A Collector’s Guide to the Tribal Art Market


Estimated to sell for just £60-100, this rare 19th century necklace or tabua from Mangaia in the southern Cook Islands sold to a French dealer at £99,000 (plus buyer’s premium) at Ewbank’s of Send in Surrey on December 1. It is fashioned from marine ivory (sperm whale teeth) suspended from woven coconut fibres or sennit bound with human hair.

The Tribal Art Market Takes Centre Stage

In recent months, the UK’s regional salerooms have been treated to a generous handful of five and six-figure bids for unappreciated masterworks of Aboriginal and Oceanian art. Auctioneers and vendors are quickly discovering that Europe’s country houses, furnished with the routine period objects that no longer generate great excitement, can occasionally yield valuable souvenirs of a colonial past. Tribal art, it seems, is on a roll.


At their Neuilly-sur-Seine saleroom, the French auction house Aguttes will auction a large collection of Hawaiian art collected over a period of 20 years by dealer Rainer Werner Bock. The three-day sale includes items of great historic interest including both a spear (estimate €68,000-75,000) and a flag from the Hawaiian monarchic period (estimate €12,000-15,000), collected by Captain Cook during his third expedition in 1779-80. Pictured here is a bi-facial ironwood war club or ?U?U – a form unique to the Marquesas Islands (estimate €75 000-85,000).

The History of Tribal Art Collection

The collecting of tribal art or ethnographica has a history as old as the voyages of Captain Cook. But it has been turbo-charged by the worldwide reach of the internet. Not only is the search engine the source of once hard-to-find information in once little understood fields, it has also proved the perfect medium for connecting enthusiasts in Continental Europe, the US, Australia and New Zealand with their far-flung quarry.


An Austral Islands ‘paddle’ sold for £7000 (plus buyer’s premium) at Woolley & Wallis of Salisbury in March 2017. Many of these profusely carved totems were made in workshops as trade goods until c.1842 after which time European disease had wiped out the carvers.

Oceanic and African art in particular has long been embraced by a coterie of academics and collectors who cherish its originality and quality. But in recent years, interest has grown among interior decorators and the sort of money-no-object collector who previously focused only on the blue-chip brand names of Western art.

With the advent of the international art fair in particular it has been easier to make plain the close relationship that exists between tribal art and the ‘pioneers’ of the European modern movement.

Christie’s Plays the Commercial Game

Christie’s sale last May titled Evolution of Form: African & Oceanic Art at The Genesis of Modernism played an intriguing commercial game, placing Baioma carvings from New Guinea on view alongside a Jean Dubuffet and a $2m Baule female figure from the Ivory Coast next to a Modigliani portrait. All successful bidders at the sale were described by the auctioneers as ‘cross-over collectors’ with two regular clients for modern art making their first ever purchases in the field of ethnographic art.


A 3ft 3in (1m) wide Santa Cruz currency roll or tevau sold for £18,000 (plus buyer’s premium) at Woolley & Wallis of Salisbury in March. In the Solomon Islands these precious rolls of scarlet honeyeater feathers acted as security for large transactions.

Challenges of the Tribal Art Market

Like all markets, tribal art has its unique set of challenges. Some items include the sort of materials that are no longer easily traded – notably elephant and marine ivory, tortoiseshell, shell and exotic bird feathers – while the subject can occasionally prove culturally sensitive. It was no coincidence that when last year Salisbury auctioneers Woolley & Wallis were asked to sell a Benin bronze oba, the seven-figure transaction was made privately.

Above all, precise dating can be difficult and copies from multiple periods abound. As a general rule, there is a gulf in prices – and interest – between those pieces that were created for use in a domestic or ceremonial capacity and those that were produced purely for the tourist trade. For this reason, there is a huge premium to be placed on an old provenance.


At Christie’s in Paris on April 4 this 18th century Dogon mask carries and estimate of €2.5m-3.5m.

Opportunities in the Market

With genuine objects in short supply (much entered institutional collections in the 20th century) there are those who believe prices still have some way to go as the tribal art market slowly but surely moves from the scholarly periphery towards the mainstream. A test comes at Christie’s in Paris on April 4 when an 18th century Dogon mask with a 70-year collecting history carries an estimate of €2.5m-3.5m.

