I n a breakthrough year – not only in the history of the industry-leading auction house, but for the entire classic automobile sector – RM Sotheby’s total global transaction figure stands in excess of $925 million US. Eclipsing all other events, 2022 will be remembered as the year that Mercedes-Benz smashed the world-record price for an automobile at auction, with the 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR “Uhlenhaut Coupé” selling for an astonishing €135 million at an invitation-only auction at the Mercedes-Benz Museum on 5 May. Notably, the sale pushed an automobile into the list of the top ten most valuable items ever sold at auction, placing this car on par with fine artworks – in fact, it was the most expensive lot sold across all categories at Sotheby’s this year.
Peter Wallman, Chairman UK and EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa), summarizes this historic sale: “With this stunning achievement, our European sales have enjoyed record-breaking results. We are already looking forward to next year with an all-new collaboration with the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, which will bring a selection of coveted, race-used examples to auction at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race on 9 June. Our Villa Erba event will return in 2023, and our tenth annual Paris sale on 1 February is fast approaching.”
After setting a new world record with the 300 SLR, RM Sotheby’s Private Sales division debuted a brand-new platform, which is set to change the course of classic car auction history. Focused on client and consigner discretion, the Sotheby’s Sealed auctions are reserved for only the most desirable examples – such as the only factory-painted 2003 Ferrari Enzo in Bianco Avus, the ex-Juan Manuel Fangio 1958 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster and the ultimate 21st-century supercar, a 1998 McLaren F1, all of which sold for undisclosed amounts. The total estimate for all cars sold through Sotheby’s Sealed is in excess of $50 million – quite impressive for a first-year result, especially when added to the worldwide Private Treaty transactions conducted by RM Sotheby’s, which were in excess of $224 million this year.
“The launch of Sotheby’s Sealed has made a significant impact, not just to our sales figures, but to the cars that we can offer as well,” says Shelby Myers, Global Head of Private Sales. “Collection centerpieces can now be offered with complete privacy for both buyer and seller. Next year will bring even more one-of-a-kind sales via Sotheby’s Sealed.”
Amid a year of positive trends in the vintage vehicle market, one final highlight deserves mention. RM Sotheby’s is the only organization in the classic car auction industry that began as an automotive restoration shop. With decades of expertise, the team at RM Auto Restoration won a record seventh Best-of-Show award at the 2022 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance for their stunning work on the 1932 Duesenberg Model J Figoni Sports Torpedo, owned by Lee R. and Penny Anderson. Work has already begun on the team’s entry for 2023.
“Our outlook for 2023 remains strong when it comes to the best examples,” says Gord Duff, RM Sotheby’s Global Head of Auctions, “Our clients look for classic automobiles that will appreciate in value, though this desire has been joined by those who wish to use and experience more modern supercars and sports cars. This is the reason for the increased demand in the market. In the coming year, watch for more boutique-style sales across the world, offering the quality and diversity that our team is known for.”