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Why $301 million worth of cars sold in a single weekend at Pebble Beach

Justin Hyde

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While the 1967 Ferrari NART Spyder captured the spotlight at last weekend's classic car auctions around Pebble Beach, it was only the tip of a $301 million bazaar of selling over the weekend — a 13.5 percent increase from last year's five auto auctions, according to Hagerty's Insurance. Many high-end collector cars zoomed past their estimates and a few set new brand records of their own, such as the McLaren F1 at Gooding & Co. which sold for $8.47 million, and the 1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Atalante at $8.75 million.

With the world's wealthy looking for investment opportunities, the large auto auction houses have turned their sales into ready-for-TV entertainment, and the environment only adds to the spectacle of high-end transactions. It wasn't just sports cars that turned heads; one of the most talked-about cars of the weekend was Gooding's offer of a 1915 Creators Model C Popcorn Wagon, the kind that used to park outside movie theatres before operators realized the money-making potential of a concession stand. As one of only three such surviving models, Gooding had set the pre-auction estimate between $200,000 and $275,000. Final price: $374,000.

Collector cars have gone through bubbles before, most recently in 2008-09, when prices for American muscle cars went ballistic before falling back, and the run-up in recent years has raised similar concerns. But as the experts who joined us for the Yahoo! Autos live show at Pebble Beach on Sunday explain, $300 million of classic cars selling in a single weekend may be the new normal.

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