After the biggest blunder in recent auction history, a car made by Ferdinand Porsche for the Nazis failed to sell at an auction in California on Saturday, amid scenes of confusion and derision.
The Porsche Type 64 was built in 1939, when Ferdinand Porsche was a designer for Volkswagen, and was a commission from the National Socialist Motor Corps.
During Saturday night's highly charged standing-room only auction in downtown Monterey,Calif., auctioneers at RM Sotheby's premier sale dimmed the lights and showed a promotional video they had made ahead of the much-anticipated sale of the Type 64.
The controversial silver coupe had been expected to sell for about $20 million before a massive mistake by the auction house upset the crowded room, leaving some collectors to believe it was an attempt at a joke.
"This is the only surviving example personally driven by Ferdinand Porsche," the evening's emcee said, then announced that bidding would open at "$30 million," a figure that was written on the front media screen of the auction theater. Half of the crowd laughed; the other half cheered.
After rapid bidding up to "$70 million," with the crowd on its feet, iPhones raised, and cheering, the auctioneer announced that he said "$17 million," rather than "$70 million." The media screen was quickly changed to reflect the $17 million sum.
Boos and shocked yelps and shouts ensued. People walked out.
"What a joke," said Johnny Shaughnessy, a collector from Southern California, who was in the room when it happened. "They just lost so much credibility. My father could have bought that car for $5 million years ago. It has been passed around for years, and no one wants it."
"As bidding opened on the Type 64, increments were incorrectly displayed on the screen, causing unfortunate confusion in the room," the company said in a statement. "This was the result of a totally inadvertent and unintentional mistake." The company said it was an "unfortunate misunderstanding amplified by excitement in the room."
Comments from collectors in the crowd right after the episode included "What a scam," "They just slit their own throat," and "It worked for Banksy; it didn't work for RM," a reference to the 2018 Sotheby's sale which saw a piece of artwork by Banksy shredded in a surprise stunt just after it sold.
Two RM Sotheby's representatives were not available for comment after the sale; a third walked away without a word when approached for a statement about the car.
In an emailed response to a Bloomberg News request for comment, a spokeswoman said that "despite interest from discerning collectors, we were unable to reach common ground between seller and buyer on the night."
The auction for the Type 64 was terminated in minutes, after no bids above $17 million appeared in the room.
It's not enough money. The car is listed as "still for sale" on the RM Sotheby's online auction catalog.
The Type 64 was far from the only rough sale during a weekend where gross totals through Friday were down about 25 percent, or about $50 million, from 2018, according to Hagerty. Across the board, while there were 16 more cars offered for the first two days of auctions in 2019, almost 30 fewer cars were sold. The average sale price was $75,000 less than last year.
Insiders at RM Sotheby's described the current market as "a bloodbath."
The top seller on Friday, a McLaren F1 expected to sell for as much as $23 million, took just over $19 million during the RM Sotheby's auction that night.