Nestled not far from the Louisiana border, the town of Marshall is a jewel in the rolling hills of East Texas. With a population totaling just over 22,000 people in the most recent census, it is not an exaggeration to say that the recent RM Sotheby’s auction of The Gene Ponder Collection attracted a good portion of the surrounding area. Visitors who took the time to preview the auction location witnessed an expansive estate, nestled among pine trees, with more than a dozen buildings, each containing enough automobiles and automobilia to cover nearly every square inch of real estate.
Vintage bicycles and large model airplanes hung from the ceilings, vintage jukeboxes and pinball machines lined the walls, and nearly every room featured an offering from the array of over 120 European sports cars and motorcycles, many of them painted red—Mr. Ponder’s favorite color. With an encyclopedic array of memorabilia pushing the offerings to 1,163 lots, preparing for this collection was an extraordinary undertaking, showing the strength and abilities of the RM Sotheby’s auction team. Earning $24,315,417 over a three-day single-owner sale, this collection proved Mr. Ponder’s dedication was worthwhile.
A total of 977 registered bidders from 31 countries and 46 states participated. “For those who were lucky enough to attend,” said RM Sotheby’s Automobilia Specialist Kurt Forry, “words are very unnecessary. Mr. Ponder’s collection of rare Bugatti and Ferrari collectibles has captured the world’s attention, and deservedly so. We would also like to express our appreciation for all the interested bidders, who helped make this sale such a success with their enthusiasm.”
Representing nearly every automotive brand in history, the selection of motoring memorabilia amassed by Mr. Ponder brought in an impressive $3,344,792, a testament to the quality of his collection. Two-and-a-half days of the three-day single-owner sale were dedicated to these automobilia offerings. Thursday’s auction saw 491 lots go under the hammer and brought over $1M, with the Pegasus Neon and Bugatti Children’s Car being the highest lots sold as they both smashed their pre-sale estimates and brought $19,550 each.
Automobilia lots continued the following day, with Friday’s auction featuring another 455 in total. If anything, the second day’s selection proved even more superior, commanding nearly $1.3M, with the Arnolt-Bristol Engine on Running Engine Stand being the highest selling lot of the day at $57,500. Saturday’s finale was 217 lots strong (by comparison, our successful Monterey 2022 auction featured only 190 total offerings), but it encompassed the lion’s share of the sum.
A faithful companion of Mr. Ponder on prestigious road rallies until 2019, his 1960 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster earned a respectable sum of $1,595,000 USD. The second of two cars valued at $1M or more was the 1938 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic Recreation by Erik Koux, which hammered down at $1,155,000 USD, befitting its fine quality. The rest of the list of top-ten cars included several authentic models, including a 1960 Maserati 3500 GT Spyder by Vignale, which brought $770,000 USD, and a 1954 Aston Martin DB2/4 Drophead Coupe by Graber, a feature car at this year’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, sold for $687,500 USD. Altogether, an offering of automobiles to suit every taste.
Sprightly and spry, Mr. Ponder is owed as much credit for amassing this collection as he does for promoting it, with several appearances for local and national news outlets. Starting with an interest in pre- and post-war MG models (a total of 34 examples were sold in this auction), Mr. Ponder has demonstrated an uncanny ability to curate a collection, and an endless capacity as a gentleman. His summary of the results is as follows: “I am so impressed with RM Sotheby’s. They have so much pride in what they do, and they will put in as much effort into a $500 lot as a $5M lot. The RM Sotheby’s team has spent thousands of hours onsite ensuring the sale would be a success, and the results of the auction reflect the effort and passion of everyone at RM Sotheby’s.”
RM Sotheby’s Auction Coordinator Thatcher Keast concluded, “The Gene Ponder Collection was a unique and incredible opportunity for a buyer to come experience the passion of Mr. Ponder firsthand at his estate. Bidders onsite could see that every aspect of this property revolves around the vehicles, the memorabilia, and Mr. Ponder’s love for all things automotive. We are thrilled that Mr. Ponder chose RM Sotheby’s to execute a sale of this magnitude and as a team, RM Sotheby’s knew we would deliver the best possible results for Mr. Ponder. The sale was extraordinary, and we are extremely happy with the results we achieved for Mr. Ponder.”