"That's a good piece, you should buy it."
The auction catalog description read, "Persian Heriz carpet, geometric central medallion and stylized floral decoration on madder red ground with ivory spandrels, 9' 6" x 11' 9". Estimate: $700-$900."
Offered by local auction house O'Gallerie, the rug met my three criteria: It was the right orange-red color; the size was right for my living room; and the estimate was within my budget.
That the other, seemingly more sophisticated rug aficionados in the room also blessed my choice was a plus, but not a deciding factor. I still don't know what the terms Heriz, madder red, and ivory spandrels mean, but they sound important. The auction company also guaranteed that, "All the rugs offered here are hand-knotted," conjuring up visions of an army of child-laborers tying threads under a burning sun somewhere in the Middle East. Nonetheless, when the rug crossed the block, my paddle went up.
For $610 including commission, the rug was mine. Was it a good buy? It worked for my budget. Was it a good piece? I don't know; I could afford it and I liked it. Will it hold its value? I don't care. It's doing its job-covering up the hardwood floor in my living room and adding some color to the house.
IT'S MY FAVORITE COLOR
Which brings us to collector cars and mega auctions, like Barrett-Jackson and Silver Hot August Nights. For the new collectors who are drawn to these events, their criteria aren't much different than the ones I used to buy a rug.
"I've always liked 1966 Chevelle convertibles, blue is my favorite color, and I can pay up to $60,000 for a nice one." In these circumstances, "nice" and "favorite color" trump "numbers-matching" and "factory-correct." These enthusiasts are looking for something to put into their garage that makes them feel good and that they can afford. Of course, "feel good" and "afford" can stretch from a lowly Rambler Marlin to a $4.3m GM Futurliner bus. It's all a matter of scale.
Further, that O'Gallerie guaranteed the hand-tied knots was the equivalent of an auction company guaranteeing that the merchandise they are offering is as-represented; it creates a sense of comfort and assurance among the bidders.
For those of us afflicted with inside-baseball syndrome, we can get all atwitter about incorrect ring-and-pinion sets, non-original engine blocks, and radiators with the wrong core pattern. We get a goofy sense of satisfaction out of parading our knowledge like gossips at a train-spotting convention.
But for most of the world, and especially those who enjoy cars as a hobby rather than an obsession, "Can I afford it?" and "I've always liked those" are enough to make a very satisfying buying decision. So the next time you see a price at auction that seems out of this world, whether for 'Cudas, rugs, or Steuben glass, keep in mind that the buyer probably isn't using a price guide to control his paddle. He's using his own set of parameters, and they only have to make sense to him.
PODS OF FUN
The homepage of the SCM website, www.sportscarmarket.com, has turned into a multi-ringed, multi-media, information-entertainment extravaganza. Thanks to our web analyst, Jason Glaspey, and Internet specialist Matt King, the site is bursting at the seams with information.
If you want podcasts (downloadable three-minute audio programs, like miniature radio shows), we have twelve of them, with our auction analysts describing select cars from the Amelia Island Concours in detail.
Our first vodcasts (three-minute video clips) are now online, featuring walk-arounds of cars offered at a recent Silver auction, ranging from a Sting Ray convertible to an Amphicar.
If you are looking for books, the SCM bookstore lists over 4,000 automotive-related titles, which you can order with the click of a mouse. Exclusive to the website, pre-orders of our new book, Keith Martin on Collecting Austin-Healey, MG, and Triumph, will include free shipping if reserved by June 1.
PRICES, PROFILES, AND RESULTS
We have just introduced another analytical feature to our website, linking our current Price Guide values to our online Profiles and auction results. We have over 700 profiles available free of charge online. When you click on one, you also get a link to relevant auction results of the same type of car (over 40,000 in our database) and, if available, the current value in our Price Guide.
As certain segments of the market continue to be extremely volatile, we are now upgrading our online Price Guide on a regular basis to provide you with relevant and current information.
BE AN INSIDER
You're missing out if you're not getting our weekly SCM Insider newsletter. It's short, to the point, and always has offers exclusive to SCMers. For instance, recent issues included a free admission offer to a Silver Auction and a chance to buy numbered-edition automotive prints at a very special price. Upcoming offers will include an opportunity to pre-register to bid at the Russo and Steele Monterey auction at no cost, a savings of $100. Each offer lasts just one week. You can subscribe on the SCM homepage.
And if your auction company, museum, car show, or concours would like to offer SCMers a two-fer or free admission to an upcoming event, contact Kristen Hall-Geisler, email@example.com, and give her the details.
SCM GARAGE SALE
It's time for the SCM 1961 Fiat 2100 and 1966 SAAB 96 to move on to new homes. Details are on our website at www.sportscarmarket.com/garagesale; see the ad on p. 138, and look for them on eBay, at no reserve, in an auction that will begin on May 15. While far from perfect cars, they do start and run most of the time. When you drive the Fiat, you can be mistaken for Harry Potter, and when in the two-stroke Saab, pretend you're a WWII destroyer laying a smokescreen.
The rest of the SCM fleet is ready for summer, and we're told that our 1968 BMW 2002, which we bought from auction analyst Steve Serio last year (but have never actually seen) is about ready to begin its journey north from L.A.
With your own cars, this is the perfect time of year to change the fluids, especially hydroscopic brake fluid, and see if anything has deteriorated over the winter and needs attention. Having a car head off to the shop for a couple of weeks in late May is much more satisfying than having it sputter and die in your first June rally. Trust me, I know.