Amelia Island to put collectible car bubble to the test

This 1959 Maserati 200 SI is expected to sell for upwards of $5.5M
Source: Gooding & Company

For wealthy car collectors, there are three important dates in the year: Pebble Beach in August, Scottsdale in January and Amelia Island in March.

The Amelia Island sales, which run through this weekend, are by far the smallest. But this year, they will offer the latest answer to the biggest question swirling around the collectible-car world: Are prices creeping into bubble territory?

Based on the selection of cars offered and the prices, the answer may be a qualified yes.

A 1960 Ferrari 400 Superamerica Cabriolet is estimated to sell for up to $7M at auction this weekend.
Source: RM-Sotheby's

There are, of course, the predictable selection of multimillion-dollar Ferraris. Among the tops: a 1960 Ferrari 400 Superamerica SWB Cabriolet being offered by RM-Sotheby's Auctions that could sell for $6 million to $7 million and a 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 Coupe offered by Gooding that could fetch $3.4 million to $3.8 million.

But high prices for Ferraris—regarded as the best of the best in the car world—aren't a sign of a bubble. Seven-figure prices for Porsches, however, could mark a top.

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According to Hagerty, the collectible-car insurance company, there are at least four Porsches that could sell for $1 million or more. The top seller could be a 1974 Porsche 911 Carrera 3.0 RSR Coupe being sold by Gooding that could go for $1.2 million to $1.5 million. A 1973 911 Carrera 2.7 RS Sport Coupe also being sold by Gooding could go for as much as $1.4 million.

Porsches are great cars—but Porsche makes a lot of cars, since they have always been more mass market than Ferrari or Lamborghini. When Porsches start regularly selling for seven figures, it may be time to worry.

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What's more, some cars are being flipped every three or four years for big profits. The star of Amelia Island this year is a 1956 Maserati 200 SI offered by Gooding that could sell for $5 million to $10 million. There is no official estimate, but Hagerty says it "wouldn't be surprised" if the car sells for eight figures.

Super cars for the super rich
Super cars for the super rich

What bidders may not realize, however, is that the exact same car sold in 2010 for $2.64 million. So that means it's being flipped four years later for more than twice as much.

Sign of a bubble? Maybe. But as long as there is a growing number of millionaires and billionaires looking for places to put their cash, and looking for long-term investments that will hold their value, cars may continue their 10-year winning streak.

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McKeel Hagerty, CEO of Hagerty, said he doesn't think collectible car prices are a bubble. While values have soared in recent years, the price growth has started to slow to a more rational level, he said. Prices in both private and public sales are expected to be up a modest 4 percent this year after much stronger growth in previous years, he said.

"We are not watching a bubble, but more of an overall easing in the market," he said.

As for the Maserati that's bring flipped, he said it was a "good deal" when it sold in 2010 and has an "impeccable history."

"While some headlines might suggest a frenzied market, this is continually evolving into a more calculated and rational market with the strongest demand on the more discriminating cars (like the Maserati offered this weekend)," he said. "We don't expect too many surprises this weekend."