Bonhams “Preserving the Automobile” Simeone Foundation Museum, Philadelphia, October 7, 2013
Report and photos by Rick Carey, Auction Editor
In its second iteration this venue is proving to be a successful niche for Bonhams.
The site, of course, is superb. Surrounded by Dr. Simeone’s magnificent collection of racing cars from both pre- and post-war eras that demonstrate his determination to promote the preservation of historically-significant automobiles, the atmosphere is just right.
Bonhams always has an assortment of automobilia to kick off its sales and at the Simeone museum it was bigger than usual – much bigger. In fact it was too big and dragged on and on well past the scheduled 2:30 start date for the automobiles. Dragged on until well after 4, which was too late.
The attraction for Bonhams not only is its vast reservoir of automobilia consignments but also the 25% buyer’s premium charged on the automobilia. It goes a long way to offsetting reduced buyer’s premium income from their recent reduction in the automobile commission to 10%. In this case it probably far exceeded any haircut taken on the automobile buyer’s commission, such was the size of the automobilia consignment.
[The automobilia included items from the late Alec Ulmann, founder and Chief Steward of the Florida International Twelve-Hour Grand Prix of Endurance – the Sebring 12 Hours in which your scribe risked the approbation of his wife by purchasing a $3,200 (plus $800 commission and 8% Philadelphia sales tax) lot of three boxes of old Sebring files, time sheet books, correspondence, programs and clippings. As it turns out, it is worth every penny.]
The 2013 sale was very similar to last year in both content and results. The unusual disparity between the average and median transaction reflects the consignment, a few high quality, high priced cars and a number of lesser – in many cases restoration project – cars that sold for modest amounts. Ten of the 55 sold lots brought four-figure prices, even with commissions added. Only eight sold for hammer bids of six figures with the top sale (Lot #542, the ex-Bill Cosby 1934 Aston Martin 1 1/2 Liter Sports) hammering sold at $240,000, $264,000 with commission.
This sale is a timely idea in an exceptional setting and establishes a positive tone for the events of the next week in Hershey. It would not be at all surprising if a lot of the automobile went straight from Philadelphia to the Hershey swap meet.