Russo and Steele, Fisherman’s Wharf, Monterey, California, August 18-20, 2016
2016 is only the second time Russo and Steele’s Monterey auction has passed $10 million in total sales [since they abandoned their “all no reserve (with 5% buyback commission)” sale format. They did it with a modest sell-through rate of 51.1% and a $48,900 median transaction.
Their success is a tribute to persistence and tenacity in pursuit of buyers and sellers as well as a diverse consignment that has plentiful opportunities to bid on unusual, intriguing and affordable cars.
And, as usual, it is presented in Russo and Steele’s unique “auction in the round” format with flashing lights, energetic ringmen, blaring sound system, milling crowds and incessant cacophony that recreates the open outcry of early stock markets and the fervid pits of the mercantile exchanges. This year even white suited, white haired ringmaster, Drew Alcazar, added his own theatrical encounter with a car departing the pit. How could the driver miss seeing him?
Russo and Steele’s auctions may be the 21st century incarnation of P.T. Barnum, Ringling Brothers and the Chicago grain pits rolled into one extravagance, but it is also a beguiling production that fascinates and mesmerizes bidders and consignors.
Drew’s “THE RESERVE IS … OFFFFFFF!” is a refrain that defines the Monterey car week. It can be heard all over downtown Monterey. It is as much a part of the Monterey experience as the quiet elegance of RM’s million dollar cars in the lobby of the Portola Plaza or the breathtakingly expensive cocktails on the Lawn at Pebble Beach. This year it was, just across the viaduct from Portola Plaza, the antithesis of the pedestrian, restrained, emotionless presentation in RM Sotheby’s tent, a contrast that must have been like walking through the Brandenburg Gate when West and East Berlin were still separate.
Russo and Steele’s 2016 results were solid, and solid is something sorely missed in the collector car auction business recently. Coming here to buy a car – and there were plenty of good ones on offer – has many advantages for those who are not excitable and can resist the nearly irresistible effusiveness that swirls through the “auction in the round”.
Greg Ingold contributed the on-site observations; the editor is responsible for their final presentation.
Russo and Steele Monterey 2016 – Auction Report