Buyers Guide – Auction Values of Collectible Classics

Gary Anderson and Richard Simonds

_60_54_300s_roadster_0.jpgThe recent RM Auctions ( sale in London of “The Ultimate Mercedes-Benz Collection,” including 73 examples spanning the period from 1905-1966 and a replica of the 1886 Patentwagen, is of particular interest in establishing current values of the most collectible of Mercedes-Benz cars.


Collectible Classics – Recent auction prices offer a snapshot of market values

Article Gary Anderson and Richard Simonds
Images courtesy RM Auctions

Nearly everyone who owns an older Mercedes-Benz and knows anything at all about the marque’s heritage sooner or later thinks about what it would be like to buy and own one of the various years and models that are considered “collectible” on the classic-car market. But it’s often difficult at any point in time to find out what models might be available in the general market – and what they might cost. For those reasons, the recent RM Auctions ( sale in London of  “The Ultimate Mercedes-Benz Collection,” including 73 examples spanning the period from 1905-1966 and a replica of the 1886 Patentwagen, is of particular interest.

Not only did this group of classic automobiles constitute a virtual shopping list of every collectible type, but because every example sold on the same day to an audience representative of the global marketplace, the prices obtained provide a good indication of current relative values. We can take the examples offered and the auction prices as a starting point for the new collector to evaluate the current market for collectible Mercedes-Benz automobiles.


For purposes of discussion, we have divided collectible Mercedes-Benz automobiles into three categories: Pre-merger cars (Mercedes and Benzes built before 1926), Mercedes-Benzes from the merger to the last civilian production in 1941), and postwar cars (built between the end of World War II and the first fuel crisis in the 1970s – roughly about 1973). Each of these categories has its own distinct charms and constraints, but within each group there are examples that occasionally appear on the market for less than $100,000, as well as those well on the other side of $1 million.

1909 Benz 35-60 HP Speedster

A Mercedes or Benz built before the merger has stately charm, but for speed and safety reasons, would never be driven casually on a major highway. The car would have to be trailered to any venue more than a few miles away.

1938 170V Roadster

Cars built between 1926 and 1941 are generally fast and reliable enough to be driven around town or on occasional organized tours, but for comfort and safety reasons, they wouldn’t be a first choice for highway trips.

1960 190SL Roadster

In contrast, most of the postwar cars discussed here benefit from occasionally being driven longer distances at higher speeds and are both safe and comfortable enough to do so.

Of course, it goes almost without saying that any car on one of these lists that is in presentable condition would be welcome on any classic-car show field. There are even special interest groups, such as the Gull Wing Group, 190SL Group, International Ponton Owners Group, and the Pagoda SL Group (also international) for owners of these models.

Tips on buying your first collectible

•           Decide how much money you can afford for the initial purchase and reconditioning  of  your chosen collectible car. Be prepared to spend an amount equal to 25 percent of your purchase price for reconditioning, even on a great-looking car that seems to be in excellent condition.

•           Before beginning to look at cars available in the marketplace, do your research and decide which models would suit your interests, potential uses, and budget.

•           Do your homework. One of the satisfactions of owning a classic car is to be a specialist in that era and model. There is a wealth of literature and information on collectible cars. The research should be fun, and everything you can learn before you buy will pay off in helping you buy the right car.

•           Buy the best condition that you can afford. You will want to look for a car in reasonable running condition, with body panels, interior trim, and upholstery in easily repairable condition, and all small parts, knobs, and accessories present.

•           Take your time. Any seasoned collector will tell you that the fun of collecting is in the chase – as much or more than the acquisition – so enjoy the process. Another wise saying in the hobby is that once you’ve decided what car you want to buy, the right car will find you. Don’t ever buy a car that seems to be “the best you’re going to find” – buy the one that demands to be bought.
Cautions when buying your first collectible

•           Never buy a car sight unseen. Tales are told of finding a perfect car on the Internet and purchasing it over the phone, but far more tales are told of scams or disasters, with the buyer not only out the purchase price, but often left with nothing to show for it.

•           Never buy a car without the advice of a specialist in the mechanics and history of the model. It’s one thing to know what you’ll need to repair or replace before you decide to buy; it’s much worse to be surprised after the purchase.

•           Remember that there is no such thing as a bargain in collectible automobiles. With the wealth of information available online, no honest seller today makes the mistake of selling a car for less than what it’s worth.
•           Whenever possible, buy a car from someone you know well, at least by reputation. If you do have to purchase from someone you don’t know, check them out first – get opinions from other collectors or club members.

