The Insider’s Market Report – What Price Royalty?
I’ve previously explored the difference a famous owner can make to the value of a car, although my analysis has been focused more upon race, rather than road cars. Recently, there have been two
developments making it worth revisiting the topic, the sale of a car that once belonged to Princess Diana and the sad passing of Her Majesty the Queen.
Cars with notable or famous previous owners cross two collectible spaces at the same time, cars, and memorabilia. Items in both areas have subjective value rather than intrinsic, underlying value, so when the two are combined the results can be outsized. Previously, I offered examples of cars that had been linked to Steve McQueen selling for several times more than similar cars without a celebrity past, but perhaps more relevant to the market is an August sale result from Silverstone Auctions.
The car in question once belonged to Princess Diana, and the reporting of the sale went far beyond car collecting circles in reaching most of the national newspapers. The car at the centre of the reporting was the only Ford Escort RS Turbo S1 believed to have been produced in black, rather than white. With less than 20,000 miles on the clock, these two facts alone would be enough to ensure that it would be a desirable part of any Fast Ford collection.
In the past we have seen S1s of this standard, i.e., low-mileage collector grade, albeit in the standard white, achieve prices of £60,000-£60,000 at auction. The rarity of being the only black car would no doubt bring a premium which could be argued at 50%-100% of the average sale price, and a value to around £90,000-£120,000 wouldn’t be out of the question.
Cars with a royal pedigree seemingly come to auction every few years, and indeed 2021 provided an indicator to the market, when another of Princess Diana’s cars was sold. The Ford Escort MK3 Ghia was given to Princess Diana by King Charles III, then Prince of Wales, prior to their wedding and achieved a price of £52,000.00 with fees.
To my opening point, the collision of these areas of collectibles seemingly has an effect akin to ‘2+2=5.’ The Silverstone sale in August offered a car, which would not only be popular in car collecting circles, but also crossed the threshold into Royal Memorabilia. The result: A bidding war between buyers in Dubai and the United Kingdom and a sale price at six to seven times more than for the sale of a car without the royal connection, as it achieved a total of £722,500.00 with fees – a staggering amount of money.
When I examined the market previously, I provided a result from the October 2019 RM Sotheby’s sale, when a 1984 Daimler Double Six, which was delivered new for private use by the late Queen, sold for £80,000.00. At the time this was approximately five times more than the expected sale price of a similar car, and in hindsight would appear to have been a good buy.
The Silverstone sale set a new marker for Royal cars, and with the world still in a state of mourning over the loss of Her Majesty I would suggest that any car coming for sale in the next few years with a demonstrable link to the late Queen would sell exceedingly well. When it comes to the funding of cars such as these, we are presented with a difficult situation. There is a degree of relevance to such sales. It could be argued that both Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Diana are outlying anomalies regarding notability and popularity – but will this still be relevant to a future buying audience? In the short term, I think it would, but in the long term I am not so sure.
There’s a level at which the amount of such a premium must even out and I am yet to be convinced that the premium that was paid in August for the ex-Diana car would be achieved again in 10 or 20 years as she becomes less relevant to the age range of people that would typically buy such a car.
The halo-effect on car values which were owned by Queen Elizabeth II, I believe, will be longer lasting and whilst I am deeply saddened by her passing, as a market observer I will be noting the future interest from collectors.