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Looking for guidance on selling car collections

Guest jdbriandb33

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Guest jdbriandb33

AACA folks:

I'm an attorney with a client who has a number of antique and classic cars, and they are looking for guidance on how best to value, sell, and possibly restore to sell, the entire lot. I found your site and thought you'd be the best people to ask about this. The collection includes:

1911 Ford

1911 Overland

1917 Chevrolet

1922 Essex (this may be a 1927 -- it's a convertible)

1922 Lexington

1922 Willys-Knight

1928 Reo Wolverine

1929 Whippit

1936 Chevrolet

1940 Nash

We had gotten the collection appraised, but the appraiser appeared to be making an offer for the fleet, not necessarily providing an objective value. My sense is that a consignment sale would be more appropriate, but even if we pursue that route, we haven't yet found a reliable source of information on the vehicle's values. My client may also be willing to put in a few dollars towards restoration, if it will return a better result.

My client is in NW Wisconsin, so if there are any regional recommendations for auctioneers, appraisers, restoration, etc. I would welcome it as well.

Thanks for any help you can give, I genuinely appreciate it!

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You have your work cut out for you. I'm trying to restore one 1933 Buick and that is a labor of love (money pit). I would say you wouldn't ever get the money back on the 8 pre-1929 cars nor would you ever know when to quit spending time and money on them.

Are any of them running and if not running are they at least rolling on their own tires and wheels ?

Without knowing the condition or seeing pictures of the cars it may be hard for most of us to give a good answer.

Any of the big TV auctions want the cars running, so I'd say that is out. Girard auctions in South Dakota has a large following and established client base for all sorts of antiques including cars, but I'm sure that's too far to haul them.

Search out auctioneers in your area I'm sure some specialize in collectiables.

Good Luck


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Since we have no pictures we'll assume middle of the road condition. A restoration on a car in good condtition can still cost alot and put the total money invested over the value of the car.

It sounds like your client is out to get as much as possible for the cars with the "return a better result" comment. Unless the client has an elusive high quality cheap resto shop in mind or has lots of money i'd forget the restoration idea.

I'd look on the internet for comparable sales for the individual cars. Auction them off on ebay one by one starting at $1 with a reserve figured by the data collected in the sales of other like cars. If they don't sell drop the reserve by 10% and auction them again until they sell, repeat and so on until they find a selling price. All they have to do is set up an auction and take lots of pictures, ebay and the bidders will do the rest. Again GOOD pictures are they key, not half lit pictures of 1/4 of a car hiding in a barn corner with junk pilled on it. Get them out in the open on a sunny day and snap away!

Have you client put some effort into it and they'll get what they're worth for the least amount invested. Cars do not sell themselves, remember lots of good pictures will make up for a lack of specific smarts on each car.

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Easiest thing to do is list 2 at a time on ebay-there will be no upside value in starting restoration on any of them. On that note-these are middle of the road cars and nothing of great value.

The exception to what I just stated would be to get any of them running, that could easily be done. Labor rates are high and the time it will take to get all of the necessary work done will be absolutely negligible.

you can set reserves on ebay and if they do not sell, can always lower those reserves and send them through another round. Take great photos as mentioned and away you go!

best of luck!

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Mr. Jdbriand, the advice given here so far sounds good to me.

There are other ways as well as Ebay auctions.

You might call the national headquarters of the A.A.C.A. in Hershey, Pa.

at (717) 534-1910 and talk to Steve Moskowitz, its executive director.

He could put you in touch with experienced collectors in your area;

discuss possible means of selling the cars; and maybe recommend an

appraiser near you. The A.A.C.A. is here to support the hobby and hobbyists!

My understanding of true professional appraisers is that, for ethical reasons,

they are prohibited by their national organization from buying or making offers

on what they appraise. Anything else would be a conflict of interest. I suspect

that good honest antique-auto appraisers, however, may not be a member of

that professional organization--but still they should abide by those ethics.

Most antique-cars are sold hobbyist-to-hobbyist. Some antique-car dealers

will offer to "appraise" your client's collection, but are really interested in buying it.

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A few more notes:

Pre-1916 cars are also supported by the Horseless Carriage Club of America

(H.C.C.A.), and have a good following in these modern times.

Cars from 1916 to around 1927, have been referred to

as "dark era" cars. While people may appreciate looking at them at shows,

I believe cars of those years do not have many followers today who would

actually aspire to own them and restore them. You may find them a bit harder

to sell, and their values quite modest--for those makes you listed,

say $10,000 to $15,000 for a nice-looking but 20-year-old restoration.

Your client's 1936 Chevrolet should find a good following. Price will vary

tremendously with condition; price will also be greatly dependent on

body style. Four-door sedans bring less than 2-door cars; open cars

(convertibles) from that era will bring the most--maybe 3 times the price

of a 4-door sedan.

"Old Cars Report Price Guide" is available on news stands; or look them up

on the internet. Their publisher is Krause Publications, a division of F&W Media.

