Volume II, Issue 2, Page 7


If my employees had a five-dollar bill for every time they heard me make that statement I would have to hire a whole new crew…they could all retire!

That line actually came from my brother Sam who is a freelance amateur philosopher/curmudgeon/sage/cynic as well as a professional small businessman. Its relevance has been proven to me nearly every day in nearly every situation. This is exactly why you will find items that are “on sale” and priced at “$1.99” instead of “$2.00”.  It is also why a $30,000 Chevelle is a bargain compared to the $50,000 and up units crossing the stage at the Barrett-Jackson auction.

I have just returned from a week at the surreal circus in Scottsdale. This was my third time there and the second time I have sold a vehicle at the auction. I consider it to be the greatest car show on earth. It is the finest collection of the rarest and most desirable cars ever assembled. Nowhere else on the planet will you find a whole parking lot full of cross ram Z/28’s, an entire tent of big-block numbers-matching Corvettes, and a large building full of Shelby and Boss Mustangs. Imagine a cluster of car dealerships in the late ‘60’s with every color and option combination of muscle cars.

There have been all kinds of various opinions about how the Barrett Jackson auction has “ruined” the muscle car hobby by “inflating” prices. The fact remains that people are lined up to bid these prices…nobody has held a gun to their head forcing them to pay these of t-times described exorbitant costs. These bidders have typically found muscle cars to be a better investment than the stock market with the added benefit of being a whole lot more fun! During the auction week it seemed there were quite a few bidders who figured their money was doing better in the stock market than invested in cars. While the truly rare and meticulously restored cars still brought big dollars, the larger market of more common machines saw prices leveling off. I compare it to the real estate market. The people who buy prime real estate or prime cars seldom suffer a real loss.

Of course we need to consider the guy who truly loves cars and doesn’t care about “investment” or “appreciation.” This is the safest way to buy a car…for the sheer joy of it! If you pay $50,000 for the Chevelle of your dreams -- the car that you have longed for since high school -- then you won’t care one bit if the market gets soft and it’s only “worth” $35,000. You can insert any possession and any price into this equation at will: A good deal is still a state of mind.

My friends and I have spent a lot of time trying to make sense of the muscle car market in general and Barrett-Jackson in particular. I don’t think it can be done. It is the ultimate mixture of money, ego, and alcohol. The B-J people have not forgotten this theory either, that is why they offer bidders free drinks!

One of the most extreme examples that I have personally been involved in was a friend of mine selling his ‘56 Olds Holiday coupe. This is a car that has been featured in several magazines and has won many accolades. It is grey and maroon, not flashy by any means. It did, however, strike the eye of at least two ambitious bidders. The one bidder was the same person who bought my ‘56 F100 truck the day before. The second bidder was a famous NASCAR driver. The “civilian” bidder not only liked and wanted the car, but also was damned determined to show the world that he was better heeled (or at least willing to spend more money) than this NASCAR driver. In short, a car that should have “reasonably” brought $100,000 was bid to $340,000!

So where is the “good deal” in this $340,000 Olds, other than for the seller? Simple…the buyer not only got a great car, he was able to go nose to nose with a celebrity and win. As the Visa commercial says…priceless!

I don’t begrudge these buyers or sellers…I actually admire them. They don’t celebrate their lives by anyone else’s standards. They are the perfect definition of “a good deal is a state of mind.”  


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