Discovered in Africa in the 1950s, this celebrated piece was acquired first by the Parisian art dealer René Rasmussen and later in the 1960s by the cosmetics magnate and collector Gaston de Havenon (1904-93). At a landmark auction at Drouot in 1994, when de Havenon’s collection was sold, the mask was acquired by an American collector, whose family have consigned it for sale.

Traditional Selling Centres

France and Belgium are the traditional selling centres for tribal (particularly African) art with the BRUNEAF (Brussels Non European Art Fair) the annual showpiece. Next slated for June 7-11, it takes the form of a trail around the galleries of the Sablon area where many dealers are based with others arriving from further afield to hold exhibitions. The subject is vast (simply learn the art of all the indigenous cultures of the world and you have it covered) so it is natural that many seek to specialise.


Estimated at just £50-100, this 19in (47cm) long Maori putorino or bugle flute sold to a French dealer for £140,000 (plus buyer’s premium) at John Nicholson’s of Haslemere, Surrey on February 23. A similar putorino, attributed to the southern or eastern region of New Zealand’s North Island sold for €90,000 as part of the Murray Frum’s collection of Oceanic art sold by Sotheby’s Paris in 2014.

In the UK, the number of dealers and specialist sales are much smaller but, with all the correct demographics in place, London has at least the potential to become a market centre. Now in its third year, the Tribal Art London initiative (September 5-9) is helping with exposure although a spanner in the works could be Brexit. If there is one collecting area that demands the free circulation of goods between countries, it’s this one.

Roland Arkell (LinkedIn) is the Contributing Editor at ATG Media.  For almost two decades, Roland has been writing about the British and international art and antiques market for Antiques Trade Gazette, the leading publication for serious buyers and sellers of art and antiques.

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Antiquities: Old values hold firm in market under siege

Top 5 Selling American Female Artists

American Female Artists - Cindy Sherman Still from an Untitled Film

Cindy Sherman (American, born Glen Ridge, New Jersey, 1954)

Women’s History Month has led to an influx of articles on the stat of women in the arts. They cover the positive trends for women in terms of representation in major art institutions, appreciation for female artists of the past and sales in the market. As a part of our heritage month series, we are focusing on the sales trends by taking a closer look at the top selling American female artists. They are ranked by the total value of their impressive secondary market sales.

  1. Cindy Sherman ($121M)

Cindy Sherman was born in Glen Ridge, New Jersey but raised in Long Island, New York. Her exploration of art began while studying at Buffalo State University. She established her reputation with her Untitled Film Stills (1977-80), a series of 69 photographs of the artist enacting female clichés of 20th-century pop culture.

Her work is considered a reexamination of women’s roles in history and contemporary society, but Sherman resists the notion that her photographs have an explicit narrative or message, leaving them untitled and largely open to interpretation. “I didn’t think of what I was doing as political,” she once said. “To me it was a way to make the best out of what I liked to do privately, which was to dress up.”

Sherman’s Auction History

Because Sherman achieved international success at a relatively young age, her work has had a considerable maturation in value over the past two decades. In 1995, the Museum of Modern Art purchased the complete set from Untitled Film Stills for $1 million. By 2014, the entire collection was auctioned off at Christie’s for $7 million.

American Female Artists - Louise Bourgeois Eyes

Louise Borgeois, Eyes (1982). Source: The Met

  1. Louise Bourgeois ($135M)

Born in Paris in 1911 and educated at the Sorbonne, Louise Bourgeois, moved to New York in 1938 after marrying art historian Robert Goldwater. Her artwork, which spanned most of the twentieth century, was heavily influenced by traumatic psychological events from her childhood, particularly her father’s infidelity. Bourgeois’ continual coverage of the themes of loneliness, jealousy, anger, and fear along with sexually explicit subject matter and her focus on three-dimensional form were rare for female artists at the time. Art was her tool for coping. She once said, “Art is a guarantee of sanity.”

