“People don’t care if they have to pay $1m for a piece that’s priced to sell for $60,000,” Alex Rotter, chairman of Christie’s art department, told the Wall Street Journal. “They’re making up their own rules.”
Alex is on the money there and not just about paintings.
From real art (in the last two weeks Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Philips sold $3.6bn of oil on canvas), NFT art (a work by British artist Beeple sold at Christie’s for nearly $100m in March), crpyto (the crypto market recently hit $4 trillion and then fell), sandshoes (Michael Jordan’s used size-13 1984 Air Ships sold last month for $2m), guitars (this week someone paid nearly $1m for Eric Clapton’s used 1968 Martin D-45 – you can buy a non-Eric 1968 Martin for about $14k) to watches (a week ago a used 1923 Patek Phillipe desk sold at a Geneva auction for $14m), prices of everything vaguely collectable are going up faster than Tesla shares ($1578k vs $40 five years ago). Of course, car prices, classic, used and new are going the same way. All of this is driven by POMO: Panic Of Missing Out.
And surprise, surprise, the country with the highest median wealth in the world was, you never guessed it, Australia. And in the stop whingeing about how tough things are department: Australia has the highest rate of millionaire density behind Switzerland. No more Aussie battlers then.
Of course, when everyone has bucket loads of cash it inevitably brings a shortage of the necessities of life.
Want to buy a new Rolex Daytona? Put down your $25k and wait a year. Want to rent a jet? You can’t. Three of the world’s top private jet operators including Warren Buffett’s NetJets have “paused” new customers and put prices up for old ones. Want to get a 55-metre boat with a 7.2-tonne submarine on the aft deck? Pay $100m and wait four years. Want to buy a house in Sydney’s eastern suburbs? Don’t let it go to auction. If the owner is asking $8m give him $10m to sell it to you now.
We all know this tune. Loose money, speculative frenzies, lead to weirdo asset prices and stratospheric price-earnings ratios and then bad things happen despite all those experts who say this time it’s different.
Have a look at how US PE ratios over the last 95 years have predicted the downturns. If the cycles are getting shorter then we have four or five years to run.
What does the classic car market show us? Well, using the only really, verifiable index, Simon Kidston’s K500, it’s pretty clear that over the last 25 years the only cars that have weathered every economic storm and outperformed on any measure have been Ferraris from birth to 1973. Even then there are probably more dud ones (no matching numbers, missing history, rebirths, etc) than investment grade Feezers.
One of the secrets to the good life is connection to a tribe. Most cars at most prices will give you entry to meeting and enjoying great groups of people. Just about every brand has a car club.
Then there’s non-competitive, very safe adventures like James Freeman’s Shitbox Rallies. Who doesn’t want to spend six days driving 3500km with 400 other persons dressed as peas and carrots. Or most tarmac rallies like Targa Tasmania and Shannons Adelaide let you enter a novice section to have all the fun of closed roads with your car guaranteed to be in one piece at the end.
OK. That bring us nicely to the start of this year’s Shannons Adelaide Rally last Thursday. We don’t finish till Sunday arvo but already things are looking a bit grim. A big thank you to all those readers who came up and said hello but then asked the wrong question. “Where is the Sultan?” doesn’t get you a pass mark. Anyway, the answer was: “The Sultan has just discovered GoPro and so far has spent 14 hours trying to fit it to the Beemer and make it work.” In fact, he is so enamoured with his GoPro 10 that he is considering using it to make nude NFTs of the royal family (except two) and flog them from his Stepney Road atelier.
Rather than waiting around I rented a 2021 Ford Mustang GT from Hertz and did a recce of the rally course through the Adelaide Hills, the Barossa Valley and Regency Park. The GT is not a car for everyone. Wusses, electric car fans, soccer supporters and soap dodgers need not apply. This is the last of the new muscle cars.
Under a very long bonnet is eight cylinders putting out 350KW and, at the other end, quad exhausts that you can program to normal (waste of time), sport (most of Adelaide knew I was coming) and racing (Joe Biden even knew I was on the road). Some critics have complained the two rear seats are impractical (clearly never owned a Porker) but in my view three of the four seats are unnecessary anyway. This is a machine you want to yourself.
It’s big and heavy but the Mustang sits low, the Brembo brakes work, the handling is good and it looks sensational. But in another sign of the impending crashageddon the choices behind the wheel are too complex. You know how you can’t just order coffee anymore? You have to order one of a zillion varieties. New cars are the same. Do you want to see 40 gauges on the screen? Which one of the 3000 buttons on the steering wheel do you need to push?
Bottom line: the Mustang will put more fun into your post-Covid life than just about anything else. And at $75k it’s a snip.