FEB 11th 2015

The Baillon Collection – auction of the century?

After a week of high profile auctions in Paris, we’ve seen some tectonic shifts in the classic car market.

As usual, according to the press-releases everyone auctioning cars has a new world-record to add to their trophy cabinet despite the fact that the Paris auctions displayed the same upward trend we saw in Scottsdale – the number of cars being sold under estimate. The estimates were more realistic in Paris, but the number of cars being sold under estimate remained high and it looked like a good place to go bargain hunting.

This opinion flies in the face of much of the commentary made on the Paris sales, so I can only assume that making the currency conversion from EUD to GBP proved to be a bridge too far for some. The volume of really desirable cars was certainly down which will have affected the numbers – if the auction houses are running out of cars, then given the unbelievable volume of sales scheduled for the rest of the year I think we can all expect a knock on the door and it won’t be Jehovah’s Witnesses.


The highlight of Retromobile week was undoubtedly the sale of the Baillon Collection. Artcurial, the French auction house laying claim to the ‘barn find of the century’, will forgive me (I hope) for labelling them as the underdogs in the face of some mighty, gavel-wielding competition, but boy did they deliver.

Love for the automobile isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when considering French nationhood, but on that day Paris was the centre of the automotive universe and the auction was a joy to behold with plenty of theatre. The team of auctioneers were unble to contain their enthusiasm, delight, surprise and a whole load of other Gallic utterances and emotions as the rusting hulks of the collection flew off the shelves for eye watering prices. It must take a French accent to be able to disguise the irony of describing every tangled remain as being in ‘beautiful condition’. Even the website went down temporarily under the strain.

According to Artcurial, every lot of the Baillon collection sold, almost all of them over estimate and 85% of them went to ‘foreign buyers’. It seems almost crass to report that a Ferrari 250 SWB California sold for EUD 14.2 million on the hammer, another world record at auction…

So, rust is the new gold – but this wasn’t about barn finds. This was about history, being part of something bigger than classic car ownership and even watching on a laptop from hundreds of miles away it felt like history being made. The sale was a shot in the arm for an industry that is in danger of becoming jaded by over-supply and ‘investment potential’, and served to show the strength and depth of love for classic cars worldwide. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to gather a restored Baillon collection in Paris in ten years time? Either way, I’m sure M. Baillon would have been proud.

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