Overdue Critical Success

Bourgeois’ idiosyncratic approach wasn’t appreciated during the height of her career while formal issues dominated art world thinking. When the focus shifted to the examination of various kinds of imagery and content in the 1970s and 80s, her work came to the forefront. In 1982, at 70 years old, Bourgeois finally took centre stage with a retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art. After that, she was filled with new confidence and forged ahead creating installation pieces, drawings on paper and printmaking. Bourgeois died in New York in 2010 at the age of 98. Her pieces earned $5.2 million at auction in 2016.

American Female Artsts - Mary Cassatt Lilacs in a Window

Mary Cassatt, Lilacs in a Window (1880–83). Source: The Met

  1. Mary Cassatt ($140M)

Mary Stevenson Cassatt was born in Allegheny City (now part of Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania in 1844. She studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts before traveling to Paris to continue her artistic training.  Cassatt remained in France for most of her career where she was recognized by contemporaries like Edgar Degas. Degas invited her to join the Impressionists and she holds the distinction of being the only American artist to exhibit with the group in Paris. Her signature subjects were portraits of women and portrayals of mothers and children caught in everyday moments.

Critical Success and Legacy

Cassatt’s work spanned mediums, combining the light colour palette and loose brushwork of Impressionism with compositions influenced by Japanese art as well as by European Old Masters. This versatility helped to establish her professional success at a time when very few women were regarded as serious artists.

As an advisor to art collectors, her influence benefitted many public and private collections in the United States. From her early days in Paris, she encouraged the collection of old masters and the French avant-garde. She was also instrumental in shaping the collection of Mr. and Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, most of which is now in the Metropolitan Museum.

Failing eyesight severely curtailed Cassatt’s work after 1900.  She spent most of the time during the World War I in France and died in 1926.

  1. Georgia O’Keefe ($185M)
American Female Artists - Georgia O'Keefe Black Place II

Georgia O’Keefe (1944). Source: The Met

Born in 1887 in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, Georgia O’Keefe studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Art Students League in New York. Over her seven-decade career, she sought to capture the emotion and power of objects through abstracting the natural world. She was one of the first American artists to practice pure abstraction and her husband Alfred Stieglitz identified her as the first female American modernist.

Portraying Americana

By the mid-1920s, O’Keeffe was recognized as one of America’s most important and successful artists. She became known for her paintings of New York skyscrapers—an essentially American image of modernity. Her paintings of flowers, barren landscapes, and close-up stills have become a part of the interpretation of the American artistic landscape.

Later in life, O’Keefe suffered from macular degeneration but her failing eyesight didn’t diminish her will to create. At age ninety, she observed, “I can see what I want to paint. The thing that makes you want to create is still there.” While almost blind, she enlisted the help of several assistants to enable her to again produce art.  In these works, she returned to favorite visual motifs from her memory and vivid imagination. O’Keeffe died in Santa Fe, on March 6, 1986, at the age of 98. She set the record for a work sold by a female artist in 2014 with her Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 which sold for $44.4 million.

  1. Joan Mitchell ($306M)
American Female Artists - Joan Mitchell Untitled (1960)

Joan Mitchell. Untitled (1960). Source: Christie’s

Joan Mitchell was born in Chicago in 1925 and attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her work was inspired by landscapes, nature, and poetry, while her intent was not to create a recognizable image, but to convey emotions.  She referred to herself as the “last Abstract Expressionist,” often creating large and multi-paneled paintings that featured sweeping brushstrokes and bold coloration.

Impressive Market Success Trickles Behind Early Critical Success

Mitchell’s success in the 1950s came at time when few female artists were recognized. Though critics tended to interpret her paintings as expressions of rage and violence due to her what many considered an abrasive personality, they almost as often saw the lyricism in her work.

It took decades for her critical success to result in market success but, since 2004, Mitchell’s paintings have been selling in the millions.  Her most recent sale was a painting that was auctioned for £1,565,000 at Sotheby’s in June 2016. Mitchell died in 1992 at the age of 67.

Who’s Next?

The list of high-grossing female artists is growing with Cady Nolan and Julie Mehretu, who was featured on our list of top selling African American artists, leading the pack for American women. Who will crack this list first? With Cindy Sherman still producing great work and Joan Mitchell’s continuing strong results, it could be a few years before there is a major change in this ranking.

