, up from €19m in 2017 with the average price of vehicle sold at €1.152m up from €635,510 previously.

So, all is rosey in the world. Well, yes and no. The devil is in the detail.

Of the 47 cars that did sell, only 18 of those cars reached the mid-point of their estimate banding. In other words, if an estimate was £110,000 - £130,000 then by mid-point we simply mean £120,000 in this instance.

Spinning that the other way 62% of all cars that sold didn't reach the mid-point of their estimate.

When looking across all the cars that did sell, the average sale price was 6% below the mid-point of the estimates.

Takeaway 1: 3 World Records Were Banked

Some of the stellar results coming from the Lake included 3 World Records.

The 2001 Ferrari 550 Barchetta sold for €635,000 (£561,423), beating the previous world record by £65,000. It was a strong day for 550s with the 1997 Ferrari 550 Maranello selling for €286,250 (£253,082) making it the 2nd most expensive one to sell in history.

The 2011 Ferrari SA Aperta is a rarer sight at public auction with fewer reference points but its sale price of €1,523,750 (£1,347,193) put it in the record books, topping the previous record sale of £1,085,000.

The ex-Clark Gable XK120 Roadster beat itself. Yes, we typed that right and you read that right. The vehicle sold for €387,500 (£342,600), knocking another ex-Clark Gable XK120 Roadster that sold on BaT for £222k off top spot.

Takeaway 2: 30s, 40s and 50s Cars Struggled, Again...

Those who consume our content regularly will be familiar with us hammering home the fact that cars from the 30s, 40s and 50s are struggling. They've been posting significant price declines over the past few years. The sale in Lake Como was no exception.

In fact, when you look across the 15 cars that went under the hammer from those decades at the Villa Erba sale, 40% didn't sell. Of those that did sell, only 1 (!) managed to meet the mid-point of the estimate, which was the Gullwing. In other words, 14 out of the 15 cars didn't manage to either sell or meet the mid-point of their estimate.

Takeaway 3: Watch The Before and Afters

Cryptic title, I know. Read on to find out.

When a car doesn't sell at auction the auction house will try to put together a deal post the sale. If that's not possible they may choose to leave it on their website with a price they're looking to get for the vehicle. As you'd expect, that asking price is traditionally above the price the vehicle reached in the sale room, as otherwise, well, the buyer would have let the vehicle sell there and then.

1949 Ferrari 166 MM Touring Barchetta | Source: RM Sotheby's
1949 Ferrari 166 MM Touring Barchetta | Source: RM Sotheby's

However, fascinatingly for the 1949 Ferrari 166 MM Touring, it reached a high bid of €3,800,000 (exc. commission) and is now up at an asking price of €3,750,000. Yes, that's not a typo, the car is being sold for €50,000 below what it reached in the room. You don't see that every day.

1936 Lancia Astura Cabriolet Series III 'Tipo Bocca' by Pinin Farina | Source: RM Sotheby's
1936 Lancia Astura Cabriolet Series III 'Tipo Bocca' by Pinin Farina | Source: RM Sotheby's

On the other side of the coin there were some vehicles that struggled to find a home on the day but remain available at asking prices far above where they reached on the day. One example is the 1936 Lancia Astura Cabriolet Series III 'Tipo Bocca', it came to sale with an estimate of €1.2 - €1.6m, it reached a high bid of €875,000 on the day and is now being offered for sale at €1.25m - that's a 38% increase on the high bid on the day.

So, there we have it, a round up of the 3 main takeaways from Villa Erba. There were some rain clouds overhead but the sun shone through to deliver some excellent results at times. A fascinating sale and we could go on about the weakness of Alfa Romeo with all 3 hammering for more than 35% below the estimate mid-point, to the strength of the Miura P400 that sold but they say the best things come in threes so we'll leave it there.

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