RM Sotheby’s successfully completed the first catalogue sale to be offered via the auction house’s time-based Online Only digital platform this past week with the presentation of Online Only: The Palm Beach Auction. 259 motor cars and 21 lots of memorabilia opened for bidding on 20 March, with lots closing in a staggered format from 25 to 28 March.

The online-only auction totaled $13.7 million in sales, with an overall sell-through rate of 69 percent. RM Sotheby’s saw an unprecedented level of interest in its online platform, with nearly 900 registered bidders—23 percent more than the average number of registered bidders at live RM Sotheby’s South Florida auctions over the last four years. Bidders participated from 44 countries, with 36 percent bidding with RM Sotheby’s for the first time. Over the course of the auction (20–28 March), there were more than 615,000 page views within the Online Only Palm Beach section of rmsothebys.com alone.

Online Only: The Palm Beach Auction was originally RM Sotheby’s 18th annual South Florida auction, set to be held at the Palm Beach International Raceway on 20–21 March. RM Sotheby’s made the decision to transition the auction to its Online Only platform due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, less than ten days prior to the scheduled auction date.

Developed in 2019, RM Sotheby’s Online Only platform is easy to use, providing consignors and bidders a platform that allows faster transactions to take place while still harnessing the level of service and global reach for which the RM Sotheby’s team is known. In this case, the Online Only platform allowed RM Sotheby’s to swiftly adapt to changing circumstances to continue to serve its clientele.

This was an unprecedented online collector car auction in terms of both value of cars offered over four days and the speed at which we had to pivot from the regularly scheduled South Florida auction,” said Kenneth Ahn, President, RM Sotheby’s, following the auction. “The decision to shift our long-established physical auction to our online platform was not without its complexities. However, as the industry’s largest market maker by total sales, we had many clients who were counting on us to sell their cars in this market and significant bidder interest gearing up for the physical auction.

The COVID-19 virus pandemic is clearly a new challenge for our industry and business. We were able to quickly mobilize and adapt to
the changing environment, allowing us to continue to serve our clients in a meaningful and effective way. We have received tremendously positive feedback from our clients and industry participants over the past several days, and we will continue to refine and improve our digital platform based on this experience. The management team and I are truly thankful for the support from our clients who entrusted us to sell their cars online on a scale we have never attempted before, and for the dedication of our team members.

The Online Only sale saw lively bidding upon opening on 20 March, with sustained interest through to the closing days (25–28 March). With interested parties watching from around the world, bidding accelerated as each lot neared closing time, with numerous lots extended by up to 30 minutes due to competitive last-minute bids.

Each car was presented with comprehensive photography as well as condition reports completed by RM Sotheby’s Car Specialists. Where available, additional information on each lot, such as history files, production certificates, restoration documentation, service invoices, owner’s manuals, and accompanying parts, was also available for viewing online on each individual lot page. RM Sotheby’s Car Specialists and dedicated client services team was also available to answer any questions from potential bidders and consignors.

Overall, the 259-car auction was led by a pair of supercars: a 1996 Porsche 911 GT2, a pristine, unmodified example of the mere 194 road-going GT2s built, which was added following the transition to an online sale and sold for a final $891,000; and a 2019 McLaren Senna, presented in virtually as-new condition with a host of desirable options and a mere 200 miles on the odometer, which brought a final $847,000.

The abundance of bidding activity in this sale—an average of 17 bids per car—showed that despite the market conditions, there is solid demand for high-quality collector cars,” said Gord Duff, Global Head of Auctions, RM Sotheby’s. “We even saw some of our top lots sold to brand-new RM Sotheby’s clientele. I don’t believe there is another collector car auction house or platform out there that has the same reach and resources, nor inspires the same trust and confidence from our clients as RM Sotheby’s. We sincerely thank all our consignors, the nearly 900 registered bidders who bid on cars with confidence, and our team who rallied and worked tirelessly to make this a successful sale.