Data compiled from artnet and Artsy.

Related Blogs:
Top Selling African American Visual Artists
The 2016 Art and Antiques Trade: New Threats to An Old Profession
The Global Art Market – Out with the New and in with the Old?

5 Best Websites for Jewelry News

Note to reader: This article is non-promotional, all views are author’s own.

It’s important for us luxury jewelry lovers to keep up to date with the hottest trends, so Borro has compiled a list of the 5 Best Websites for Jewelry News.

5) Jewels du Jour

Jewels du Jour

Why Borro Loves Jewels du Jour: Occasions and trends

This website has great coverage on those most see auctions and events for jewelry lovers. It focuses on key trends of the market such the top ten jewels, red carpet coverage and important exhibitions.

4) Jewellery Monthly

jewellery monthly

Why Borro Loves Jewellery Monthly: Occasions and trends

This website is great for discovering the upcoming jewelry trends and finding gifts for holidays such as Valentine’s Day and Christmas. The site also has a great section for those who are engaged, with lots of advice about wedding rings.

3) Professional Jeweller

professional jeweller

This website is great for reading about particular brands and people in the UK jewelry business. You can expect to find out about who is breaking headlines in the world of all things jewels. There are sections with opinions and interviews to give you an insiders’ view of the industry.

2) National Jeweler

national jeweler

Why Borro Loves National Jeweler: US Industry News

National Jeweler is a great source of information about the jewelry market in the US. You can read about the executives from specific luxury jewelry companies, key designers, major products and trends.

1) Luxury Daily

luxury daily

Why Borro Loves Luxury Daily: Ticks all the boxes!

The luxury daily is a website that focuses on all kinds of luxury assets, but we believe its jewelry section deserves the top spot on this list. The reason for this is that it acts as a combination of all the strong points of the sites previously listed. It looks at what jewelry brands are working on, from campaigns to product launches, to that nature of the market itself.

That completes our list of the top 5 Jewelry Websites to follow! If you want to suggest any more sites or blogs that you feel would be worth sharing, tweet us at @borrobuzz

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Record Breaking $70.9M in Sales for RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island Auction

RM Sotheby's Amelia Island - 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Cabriolet

The sale-topping 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Cabriolet (credit – Darin Schnabel © 2016 courtesy RM Sotheby’s)

RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island Auction Sets Records

RM Sotheby’s, cemented its standing in the car market by generating an incredible $70.9 million in sales with 90 percent of all lots sold at its 19th annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance sale March 10-11. Setting a new record for an Amelia Island auction, the impressive total exceeds the combined tally of all the other auctions held during 2017’s Amelia Island weekend.

“We’re thrilled with the results from this weekend’s Amelia Island sale,” comments Gord Duff, Auction Manager, RM Sotheby’s. “Not only was it our best ever Amelia Island performance, but the highest tally in Amelia Island auction history. The caliber of entries our team secured for this year’s event was second-to-none, as reflected in the positive feedback from collectors and media alike during preview, as well as the multiple bidding contests that filled the auction room during both sale sessions. We’re proud to have once again raised the bar, and look forward to continuing the momentum as we move into the busy Spring / Summer auction season.”

RM Sotheby's Amelia Island - 1929 Stutz Model M Supercharged Coupe

The record-setting 1929 Stutz Model M Supercharged Coupe (credit – Dirk de Jager © 2016 courtesy RM Sotheby’s)

1937 Bugatti and 1929 Stutz Top Lots

Leading RM’s string of 19 individual million-dollar-plus sales and claiming top honors of the 2017 Amelia Island auctions was a striking 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Cabriolet, one of only three examples sporting rare coachwork by Vanvooren of Paris. Offered for public sale for the first time in its 80-year history, the highly original Type 57S sparkled under the auction lights during Saturday’s sale session, commanding $7,700,000. Just moments prior to the Bugatti’s sale, a well-known 1929 Stutz Model M Supercharged Coupe, one of only three supercharged Stutzes in existence, proved demand remains strong for great American Classics at auction, selling for $1,705,000 against a pre-sale estimate of $1-1.2 million. The strong sales price represents a new record for a Stutz at auction.

