Craig Jackson’s Tips on Buying and Selling at Auction

  • Barrett-Jackson Chairman and CEO Craig Jackson - 0
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by Jerry Heasley  More from Author

Straight from the man himself!

Of all the classic car auctions on cable TV, the most popular and largest is Barrett-Jackson. And at the helm is Chairman and CEO, Craig Jackson.

Barrett-Jackson’s signature auction is Scottsdale, held every January stretching back to 1971. In recent years, Barrett-Jackson has expanded to West Palm Beach in the spring, Las Vegas in October, and their most recent addition is a fourth event, Orange County.

Craig Jackson said, “At Scottsdale we can’t pack as much into it as we did in ’06 and ’07 and be running that many cars until 11 p.m and midnight. We needed to spread it out a little bit more.”

He found time from his busy schedule on the Saturday morning prior to the start of the auction in Las Vegas to visit with us. Craig had some great tips on buying and selling at auction and we’re going to share them with you.


AutoTrader Classics: What are the important things a seller should do to get more money for his or her car at auction?

Jackson: It’s simple. It’s really simple. Be there with your car. You know, some people, even guys that put million dollar cars at Barrett-Jackson and fly in two hours before it goes over the block…and it [the car] is sitting out there like an orphan? You need to talk to people about your car. Guys just want to know about your car. If you restored it or it was restored by somebody and you have the book of the restoration and all the receipts, bring it with you. Show people that. Don’t just leave it lying on the seat of the car.


AutoTrader Classics: Somebody could walk off with the paperwork.

Jackson: We’ve had that happen before. That’s why we have something unique. I don’t know if you’ve noticed. We have a property room here. So if anybody has an original build sheet and they are showing it up on the block? Somebody grabs that and puts it in a secure property room. So that it doesn’t grow legs and get separated from the vehicle. You need to take good care of your provenance with your vehicle. You need to show it to people.


AutoTrader Classics: What other things are important?

Jackson: You need to do simple things like make sure it has gas, make sure it has a good battery. There is nothing like having a $100,000 car run out of gas just before it goes up onto the auction block or it won’t start because it’s got an old battery in it.


AutoTrader Classics: It would be hard to stay with the car for days. Is there a most important time to stay with your car?

Jackson: When it is in the staging lanes and it goes up on the auction block. That’s when you are going to get the most activity. I know a lot of guys that want to go sit in the audience ’cause they just can’t take the stress of it. And then we are hunting for them. They need to engage in the process. The next owner wants to know about things.


AutoTrader Classics: Basically, the seller is a part of the sell process?

Jackson: Yes.


AutoTrader Classics: Of course, the auction brochure lists details about the car and its history. Can you give consigners tips on what you need for this?

Jackson: When you send us a description of your car? Don’t say “runs like a top” or “she’s a beauty.” Has it won any national shows? We have this all the time. We’ll call a guy back. Gary Bennett–you know Gary Bennett? He calls a lot of the guys back. “You know, you sent your consignment form in and it says fully restored, runs great. Can you tell me anymore about it?” “Well, it won two national shows; a noted restorer restored the car.”


AutoTrader Classics: So details about the provenance are important.

Jackson: Do you have any documentation? “Oh yeah, I’ve got the Protect-O-Plate for the car and the original window sticker.” But you’ve got to pry this stuff out [of them]. On our website we try to walk people through that.


AutoTrader Classics: In other words, sellers should be thinking about what they wanted to know when they bought the car?

Jackson: Yes, you’ve got to put yourself in the shoes of when you were buying your car. What was important to you when you bought the car? Although ironically sometimes we ask guys and they say oh I was at a car show and it looked pretty so I bought it. (Laughing.)


AutoTrader Classics: Can you tell us some common mistakes buyers make?

Jackson: The reverse of what I just said, they don’t do their due diligence. They see a car on the block. They just bid on it. I had one guy buy the wrong car.


AutoTrader Classics: Buy the wrong car?

Jackson: Yeah, two 1957 Chevy’s, red, they were separated by 10, 15 numbers. He went away, came back, walked in the tent, saw the red 1957 red Chevy on the block and bought it. Then, came into Steve’s office complaining somebody stole the Continental kit off of it. So Steve is like, “Oh my God, 911, call security.”


AutoTrader Classics: Wow, it’s hard to believe somebody could pay that much money and not bid on the right car.

Jackson: Sort of got to pay attention. That’s why I say the reverse of the consigner. He needs to go out and talk to the owner. He needs to be in the staging lanes. He needs to make sure that is the car and he knows what he wants to spend on the car, that he has done his due diligence.


AutoTrader Classics: What about getting help with the purchase if you are new to the hobby?

Jackson: Some of the experts have their own agenda ’cause they may want to buy the car. So I know numerous times guys have asked [other people at the sale] is that a good car? They say no, and then they go in there and buy it. [The guy will say] “Well, I thought you said it wasn’t a good car?” [The “expert” will say] “Well, it wasn’t good for you, but it’s a good car for me.” (Laughing.)


AutoTrader Classics: That’s a good one.

Jackson: You may want to pay an expert to help you so his motivation is for you, not him.


AutoTrader Classics: One last question. Have you ever had a car come to auction you had to have for yourself and did you bid on it?

Jackson: Numerous times but I did not bid against my customers, unless it’s a charity car. If it’s a charity car we’ll openly bid against our customers.

AutoTrader Classics


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