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Keno Brothers New York Collector Car Auction A Good First Effort, Mixed Results, Room to Grow

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The collector car auction event calendar is more crowded than ever with new auctions and auction companies popping up around the country to take advantage of one of this hot ‘collectible category’. While Leigh and Leslie Keno aren’t new to auctions of furniture and decorative arts, the Keno Brothers New York collector car auction – dubbed ‘Rolling Sculpture’ – held on November 18, 2015 was their first auction effort in the collector car arena. 40 consignments, including two Mercedes-Benz cars, were nicely exhibited under bright lights in a rather industrial space reminiscent of a modern art museum, not surprising given the event’s hosts.

Expectations were high as the brothers Keno took the stage to introduce the sale and address the crowd. They acknowledged their well known place in the antiques world and their association with PBS’ Antiques Roadshow program, but said ‘Cars were our first love’. A photo of the brothers, as children, on the running board of one of their father’s cars from the 20s appeared on a large screen behind them as they invited him up on stage for a brief father / sons reunion. It was a cute moment really, and one that probably resonated with much of the crowd, I know I credit my father for my car passion. The auctioneer, Brit, Simon Hope, was introduced and things got going. The first lot was the Keno Brother’s own 1969 Lamborghini Miura P400 S, which sold at $974,400 against a wide estimate of $800,000 – $1,600,000 pre sale estimate.

Collector car pundit, and one of the gentlemen that sat with me on a discussion panel at last January’s Desert Stars Section Mercedes-Benz Club dinner held in conjunction with the January Auction Week in Scottsdale, Andy Reid, introduced each lot in his usual, passionate car guy kind of way. The Lamborghini lots in the sale were introduced by long time Lamborghini factory employee and test driver, Valentino Balboni. Balboni’s personal comments on the Lamborghinis in the sale added a real inside look into the Lamborghini marque and his personal passion for the brand that he essentially dedicated his life to. Each lot was also preceded by a video introduction. While nicely done, most of the videos didn’t seem to add much in terms of real content or information. They just added a little mood before the bidding started, as cars weren’t being driven over a block, this is New York after all. In the end, the videos added a of of time to the auction than anything else.

Auction catalogs and photography has almost become an art in its own right of late. I can only imagine the time and money spent by all the high end auction companies on photographers to get just the right photos of their increasingly expensive 4 wheeled subjects. The Keno team should be commended on their very thorough presentation of each lot. Their online catalog wasn’t just full of gorgeous, calendar like photographs of each car, but also included detailed macro level photos highlighting any faults or should we say ‘heavily patinated’ areas of the consignments. Their photos and descriptions seemed honest and wide open, any bidder should have felt they were getting an accurate picture of each lot, not every auction company seems so eager to show the good, the bag and the ugly of a car they’re representing.

Looking at the numbers, the results of the auction probably didn’t meet the brother’s expectations. Of 40 lots offered, just 18 cars sold with 22 no sales, a 45% sell through rate adding up to a sale gross of a little over $7 million. In addition to the low sell through rate, few of the cars that did sell were bid up to their average estimate, and just 9 of the cars that sold didn’t quite reach their low estimates. The bottom line was, there just weren’t enough bidders.

There were just two Mercedes cars in the auction, neither of which sold on the block. One was a 1972 300 SEL 6.3 owned by Steve McQueen until his death in 1980.
The ex-McQueen 6.3 failed to sell after reaching a high bid of $375,000 against an auction estimate of $480,000 – $650,000. See an in depth auction analysis of this particular car by visiting this article on our website: Ex-Steve McQueen Mercedes 6.3 Fails to Find a New Home After High Bid of $375,000 at Keno Brothers New York Collector Car Auction.

The other was this color change to Strawberry Red Metallic 1955 300 SL Gullwing that reached a high bid of $1,100,000 on the block against a pre sale auction estimate of $1,275,000 – $1,575,000. See our in depth auction report on this car by reading reading this article: 1955 Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing Fails to Sell at High Bid of $1.1M at First Ever Keno Brothers New York Collector Car Auction.

Don’t take the numbers above to be the final result of the sale. The number of cars sold and sell through rate are bound to change over the next week or so as a lot of deals are put together post-block. It will be interesting to see what the final results are after the Keno Brothers‘ team has a few days to work on the bidders and consignors who were close to deals on auction day.

The sale was available for viewing, live on the Keno Brothers’ website. The auction was powered by ProxiBid’s online auction tool with live streaming audio and video of the sale. It’s a slick system. Not only do you get to watch and listen to what’s going on  in the room, your computer screen is constantly updated with every bid, as they happen and it notes whether or not a given bid is placed online, on the phone or live in the room. It kept this long distance watcher well informed of the action in the room, second by second.

As the sale concluded Simon Hope did announce that the Kenos will be at Hershey in June 2016 for their next collector car auction event, during the AACA weekend and the Elegance at Hershey Concours d’Elegance event. Hopefully they can build steam as they move towards that date to secure some high end consignments and attempt to ingrain themselves in the wider collector car community as a new force on the auction scene.

L to R: David Tobin, Leslie and Leigh Keno at the 2014 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance (I have no idea what Leigh was wearing on his head in this photo, maybe a POV camera of some kind?).

Starting a new venture is never easy, and in what could be described as a ‘very crowded’ collector car auction industry, competition is fierce. The Brothers’ passion and commitment to old cars is long standing, my guess is things will only get better for them in the future. They’ve been judges for the Preservation Class at Pebble Beach for more than 10 years, they race cars and have an impressive car collection. I seem to run into Leigh and Les at most of the big car events I attend. We had a nice conversation about their Maserati Ghibli Roadster at Pebble Beach last year. “It’s just gorgeous with the top down” exclaimed Leigh with his usual, sweeping hand gestures “It’s a piece of art you can drive. Do you know of any for sale? I’d like to have another one!” Their enthusiasm is contagious and I wish them, and their New York based team, all the best in their new collector car auction endevours

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