RM Sotheby's Amelia Island - Orin Smith Collection

A glimpse at some of the automobiles of the Orin Smith Collection (credit – Darin Schnabel © 2016 courtesy RM Sotheby’s)

Orin Smith Collection Packs the Room

Friday’s sale session was also one for the books, with the Orin Smith Collection generating $31 million in sales with a 100 percent sell-through. The sale represented the first-time RM has hosted a Friday evening sale at Amelia, and provided a fitting tribute to a man beloved by the Amelia crowd, drawing a packed sales room.

RM Sotheby's Amelia Island - 1956 Maserati A6G-54 Frua Coupe Series III

The subject of one of the weekend’s most exciting bidding contests, the 1956 Maserati A6G/54 Frua Coupe Series III (credit – Dirk de Jager © 2017 courtesy RM Sotheby’s)

The power of ‘no reserve’ exhibited at Friday’s Orin Smith Collection sale was witnessed again on Saturday with strong results achieved for a well-known private collection of 10 sporting cars. Highlighting the group, a dramatic two-tone red and black 1956 Maserati A6G/54 Frua Coupe Series III, much-admired by enthusiasts during preview, provided one of the most intense and lively bidding contests of the weekend, eventually selling for $2,365,000 against a pre-sale estimate of $1.6-2.2 million. From the same collection, a 1974 Porsche 911 Carrera RS 3.0 eclipsed its pre-sale estimate of $900,000 – $1.1 million to storm into the record books at a final $1,375,000 (an auction record for the model). Also, commanding strong bids were a spectacular 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing, which sold for $1,358,500, and a stunning 1955 Alfa Romeo 1900C SS Coupe, which brought in $1,100,000.

RM Sotheby's Amelia Island - Mike Tyson's Ferrari F50

Ex-boxer Mike Tyson’s Ferrari F50 takes centerstage at RM’s 2017 Amelia Island sale (credit – Dirk de Jager © 2017 courtesy RM Sotheby’s)

RM Amelia Island Top 10 Sales:

  1. Lot 232 – 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Cabriolet (Chassis 57513) $7,700,000
  2. Lot 218 – 1995 Ferrari F50 (Chassis ZFFTG46A0S0104220) $2,640,000
  3. Lot 260 – 1956 Maserati A6G/54 Coupe Series III (Chassis 2181) $2,365,000
  4. Lot 163 – 1936 Lancia Astura Cabriolet Series III “Tipo Bocca” (Chassis 33-5313) 2,145,000
  5. Lot 263 – 1964 Ferrari 275 GTB (Chassis 06681) $1,842,500
  6. Lot 139 – 1966 Aston Martin Short-Chassis Volante (Chassis DB5C/2301/L) $1,705,000
  7. Lot 231 – 1929 Stutz Model M Supercharged Coupe (Chassis M-C-31312) $1,705,000
  8. Lot 123 – 1956 Bentley S1 Continental Drophead Coupe (Chassis BC22LBG) $1,683,000
  9. Lot 276 – 2012 Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport (Chassis VF9SK2C25CM795051) $1,650,000
  10. Lot 122 – 1953 Fiat 8V Supersonic (Chassis 106 000049) $1,375,000

About the Author: Tim Hutton has been involved in the automotive industry for 17 years, creating ideas and content for premium brands. When not writing about cars, you will find him driving them all around the world. Having learned to drive at seven in a racing car, petrol is very much in his veins.

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Car of the Month – 2018 McLaren 720S


Image Source: Jalopnik

Borro has been taking a look at the luxury car market and picking out cars that we believe are ones to watch.  New or classic, sports or leisure, you’ll be interested to see who makes cut. This time we explore the 2018 McLaren 720S.

History of McLaren

For those less familiar with the brand, McLaren is a British car company that was founded in 1963 by Bruce McLaren. The company focuses on 3 main range names: Sports cars, Super cars and Ultimate Series cars.

Geneva Motor Show Debut

At the 2017 Geneva Motor Show, McLaren unveiled its newest car in the Super Series – the 720S. The car is expected to go on sale in May and would cost the buyer around $280,000.