That guide, issued 6 times a year, gives prices for many, many cars in 6 different

conditions, from a worn-out car useful only for parts, to a perfect national award-winner.

Their publisher is based in Iola, Wisconsin. They also produce an annual soft-cover

pricing book which has much the same information:


In that book, you should find pricing for all cars except the Overland

and Lexington.

Edited by John_S_in_Penna (see edit history)
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Guest jdbriandb33

AACA'ers: WOW! These responses are exactly what I was hoping for -- intelligent objective insight from people who are passionate about the topic, and friendly enough to give direction to the unknowing and curious!

Based on some of your comments it might not be a bad idea if I actually posted some images and details of the vehicles in the collection -- for nothing else, maybe that will help us get some additional information about the vehicles that are in question (such as whether the Essex I mentioned is a Speedster or not, and whether it's a 1922 or 1927, etc.).

So again, THANK YOU to all of you who commented -- and since I'll be working on getting more details on the vehicles, WATCH THIS SPACE!


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Once you get an accurate estimate of the cars' values,

and if you decide to sell them outright, consider the

internet site of the Horseless Carriage Club of America.

It's at http://www.hcca.org/classifieds.php?cars.

Their website has a very visible "For Sale" section,

and while the club itself focuses on pre-1916 cars,

even cars through the 1920's should find attention there.

I believe that fairly priced cars, even in today's subdued economy,

still sell readily. However, in general, fairly priced cars are in the minority,

since many dealers and some optimistic collectors sometimes

price a car 100% over its true worth! Those cars usually languish,

often for months, sometimes for years. (Other asking prices may be

20% over.) So when valuing your cars, don't look at asking prices:

They are often irrelevant. No one appreciates greed, and everyone

appreciates a sincere, honest seller, as you and your client should be.

On the HCCA site or elsewhere, be sure to include good photos wherever you advertise.

Edited by John_S_in_Penna (see edit history)
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I think one other option should also be considered. Contact the AACA Museum and if they are interested then your client might could get a better write-off through donation for the value than if he sold them outright. Again it depends on the condition but these seem more very special interest, non daily driver type that would be much more appreciated in a museum setting unless a very special owner was found. Just a thought! Good luck with your endeavor!

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Guest AlCapone

I say whatever you do you should sell them individually and not collectively. You reduce the potential buyer list considerably if you sell it as a group. I also agree that you may want to look at one of the high end auction houses. having said that if you decide to sell privately I would be interested in a notice to bid on one or all.


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If one goes the auction route, watch fees: They vary considerably.

A few have modest fees--for example, the annual Central Pennsylvania

Auto Auction whose commissions are 4% buyer, 4% seller, and are

each capped at $1500. They've auctioned cars from $5000 to $400,000.

Some more well-known auctions have fees totaling 20%: 10% buyer and

10% seller. Suppose, for a round-number example, a $100,000 car

comes on the block. I would hold my bid to only $90,000, knowing that I have to pay

a 10% fee; the seller gets only $81,000 after the auctioneer's commission is deducted.

So in essence, the seller is paying the auction house 20% just for their selling his car.

YOU, THE SELLER, are in reality paying the entire commission!

I don't know what Vanderbrink Auctions charge. I suspect fees are negotiable,

as they are for auctions of other collectibles, though the auction companies would not

want you to know that! I found one auction company downright haughty,

and I think some are not fully honest; but I have heard good things about Vanderbrink.

I myself would never buy a car at an auction; nor through a middleman.

I want to talk to and meet the long-time owner, assess his honesty, and learn what he

knows about the cars. I want to drive the car if it's driveable. Dealing even with a

widow or a son of the original owner--the personal touch--is preferable. Some

sincere hobbyists even keep in touch over the years with past owners, as they

like to research a car's history down through the decades.

Many people do buy at auctions, however, and quite a number of brave souls

are comfortable buying even sight-unseen on Ebay.

Edited by John_S_in_Penna (see edit history)
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In the meantime you might want to prepare your clients for the fact that these cars likely will not bring anywhere near what they are expecting especially if they are non car people and watch much TV. Nice cars and they have some value but nothing that will precipitate a bidding war. Get them running and drivable if you can but don't spend any money on cosmetic restoration.

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I think one other option should also be considered. Contact the AACA Museum and if they are interested then your client might could get a better write-off through donation for the value than if he sold them outright

How can someone expect to do better financially through a donation than if he sold them outright? The only way I can see that happening is if an AACA representative is dishonest by providing an overly inflated value of the car, or if the cars are sold in a manner that doesn't provide broad exposure to the maximum number of potential buyers.

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There would be no cash outlay for transport, fees and taxes and Full honest fair price is really the most anyone can expect. Most will end up takig less. This option only works if you have a tax base that needs that kind of discount.or tax break.

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No dishonesty. The cars could be valued at an honest price and the deduction made accordingly. These cars may not bring an honest value on the open market, they may fall well short as they are not highly sought after collectibles. This only works if the owners need the tax deduction. If no deduction is needed then whatever the market bears is what they are worth.

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