It’s been several years since I’ve dealt with collector car values, a subject that attracts so much interest it is discussed at each and every car and truck show I attend. And being that the late summer and early fall car shows are at peak, I’m again going to respond to eight letters I have received from readers the last two weeks that deal with “what is my car worth?”
I had a letter recently from an owner of a 1968 Mustang Fastback who received the car in a family estate transfer and sent several photos of the car. Ditto for the Church Youth Group out in California, who are restoring 1956 Mercury and was featured in a prior column.
The ’68 Mustang Fastback deserves special attention. If you look at the picture sent, it doesn’t look like a car that is worth much money. However, if you check eBay right now, you’ll find a 1968 Mustang Fastback 289 four-speed in poor condition has attracted over 27 bids and at last check, is bringing $8,700. Additionally, the Mustang Fastback on eBay is in much worse condition than the owner of the Mustang Fastback that wrote to me. At this point, he’s not sure what he wants to do with the Mustang as it was his late brother’s car, but he is leaning toward selling it. In this case, a 1968 Mustang Fastback with a 289 V8 and manual transmission is worth some decent money for sure and I expect way more than $8,700.
Which leads me to this week’s main question — what is my collector car worth? First let’s go over why collector cars are so popular as investments and/or for the love of the hobby. I’ve always felt that collector cars are works of art that allow one to experience nostalgia in “bringing back the good old days” better than anything else. Be it a 1961 Chevy BelAir two door with a straight six-cylinder that sells for $4,500 to a 1968 Corvette L88 that can bring well into six figures, there’s a lot of leeway in there for every make of car that today is classified as an antique or collector car.
Thanks to the television car auctions, most notable Mecum and Barrett Jackson, enthusiasts like you and me are able to enjoy the hobby on a weekly basis. These auctions usually feature the top cars from whatever region they go to, and the TV time is thus centered on these cars that bring the bigger money.
And with this popularity comes a concern that everyone who has a collector car in their garage needs to address, ie: What is my car really worth? Granted there are price guides and many magazines that give results of auctions and actual money paid for cars, but in “real life” a car’s value is many times way too high for what is parked in a garage. The best real indicator of a car’s value can be found on sites like eBay, Craigslist, and also Hemmings Motor News and Auto Round-Up magazines where you’ll find prices actually paid and prices asked. Unfortunately, too many people think their car is worth the top price listed in the value magazines or price guide sites.
To answer the big question, here we go: A collector car is worth what the buyer and seller agree on. Period. If a buyer and seller agree on a purchase, this in itself takes care of what a car is worth regardless if it’s for investment or the joy of collecting.
Now, this ideology isn’t always the case as it does not include absolute top dollar investment vehicles, like the Harley Earl 1954 Olds Rocket 88 that sold for a then record $3.24 million back in 2005 at an Arizona Barrett-Jackson auction. These one-of-a-kind vehicles that cross the block are exciting to watch and they bring amazing amounts of money. These vehicles also can go up and down in values according to current economic situations.
As for the “normal” top class cars we see go through the TV auctions, like 1968 Camaro Z28, sometimes the prices paid might be higher than one would expect thanks to the excitement of being on television and being prodded by the auctioneer assistants. Still, I can’t condemn in any way the prices these cars generate, as the folks buying these cars sure seem to be having lots of fun and clearly have some big wallets. As for the price guides, they are just that ... guides.
This leads us to the average car collector hobbyist who might have a few cars in his garage. Most of these “hobbyist” cars are far from the condition of the vehicles that appear on the TV auction shows. However, thanks to watching Mecum or Barrett-Jackson, this “average Joe” collector car owner usually feels his cars are worth more than they are. On the reverse side of the coin, there are also some of these “regular cars” that really are worth more, like the owner of the 1968 Mustang Fastback that wrote to me recently.
My final advice is to do your homework before you buy or sell a collector vehicle. Additionally, there are many Mecum and Barrett Jackson cars that don’t make the TV show and sell for way less than the pristine restorations. These cars can be bid on live via the internet or telephone, and many times offer excellent buys. Check the auction sites for more information.
I hope this helps explain better to the many readers who inquire about car values in this most interesting hobby.
— Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and other Gatehouse Media publications.