Image Source: Jalopnik

Built for Speed

Striving for speed, the McLaren 720S reaches 60mph in less than 3 seconds and reaches speeds of over 200mph. The car is powered by a 4-litre twin turbo engine with 710 horsepower.


Image Source: Jalopnik

This McLaren 720S is extremely lean and lightweight. There are special air ducts that allows the engine to cool down 15% more effectively than its predecessor the 650S.


Image Source: Jalopnik

Impressive Interior

This model is around 40 pounds lighter than the 650S, even though it’s got more space. It also includes an 8 inch touch screen and a leather cabin shod. It has four independent dampers that are controlled via a computer system that gathers data from the suspension and sensors around the car that react in under two milliseconds. Smart and pretty.

So there we have it – our car of the month – what do you think? Will this McLaren 720S live up to its “Raise your limits” tagline, or do you have a better sports car in mind? Let us know by tweeting us at @borrobuzz

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To Watch: Rolex


Image credit: watchtime.com

Borro is keeping its eye on the luxury asset market, noting key players and people that are at the forefront of the field. This month we think Rolex is a key brand to acknowledge, as it has been voted the world’s most reputable company of 2017.

This is not the first-time Rolex has topped the list of the world’s most reputable companies as it won the title last year too.

So how exactly did the famed luxury watch brand earn this rank? The Reputation Institute collected data from 170,000 participants and tracks how these people perceive companies by considering the following: innovation, governance, leadership and performance, products and services, workplace and citizenship.

The reason why reputation is so important to companies such as Rolex is because it has a huge impact on sales. If you’re investing in luxury watches, 2017 could be a great year to do this and we can expect to see a lot of exciting auctions this year. If you’re looking to get involved in luxury watch auctions this year, click here for some upcoming sales with Christie’s and Sotheby’s.

A score of over 80 points is considered ‘excellent’ in this system’s ranking, and Rolex gained this status with a score of 80.38. Why? Well apparently customers view Rolex as high quality and the brand meets its consumers’ needs. The company is also perceived as very well organized and profitable.

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The Paul Newman Daytona – A Watch On Radar
What Borro Watched – February Edition

What Borro Watched – February Edition

Watch Industry - TAG Heuer

Image supplied, courtesy of TAG Heuer

February’s in the books and the dash to Basel has begun. Brands around the world are working fervently to get their novelties ready and their logistical plans in order. It’s a crazy time in the watch industry with the second month of the year being the calm between two storms of activity. So what came out of SIHH that seems likely to stick, and what can we expect from Baselworld 2017 when the lid is lifted later this month?

Wary Times for Companies and Collectors alike

It’s no secret that the last 18 months have been a hellish rollercoaster for the watch industry. The landscape of luxury is changing rapidly and every brand is trying to adjust. There’s been a notable dip in start-ups getting a sure foothold in the market, partly because major maisons with a great deal more financial clout, infrastructure, and, most crucially, established devotees are slashing their entry-level price point in a bid to get more punters through the door.

From an industry-wide perspective this is a good thing in the sense it’s making watchmaking a more accessible hobby to a wider range of people than we’ve seen since the creative navigation of the Quartz Crisis. A new generation of watch lovers is needed to lay foundations for the future. It’s no good pricing out the young fans of the watch industry, because they will one day inherit the Earth. It’s almost the responsibility of big brands to fall on their sword somewhat to make sure they don’t alienate potential purchasers before they’re cleared the first hurdle.

Then again, the watch industry must not stray too deeply into what is clearly dangerous territory. Bigger brands can always subsidise their entry level, because their real money comes from mid-high value watches. Smaller, more creative brands have much higher production costs (relatively speaking) because of the lower volumes they’re working with and the fact that most need to outsource a significant portion of their business. This stifles innovation and hinders revolution. It’s also potentially damaging to the perception of a brand, and, as anyone who has been around watchmaking or any other luxury industry for any amount of time will tell you, reputation is everything.

Look for Established Independents for Guidance

Watch Industry - NOMOS Glashütte

Image supplied, courtesy of NOMOS Glashütte

There is a balance to be found, and a route through this seemingly impassable minefield – the established independents already up-to-speed with in-house manufacture. There aren’t many of them, but there are a few very good micro-independents that invest heavily in the quality of their watches rather than massive advertising campaigns that cut into their production budget. This is where value can still be found and, in my opinion, where the future leading lights of the industry reside.

