The mainstays of the Corvette hobby are regular-production vehicles that are typically shown at NCRS events, kept in private collections, and occasionally driven. With healthy prices paid for cars that warranted it, the mainstays also made a strong showing this season. Meanwhile, those missing a piece of the puzzle-a non-original motor, thin documentation, or an imperfect restoration-sold for much less money, if at all.
Fine examples in the middle of the market earn more than the cost of a new Corvette, but usually come in at less than $100,000. Overall, these cars are holding their own, with a mean sales price of $50,000.
One unusual example we came across just prior to Mecum's event in Indy was a "time capsule" '80 Corvette owned since new by Wes Abendroth. With only 4.8 miles on the odometer, it had never been driven on the street, still had the original MSO and no tags, and hadn't been registered. The original window stickers showed a sales price of $16,818.40-and it sold this year for $44,000. Not counting sales commission, that's an appreciation of $27,000 in 30 years.
Commenting on this fair-market sales price and the action at Mecum generally, Abendroth stated, "You always hope for more, but what you get is what people will pay. I don't think they were setting any world records-that doesn't happen anymore too often."
ProTeam's Terry Michaelis, a noted Corvette collector who attends all of the big auctions, basically agrees. "Special cars-single- to triple-digit [production runs]-are still very strong, as are the survivors and benchmark Corvettes. But they have to stand three heads higher than the rest of the pack."
Dana Mecum confirms these observations. "It's a good time for buyers," he says. "Mileage is the biggest barometer of dollar values. A Corvette with low mileage, in good condition, will bring a much higher price."
In addition, he notes that the '63 to '67 Corvettes are still the hot segment. "It's a timeless body style, and when you put radials on them, they drive down the highway like a new car. Those earlier cars are antiquated, driving-wise."
Indeed, if you're after midyear muscle, the average sale price jumps to $76,656. And at Barrett-Jackson's auction in Orange County, California, sales prices for these models ranged from $71,500 to $181,500.
Taking a closer look at what it takes to command a good price, a Lynndale Blue '67 327 Sting Ray sold at Mecum's Bloomington Gold Auction for a healthy $75,500. Sound like a lot for a small-block car? This one was a factory air-conditioned, with a four-speed trans, original Protecto-O-Plate, dealer order form, and 1967 Ohio title. Represented as numbers-matching, it was also concours judged and Bloomington Gold Certified. Tempering the value of these credentials against collectibility, however, Michaelis notes, "Documents are nice, but if you've got the real deal, that's more important."
Entry-Level Enthusiast Cars
The Bloomington Gold Auction is a window into the entry-level side of the market as well. About half of all the Corvettes that sold in the past year fall into this category. Overall, the sell-through rate was up 3.2 percent in 2010 over 2009, with 137 of 303 cars sold. The average sale also dropped by more than $10,000 from 2009 to 2010. Looking at an even longer timeline, Mecum admits, "Prices are off 30 percent from three years ago." He cites the down economy as a significant factor but remains upbeat, noting that some premium-quality cars and collections are coming up for sale soon. "For 30 years, Corvette collectibles have been the most resilient, and the quickest to return in value."
Affordable entry-level cars, which go for $32,000 or less, enjoyed a 51 percent sell-through rate. The increased volume of cruise-night and weekend drivers sold this year is a clear indicator that the market has found a new average everyone agrees with. As Michaelis sums up, "There's a slow recovery in prices of 'belly button' [common] Corvettes."
One well-bought ride was a Dark Red Metallic '90 ZR-1 with full documentation, average miles, and a bevy of trophies. The new owner picked up this driver-quality "King of the Hill" at Bloomington Gold for a mere $17,500, beating the current CPI Blackbook value of $19,400. With C4 lovers leading the charge, Corvette enthusiasts are more confident than they were a year ago, buying not only for investment, but also indulgence.