Mecum Auctions returning to Harrisburg, poised to continue strong year for collector cars

//July 8, 2016

Mecum Auctions returning to Harrisburg, poised to continue strong year for collector cars

//July 8, 2016

Wisconsin-based Mecum Auctions, the world leader in live classic and collector car auctions, knew this and saw Harrisburg as its best option to break into the market and expand the company’s reach into the Northeast back in 2014.

CEO Dave Magers said the company has no regrets, having done more than $40 million in sales over the first two years. He’s got his sights set on $25 million as collector demand for American muscle cars continues to grow (see “Under the hood”).

“I’m not sure that will be this year,” he said, though he is expecting substantial growth here, with a goal of 1,000 consignments over three days.

Don’t worry, Mecum isn’t going anywhere.

“I have every intention of making this an annual event,” Magers said.

With a 2018 events calendar already in the works at Mecum, the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center remains the company’s only summer home in the Northeast, despite strong interest from neighboring states to lure the event away.

“We see Harrisburg continuing to grow,” Magers said, citing it as the No. 5 event on the company’s 13-event collector car schedule, in terms of sales.

It could be even higher since it’s only a three-day event, where some others are two or three times as long. And Mecum’s Monterey, Calif., event attracts more high-end rare vehicles, which command higher auction prices than vehicles sold in Harrisburg.

Mecum’s event complements the large swap meets and annual car auctions that exist throughout the region, he said. It gives auto enthusiasts from all over another reason to travel to Central Pennsylvania, which helps surrounding attractions.

 “I think it was a very good fit,” Mark Lizewskie, executive director of the Antique Automobile Club of America Museum in Derry Township, said. “We have always had that car culture ingrained in us (here). As far as car collecting, there are many interests and facets and subcultures. (But) there is something here for everybody.”

What to expect this year

Amy Spangler

Mecum events, unlike other auctions, don’t just attract dealers.

These auctions attract the hobbyist who might buy or sell one fun collector car at a time. And there are serious collectors who attend every Mecum event and could be in the hunt for several cars at any given auction.

“The typical collector comes with a list of specific cars they have an interest in,” said John Kraman, Mecum’s director of consignment. “And because they love the thrill of the hunt, they might buy something they never saw or intended to buy. It might be something they think looks cool or might be the centerpiece of a collection or part of a new collection.”

Also, not everything sells for hundreds of thousands of dollars or more, he said. If a collector has $25,000 to spend, they will still have a lot to choose from at the Harrisburg event.

Entry-level hobbyists should come Thursday, while the more serious collectors may want to attend Friday and Saturday, Kraman said. “It’s a fun, but heavily concentrated event. We do as much business at Harrisburg in three days as the average car dealership does in a year.”

At its first five auctions of the year, Mecum’s sell rate as vehicles crossed the block was in the mid-60 percent range, Magers said. That could mean 650 car sales in Harrisburg.

Mecum also offers a post-auction option for consignments where bids didn’t reach the lowest amount the seller would accept. That usually adds about 10 percent more to event sales.

Under the hood: Big collector car money in Harrisburg

Of the 13 collector car auctions on the annual schedule for Mecum Auctions, the company’s Harrisburg event has been the fifth-strongest in terms of total sales across the auction block.

Last year’s Harrisburg event generated $20.6 million in total sales between collector cars, motorcycles, tractors and road art items, according to Wisconsin-based Mecum, the world leader in collector car auctions.

The Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau cited 22,000 in attendance and an estimated $8.3 million economic impact from the event. It was the fourth-largest client event, in terms of economic impact, for the bureau, which works heavily with the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center.

In 2014, the first year for Mecum’s Harrisburg event — its only event in the Northeast — the four-day event generated $21.1 million in collector car and vintage motorcycle sales.
It was the largest inaugural consignment auction in the company’s history.

Top cars at the Harrisburg event, which returns July 21-23, have fetched prices exceeding $100,000. A few cars approached $200,000 and one — a 1970 Dodge Hemi Coronet R/T — cracked $300,000.

Magers said he would like to see the Harrisburg event grow to $25 million in sales. This year’s event will only feature collector cars, with a goal of 1,000 consignments across the auction block.

The momentum in the market is already there.

Mecum’s largest event in Kissimmee, Fla., finished with nearly $95 million in total sales over 10 days back in January, surpassing the 2015 total of nearly $70 million.

Industry trends

If you grew up in the 1970s or 1980s and have a love for muscle cars of that era, chances are good you will find peers at Mecum events, Kraman said.

“We’re seeing a definite trend where younger bidders want cars from the 1970s and 1980s that would have been overlooked five or 10 years ago,” he said. “Some icons like the (Camaro) Z28 and the Pontiac Trans Am are white hot, along with European, the Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini. The Gen X buyers are wanting those cars they had on posters.”

The older generation is more likely still drawn to the classics from the 1950s and 1960s.

“You always sort of collect what you grew up with, comic books or lunch boxes,” Lizewskie said. “Your first vehicle was one of the most important things in your life. It gave you your freedom.”