At SCM, we often describe cars as being "first tier" or "second tier" collectibles. These terms are used intuitively, rather than being based on any analytical system. While putting together this year's Pocket Price Guide, we were reviewing our five-star short-term appreciation rating, and felt it left something to be desired.
The short-term appreciation scale, which we created five years ago in our first Pocket Price Guide, awards one to five stars to each model, based on our appreciation prediction for the coming year. Five stars indicates we believe a model will appreciate much more than the market at large during the coming year, four stars somewhat less, three stars is given for a car that will increase in value along with the market at large, two stars for slightly less than market appreciation, and a single star for a model car we believe will lag significantly behind the market, and may actually go down in value.
In practical use, the short-term appreciation rating has its limitations. It can be misleading about the overall position of a car in the hierarchy of collectibles. For instance, if we believe 300SL coupes to be fully priced at the moment, which we do, and unlikely to escalate dramatically in the next twelve months, we would assign them a three-star, or average, rating.
But a Gullwing coupe will never be average. It will always be a highly sought-after collectible, one for which there will always be buyers if it is priced right. On the other hand, if we think Ferrari SWBs are going to accelerate dramatically in price during the next 12 months, which we do, and we give them a five-star rating, does that mean they are more collectible than a Gullwing? In the short term, perhaps. But over time, no.
You see the dilemma. With a short-term rating scale, the current position of the car in the market, vis á vis its expected price change in the next 12 months, becomes easily confused with its overall, long-term desirability.
To address this issue, we have created a long-term rating system for collectible cars. For simplicity's sake, the SCM grading system has five tiers: A, B, C, D and F, with A being the highest.
Here's how it works. A first-tier, A-grade collectible is a car like an Alfa 8C 2300 Monza, a Shelby Cobra 289 or a Porsche 550 Spyder. These cars, assuming they are in good condition, will always have a following and will always bring strong money when they are offered for sale. They embody the attributes of style, performance, historical significance, rarity and competition history that often typify first-rank collectibles. Think "blue-chip" stocks.
A 1970 Porsche 911T would be considered a B-grade collectible. For a variety of reasons, including style, performance and historical significance, it will always be desirable, but not at the same level as, say, a 1967 911S, which we would rate an A.
An example of a C-grade car would be a 1965 Mustang coupe with a 260-cubic-inch V8 and automatic transmission. It's an interesting car, and still handsome, but was built in such huge numbers that it will never command the undivided attention of the collector market. Further, a coupe with the smaller V8 quickly gets pushed aside when a fastback from the same year, fitted with a 271-horsepower engine becomes available. The fastback 271-hp we would rank as a B.
We would assign a D to the Mustang coupe if it had a six-cylinder engine, indicating that when so equipped, collectors would generally not seek this car out.
And our F grade goes to hopeless models like the Alfa Romeo Alfetta sedans and the Maserati BiTurbos-cars that had inherent mechanical or construction flaws, and that lacked other redeeming virtues to make up for them.
Please understand that these five tiers assume some degree of collectibility to begin with-you won't find Ford Mustang IIs or base Plymouth Volares in the Pocket Price Guide. Even a nasty, rubber-bumpered 1979 MG will still be more desirable, to an enthusiast, than a perfect four-door Taurus.
A strong word of caution here-don't confuse either the short-term five-star appreciation rating, or the long-term A-F grade, with the inherent abilities of the underlying car. For instance, the Porsche 928 is a car with no appreciation potential, and with no meaningful future as a collectible. We give it one star for appreciation potential (the worst), and rank it as an F-grade collectible (also the worst). Yet the 928 is also universally regarded as one of the great grand touring cars of all time, with prodigious performance. But for a variety of reasons, it will never get into the collectible car Hall of Fame.
Part of the delay in producing the 2002/03 Pocket Price Guide was related to implementing this system of long-term collectibilty. For the many of you who have been so anxiously waiting, I apologize. You will find your Pocket Price Guide included in the polybag with this month's issue. I hope you find it useful, and that the ancillary articles on collecting provide some
If you didn't participate in our renewal program that included a Pocket Price Guide, and wish to order one at this time, they are just $14.95 plus shipping. Call our subscriptions coordinator, Kristen Hall-Geisler, toll-free at 877/219-2605, extension 208, or e-mail service@ sportscarmarket.com.
ON THE COVER
Charles J. Maher saw this 1935 Auburn Boattail Speedster, back-lit by the late afternoon sun, at a car show in Michigan.
He created the 16 x 24-inch painting eight years ago, using acrylic on Alucobond, which consists of layers of aluminum sandwiched between polyethylene.
The Raggedy Andy doll by the front wheel belonged to his then three-year-old nephew Travis, who is now 11 years old and racing go-karts.
Maher grew up in Miami and learned to drive in his family's 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air. He went to work at Ford designing automobiles in 1968, and became an independent artist 20 years later. His paintings have appeared on the cover of Road & Track, AutoWeek, and the November '01 cover of SCM.
Maher, who lives in the Detroit area, is a member of the Automotive Fine Art Society. His work has been shown at the Amelia Island and Pebble Beach concours.
While this painting has been sold, if there is enough interest, Maher will consider a limited edition of prints. He may be contacted at 248/851-7560 (MI) or at firstname.lastname@example.org.