About the Author: Fell Jensen is a Swiss-trained watchmaker working as an industry analyst.

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What Borro Watched – January Edition
SIHH in Review
BASELWORLD 2017 – Watch this Space

What Will Happen with Car Auctions in 2017?

Car Auctions – Lamborghini Espada at Tonini Classics

Lamborghini Espada at Tonini Classics

The auction season has kicked off and we take a quick look at 2016 to try to understand what will happen in 2017!

2016 Car Auction Review

I think it would be fair to say that 2016 was a year of bewildered wonderment, not just in the political or cultural arena, but also in the world of classic cars. A disappointing start with shaky results at Rétromobile in Paris didn’t set any particular trend as estimates were shattered in certain sales, not met in others. Very unpredictable.

Car Auctions – Tonini Classics in Dubai

Tonini Classics in Dubai prides itself in originality

Of course, the two major talking points last year were, the frankly ludicrous prices achieved for those air-cooled 911s, specifically the 993 GT2 fetching £1.8m when a matching numbers 1973 2.7 RS achieved “just” £459,000, and secondly that Milan auction in November. Controversial and contentious, certainly, but my goodness, did it get everyone talking things up again.

Why Modern Cars Are Pulling in Higher Estimates

So how is 2017 looking like so far? The Arizona auction in January (RM Sotheby’s again) sees yet more modern supercars pass across the block hoping to cash in on last year’s prices, specifically the 1997 Porsche 911 (993) Turbo S at a lower estimate of $425,000 and another 993 GT2 at $1.1m. There is also even more modernity in a Bugatti Veyron, Ferrari F50 and Porsche 959 with estimates in the millions rather than the hundreds of thousands we would have expected just a couple of years ago.

What we have to remember is as the new buying population gets younger in age, the newer the cars seen as “classics” get. Aston Martin DB5s, Ferrari 250 SWBs and the like no longer appeal to the new, younger buyers. These buyers want the exclusivity without the idiosyncrasies that old cars bring, and they are happy to pay for it.

Car Auctions – The Toyota 2000GT

The Toyota 2000GT, under 400 exist and this one is for sale for a cool $1m

Auction Safe Bets

People love rarity, be it records, antiques and paintings, watches or cars. As manufacturing in smaller numbers gets cheaper due to economies of scale, the limited run production cars will always be a safe-bet going forward. Look at the fuss that was made about the Porsche 991 GT3 RS at launch, and then, just as you thought it couldn’t get any crazier, they announce the 911R. Even a new model such as this can command huge premiums straight away.


Car Auctions - McLaren’s 12C

McLaren’s 12C is ageing very well and is sure to rise in value soon

McLaren too can’t get enough with production of the 675LT models selling out, and now we see the limited-edition Aston Martins, the GT12 and new GT8 going the same way. Just like that 993 GT2, if you have something rare to sell, people will want it, whatever the cost. It will be interesting to see how these cars fare at auction in 20 years’ time.

Continuation Trend

Car Auctions – Jaguar XJ220

“Continuation” is the new In-Thing with manufacturers as Aston Martin being the latest to announce a limited run of DB4 GTs to be built at Newport Pagnell. Jaguar did the same with the Lightweight E-Types and are about to do it again by finishing the production run of XKSS models that were destroyed in the fire at Browns Lane in 1957. Despite many classic race meetings (most notably Goodwood) publicly stating they won’t let these cars enter their competitions, production is sold out. Interestingly however, these will still drive like their original forebears thus proving that there are still enough collectors out there that want an old car, even one that is built new.

Predictions for the Rest of 2017

Rarity, originality and provenance are the three most vital elements for this year I would suggest. If all of these are present and unquestionable, the price is sure to reflect it. Prepare to dig deep again this year.

All images are the author’s own

About the Author: Tim Hutton has been involved in the automotive industry for 17 years, creating ideas and content for premium brands. When not writing about cars, you will find him driving them all around the world. Having learned to drive at seven in a racing car, petrol is very much in his veins.

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