•           Avoid buying a car without records or known provenance. Unpleasant mechanical, financial, and legal issues may be the result. The best situation is when the car’s known ownership and maintenance history is documented.

The nitty-gritty

Regardless of how much you have to spend, buying a classic car should be an effort undertaken with care. Purchased poorly, the car can easily turn out to be worth considerably less than you paid, and then even more costly to be repaired to the condition you thought it was in upon purchase, souring you entirely on the ownership of a classic car.

But researched carefully and bought well – your classic car can be a limitless source of visceral, emotional, and intellectual satisfaction, as well as your admission into a select circle of people with a shared respect for vintage and classic automobiles and a common desire to enjoy this physical connection with past eras and people that would otherwise exist only in history books.

2013 Auction Values of Prewar Mercedes-Benz Classics

1886    Benz Patentwagen                              $39,200          
1905    Mercedes-Simplex 60HP Speedster   $110,000

1909    Benz 35/60 JP Speedster                    $95,200          

1921    8/20 HP Doctor's Cabriolet                $53,200          
1925    15/70/100 HP Tourer                          $230,000
1930    Nurburg 460K Limousine                   $85,120          
1931    15/74 HP Mannheim 370K Cabriolet $162,400        
1932    8/38 HP Stuttgart 200 Cabriolet         $48,160          
1932    Nurburg 500 Pullman Limousine        $131,600        
1932    15/75 HP Mannheim 380S Sport Roadster    $770,000        
1933    170 Cabriolet C                            $50,400          
1933    200 Lang Cabriolet B              $78,400          
1933    170 Sport Roadster                     $86,800          
1933    380K Sport Roadster              $540,800        
1934    290 Cabriolet D                        $84,000          
1934    200 Sport Roadster                     $86,800          
1934    290 Cabriolet A                           $277,200        
1934    380K Cabriolet C                        $448,000        
1935    170 saloon                               $39,200          
1935    130H Sedan                             $47,600          

1936    170H Cabriolet                         $33,600          

1936    130H Cabriolet saloon             $43,680
1936    170H saloon                            $50,400          
1936    170V Cabriolet A                     $58,240          
1936    290 Cabriolet B                       $114,800        
1936    500K Cabriolet C                    $650,000
1937    230N Roadster                        $82,880          
1937    290 Cabriolet A                      $257,600        
1938    320 Limousine                         $49,280          
1938    230N Cabriolet C                       $75,600          

1938    170V Roadster                          $81,760         

1938    320 Cabriolet B                       $87,360          
1938    320 Cabriolet B                        $98,000          
1938    320 Cabriolet D                         $117,600        
1938    540K Cabriolet B                       $820,000        
1938    540K Special Cabriolet A          $1,400,000
1939    170V Cabriolet saloon                $31,360          
1939    230 Saloon                              $38,080          
1939    170V Cabriolet B                      $53,200          
1939    320 Pullman Limousine            $92,400          
1939    320 Cabriolet A                         $263,200
1941    230 Limousine A                     $54,880          

1941    230 Cabriolet A                        $92,400          

1942    320 Cabriolet F                         $98,000
2013 Auction Values of Postwar Mercedes-Benz Classics
1951    170DA Open Touring Police  $29,120
1951    170S Cabriolet A        $75,600
1951    170S Coupe    $145,000
1951    220 Coupe Prototype $230,000
1952    170Va saloon  $15,680
1952    170Va Station Wagon (panel van)      $40,320
1952    200 Cabriolet B           $47,600
1952    170Da Pickup $49,280

1952    220 Cabriolet A          $68,320

1953    170DS saloon  $23,250
1953    300S Cabriolet A        $280,000
1954    170S-V Ambulance     $50,400
1954    300 Adenauer Cabriolet          $105,280
1954    300S Coupe    $218,400
1954    300S Roadster $330,400
1956    300SL Gullwing          $593,600
1957    220S Cabriolet            $48,160
1957    300SLS Racing            $593,600
1958    300d Adenauer saloon            $70,560

1960    2230SE Coupe            $44,800

1961    300SL Roadster          $716,800

1963    230SL Roadster          $34,720

1963    300SE Cabriolet          $59,360

1966    600SWB saloon          $47,040

1970    300SEL 6.3 saloon      $38,080