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Craig Jackson on Buying and Selling Collector Cars

Benefits and Risks for First Time Buyers


Craig Jackson on Buying and Selling Collector Cars

Craig Jackson


If you have a passion for older cars, the name Barrett-Jackson needs no introduction. It is one of most well known collector car events in the United States, which attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators every year with their annual events held in Arizona, Florida, Nevada and now the most recently added venue, California.

Craig Jackson, Chairman and CEO of the Barrett-Jackson Auction Company comes from a family that has been an important part of the car collecting industry for almost forty years. His father Russ, and longtime friend and business partner Tom Barrett, founded the company in 1971.

We were able to get a thirty minute exclusive interview with Jackson at this year's Las Vegas venue located on the massive grounds of the Mandalay Bay Resort. His passion for the hobby and the company was overwhelmingly clear with every question he answered, quite candidly we might add, in his private motor coach just outside the auction floor.

Tony and Michele: What are the benefits and risks for the first time collector car buyer that comes to a Barrett-Jackson auction?

Craig Jackson: Fifty percent of our bidders, every year, tend to be first time buyers. We're sort of the entry point for everybody and we offer a little bit of everything. And our company is run by car people, so we screen the cars and if it's not a numbers matching car, we're selling it as a driver or as a modified car. I think we do a very good job of explaining what the car is, and quizzing the consignor about his car to make sure he's selling what we think he's selling. We do a lot of work on the front end which avoids a train wreck on the back end.

The benefit is you get a broad selection of cars in one place that are going to sell, they are available. The downside is you can let your emotions carry you away by not doing your homework first. We try to do as much homework as we can for the buyers, but they need to spend the time, out there, talking to the owners of the cars, about the specific car, and talking to knowledgeable people.

Now, the last interview I did I put a prefaces on that. Some so-called experts will sit in the staging lanes and bad mouth the car…then go in and buy it. So you have to make sure you understand what the guy's motive is that you're asking. If your coming here to buy a GTO, it's better if you engage someone that's knowledgeable on GTO's. And get a book on GTO's and get to know the car.

Like I said, we try do a lot of the work upfront, but it's still is on them (the buyer) to do that too, and figure out what the price is, how much do they want to pay. Now if they get carried away in the auction arena, it is a true auction and every car is going to sell, every car is kept on the money. But by the end of the day, they'll only be off by one bid, the guy behind them is willing to write the check too.

It's a great mingling at the auction, it's a lifestyle of people coming together who share the same passion, and they'll realize when they're around all these (car) people, they're not as weird as they seem, like when they hang out with guys that only go out and play golf and they're the only ones that have this passion, when they're here (Barrett-Jackson) they're normal.

Tony and Michele: How do you handle the expectations of the sellers?

Craig Jackson: If a guy calls and says I want $200K for a car and we think it's worth $100K, we ask, if it brings $100k would you be heartbroken and he says ya, I'll be furious. Well then, we think that you should keep your car or you should sell it in a different manner, but good luck to you. With all the advertising we do and all the bidders we bring here, it's going to bring what it's worth.

Let take GTO's for instance, we take every GTO and run it through the Pontiac Historical Services and we tell potential consignors if theirs is a LeMans with a GTO kit put on it. A lot of silence on the end of the phone as they try to digest that one.

When we consign a car, we consign a car, even though we are all no reserve, as if it had a reserve. We have a meeting of the minds as to what we think the car is worth. We have a lot of technology and welcome to show you up on the block. What we have on the screen is our agreed upon price and it also has the last five cars that have sold like that, and what their values were. So we have a pretty good idea of where we need to get to. Some cars get there in a minute and some may take four minutes, sometimes it takes a little longer to get to the price.

We have a screen that has a picture of the owner, and our auction, according to our rules which are also the UCC rules and the National Auctioneers Association, in an absolute auction, the owner is not allowed to bid on the car and we do not advance the bid.

So every bid is a real bid out there and if we see the owner bidding on it, we back the bid up to the last real bid.

Tony and Michele: Does that happen a lot?

Craig Jackson: More years ago, now everybody's pretty much used to the rules and when the consignment department talks to people, they're very clear this isn't tolerated. And if you do it and you get caught you get a year off that you're able to consign and you have to pay 18% on top of that…you pay both sides of the commission.

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