This weekend, the Monterey Peninsula is inundated with the upper echelon of car buyers, all vying for some of the most exclusive, expensive cars in the world.
Vintage car auctioneers RM Auctions, Russo and Steele, Mecum, Bonham’s, and Gooding and Co. are all in the area, and have selections of cars that they hope will set world’s records for classic car prices. But how expensive are they, compared to other object d’art?
This year, Gooding & Co. alone will focus on multi-million dollar prewar masterpieces at its auction on August 20 and 21, including a 1932 Bugatti Type 55 Roadster, with an auction estimate between $10 million and $14 million, and a 1933 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza, valued at between $12 million and $15 million.
At 2015’s Monterey sale, RM Sotheby’s sold $172 million worth of classic cars. Nearly 10 percent of that figure is expected to fall on just one car at RM’s 2016 sale, the very first Shelby Cobra. The car — carrying the CSX 2000 vehicle identification badge — marked the very beginning of Carroll Shelby’s career as a car-builder.
It was constructed in 1962 in a garage in Santa Fe Springs, California, where Shelby married a modified AC Ace chassis with a Ford 260-cubic inch V-8. That car is expected to fetch somewhere near $20 million when it goes across the block. Another car on RM’s docket — the sole surviving LeMans-winning C- or D-Type Jaguar — could generate $25 million.
The most expensive car yet purchased found a new owner in 2014 at RM’s Monterey sale. The 1962 Ferrari GTO sold for $38 million that year.
So yes, very rare vintage cars are expensive, sometimes wildly so. But in the pantheon of expensive things, cars are barely competitive. We took a look at some of the world’s most expensive collector items to see where classic cars fit in:
In 2012, the oil-rich nation of Qatar paid $250 million for Paul Cezanne’s “The Card Players,” a record-setting price for a painting. It put Qatar in a very exclusive club: there are three other paintings in this series, and they hang in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Musée d’Orsay, the Courtauld, and the Barnes Foundation. “For a nation in the midst of building a museum empire,” reads an article in Vanity Fair, “it’s instant cred.”
In 1947, Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti cast “L’Homme Au Doigt” a bronze sculpture depicting a human form pointing. In 2015, “Pointing Man” became the world’s most expensive sculpture, setting a record of $141.3 million, which surpassed the $104 million that another Giacometti sculpture, “L’Homme Qui Marche I” set in 2010.
In 2004, Christie’s sold this 18th Century Florentine ebony chest, inlaid with agate, amethyst quartz, and lapis lazuli for $36 million, breaking the record it also previously held as the most expensive piece of furniture ever sold. It’s known as the “Badminton Cabinet,” which is a pretty expensive place to store your rackets and shuttlecocks. (Like the game, it’s named for the place it resided for two centuries, Badminton, England.) The previous record was set when Barbara Piasecka Johnson — of the Johnson & Johnson Johnsons — bought it in 1990 for $16.59 million. Prince Hans Adam II of Liechtenstein purchased it and then donated it to the Liechtenstein Museum in Austria.
Leonardo Da Vinci penned this collection of scientific writings in 1510, and it is considered “insight into the inquiring mind of the definitive Renaissance artist, scientist and thinker as well as an exceptional illustration of the link between art and science and the creativity of the scientific process. It’s named the Codex Leicester after Thomas Coke, later named the Earl of Leicester, who purchased the work in 1719. Bill Gates purchased it at auction in 1994 for $30.8 million
In 1856, the postmaster of British Guiana produced this stamp, measuring just 1″ x 1.25″ to tide himself over as he waited for a shipment of stamps from Great Britain. This example is the only one in existence from his original creation, and it sold in 2014 for $9.5 million including the buyer’s premium. The stamp was in a 12-year-old boy’s collection until 1873, and it’s been sold to numerous collectors since. John du Pont — who murdered Olympic wrestler Dave Shultz and was the subject of the movie Foxcatcher — purchased it in 1980 for $935,000. Du Pont’s will — contested many times by his family — stipulated that 80 percent of the proceeds of the sale go to wrestler Valentin Dimitrov, who trained at his Foxcatcher facility.