A Porsche expecting to sell for over $ 20 million flopped on the auction block Saturday night, after the sale was thrown into disarray by a technical flaw.
The car, a 1939 Porsche "Type 64" that was already facing controversy in the living world, hit the auction block Saturday night at RM Sotheby's & Montery as part of the sale around the Concours D & # 39; Elegance car extravaganza.
RM Sotheby's auctioneer started bidding at $ 13 million. But the giant screen in the auction room showed the first bid as $ 30 million. The next bid was $ 14 million, but the screen showed $ 40 million – a mistake that continued all the way up $ 17 million when the screen showed $ 70 million.
The audience erupted in cheers as the price of the display showed that Porsche was selling at a record price. But at $ 1
"I say 17, not 70," said auctioneer, Maarten ten Holder. "That's 17 million."
The crowd in the auction room – often violent after a day of partying and events in the area – immediately began to jump and shout at the mistake.
There were no more bids after $ 17 million. Since $ 17 million was below the reserve price – or at least required by the seller – RM Sotheby's & # 39; s lot withdrew.
"The car did not meet the reserve," RM Sotheby's said in a brief statement. "We will do our utmost to sell the car after sale."
Some audience members said that because Ten Holder is Dutch, his "17 million" sounded like "70 million," so both the screen operator and the audience
For whatever reason, the sales devil was an embarrassing and costly mistake for RM Sotheby & # 39 ; s, which expected to auction nearly $ 200 million over the weekend.
"We are proud to conduct our world-class auctions with integrity, and we take our responsibility to our customers very seriously," the company said. "This was by no means intentional on behalf of anyone at RM Sotheby's, rather an unfortunate misunderstanding compounded by tension in the room."
It also marked a suitable highlight for a week's sales that fell well below expectations, and could signal more problems ahead for the classic car market. Total sales for six auctions during the week were expected to reach $ 380 million dollars, according to Hagerty, the collectible insurance and valuation company. But the preliminary total from Sunday morning, with almost all the auctions completed, was only $ 245 million – which marked a 34% decline from last year.
Experts said the wild swings in the stock market and fears of a global downturn may have weighed more than expected in the wealth of wealthy collectors.
Hagerty said in a statement. "Whether it's the threat of recession, broad economic volatility or too many cars crammed in for hours, no one denies that the results of this year's Monterey Auction Week were depressed." The 1994 McLaren F1 for $ 19.8 million only hidden from the $ 21 million to $ 23 million estimate. And it sold one of James Bond's Aston Martin DB5s – used in "Thunderball" campaigns – for $ 6.4 million on Thursday night. Gooding & Co. sold a 1958 Ferrari 250 California LWB Spider for $ 9.9 million.
But along with Porsche, which Porsche AG said was not a real Porsche, RM Sotheby's also failed to auction a 1953 Aston Martin DB3S work truck, which was expected to fetch over $ 8.75 million and only attracted a high bid at $ 7.5 million.
Other auction houses also had expensive missions, including the 1959 Mecum Ferrari 250 Monza, which sold for $ 20 million.
The only segment of the market that was strong this week in Monterey was the low end, for cars under $ 75,000. A 1970 Triumph TR6 went for $ 28,000 at Bonhams, more than twice its current market value at Hagerty. And a 1961 Chevy Impala Convertible sold for $ 66,000 – well above book value.
"With all these statistics that signal a declining market, the question will be whether this is felt in the broader market or isolated for this week's sales," said Hagerty