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Mecum Auctions Road Show: Taking It to Main St. USA

The language of being there still trumps the scroll & the click

By Audrey Davis
April 20 2022
$217M : Mecum Auctions shatters world record in Kissimmee January 2022. (Mecum Magazine)  

Mecum Auctions is a service-driven auction company operating like the visionary industrialists who started it all. But at a time when attending auctions isn’t always easy, can they win over the skeptics? 

There’s the affordability issue, of course, but there’s also a question of accessibility – who gets to view a collection of vehicles, and where? Historically, auction houses have taken up shop at Concours d’Elegance shows like Amelia Island and Pebble Beach, or at their own equally exclusive affairs in swanky destinations like Monaco. Is this the right approach? Or perhaps more importantly, is it the right approach for our current moment?  

A 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing crosses the block in a seven-figure sale. (Mecum photos) 

Back in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic led to the postponements and cancellations of countless in-person automotive events, including Monterey Car Week, the annual tentpole that culminates in the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. The loss upended the world of classic car sales and accelerated the already-present shift to online auction experiences. In the spring of 2020, Bring A Trailer recorded a 64 percent increase in sales, raking in millions of dollars, while more established names like RM Sotheby’s announced that their events would move to a virtual-only format. As it turned out, potential car buyers weren’t terribly upset by the change – in fact, business on the web was booming like never before. 

But Mecum still felt compelled to return to the live auction format, coming back with a show schedule during June 2020. The need to adapt was also a product of their status as an entertainment enterprise, airing live auctions at the time on NBC Sports. Mecum has since announced an
exclusive deal with MotorTrend+, which makes it all the more imperative that auctions are airing as planned and as scheduled: subscribers to a streaming service have the freedom to pull the plug on their subscriptions if the content they expected isn’t available to stream. 

Muscle cars and Corvettes from the 1960s and ‘70s dominated Mecum’s 2017 Kissimmee Auction. (Old Cars Weekly)

Mecum Auctions: The Auction & Car Enthusiast’s Rock Star  

Mecum was founded in 1988, and since that time has remained a rare family-owned auction business. And that says a lot in this particular industry: based on the overnight success of
Cars & Bids, and Hearst’s 2020 Bring A Trailer acquisition, every Tom, Dick and Mary are throwing their hats in the enormously scalable digital auction ring right now.  

But Mecum is different. And by different, we mean special. With origins that began at Founder Dana Mecum’s family dining room table in Marengo, Illinois, the company’s headquarters is not only based in Walworth, Wisconsin – the heart of the Midwest – but Mecum also takes its consistently #1 ranked auction directly to the American people. With five national tour stops under their belt in 2022, and 14 still to come, Mecum has become the car enthusiast equivalent of a rock star. Unlike other auction houses that expect the customer to travel to shows hosted less frequently and at aspirational, lux destinations, Mecum takes the show directly to the people the auction house serves, rooting their business in the founding principles of the early, visionary automotive industrialists and entrepreneurs who built the classic cars fetching millions on the auction block today.

But enough gushing. Here’s what Mecum’s got on tap for car and automotive art enthusiasts to experience through the end of this year, regardless of geography.  

Mecum features a broad spectrum of vehicles as well as automotive art.  (Las Vegas Review-Journal) 

The 2022 National Tour – In Person or On Your Device 

Mecum’s massive
Kissimmee, Florida event, which has become the world’s largest auction of its kind, exemplifies the magic of events like these. But if you’re not able to experience it in person, Mecum also values flexibility, and the company ensures that there are a number of ways for bidders to join in on the fun. 

Buyers can register for auctions on Mecum’s website, which will prompt them to choose between bidding in person, via phone, or online. The upside of this strategy is that buyers can choose a new car from the comfort of their own homes, without needing to follow along on Mecum’s national tour. But that aspect of the business is still central to Mecum’s identity, and it’s what sets them apart from some of their competitors as well. 

In 2022, Mecum will be visiting cities from Dallas to Vegas and Charlotte to Chicago. What makes the vibe different at these events? For one thing, there’s the sheer scale of it all: their recent Glendale, AZ auction alone had a slate of 1,500 cars, easily filling up the Arizona Cardinals’ State Farm Stadium. It’s the kind of atmosphere that encourages big crowds, tailgating, and cross-promotions from manufacturers like Dodge. It also helps that Mecum is offering a wide variety of collector vehicles, from the everyday to the exotic. 

With 1,000 vehicles on the slate, the recent auction in Houston was a relatively modest affair for Mecum, especially compared to May’s upcoming extravaganza in Indianapolis (3,000 vehicles). The character of the cars can feel slightly different in each city as well, although not always by design. And Indy certainly has some gems up for sale this year: among the main attractions, there are rare vintage picks like a 1935 Auburn Boattail Speedster, performance legends like a nearly-new 1966 Shelby GT350 Fastback, and present-day supercars like the 2020 McLaren Speedtail. It’s the kind of environment where you’d be hard-pressed to find anything not to like, which may be why Mecum’s business has been booming in an uncertain era. 

Mecum Gone Farmin’ Vintage Tractor Auction. (Gold Eagle) 

Two years ago, it looked like the pandemic might end up crippling the car industry for years to come, with 2020 sales down 15 percent from the year before. But by 2021, sales had bounced back dramatically, surging across the country as consumers received government stimulus checks and sought to avoid crowded public transportation. Most dealerships and manufacturers couldn’t keep up, plagued by staffing shortages and supply chain issues. Naturally, plenty of customers wondered what other options were out there.  

The recent push to bring car auctions online has not only grown the market, but it has also made that market feel more accessible than ever before. Leading platform BAT saw a 108% increase in sales last year, with competitors like Cars & Bids and CoPart not far behind. As the car supply became uncertain at traditional vendors like dealerships and rental agencies, drivers increasingly saw auction websites as no-nonsense, user-friendly alternatives. But does that mean that in-person auctions are not? 

Mecum definitely doesn’t think so, as live events continue to be important communal experiences for car enthusiasts (even though the spirited auctioneers might be a bit overwhelming for first-timers). Auctions today need to have the infrastructure to support not only passionate veterans of these events, but also more cautious online bidders, and only a large, well-oiled operation can satisfy both. 

Mecum has 14 cities left on its indoor-outdoor 2022 US tour.  ( 

And it’s all for the sake of auction fans, who surely won’t be disappointed by the steadily increasing sales that Mecum events are pulling. This year’s Kissimmee, Florida event shattered records by surpassing $200M in sales, a first for any auction of its kind. Mecum also donated some of the proceeds to Kids Curing Cancer, an organization that they’ve been working with since 2011. And after giving so much to the automotive community over the years, it feels fitting that Mecum would want to give back just a little more. 

So, what’s next for Mecum Auctions? A packed 2022 calendar, for one thing. With Kissimmee and Houston behind them, Indianapolis is next up during the week of May 13-21, followed by Tulsa, Orlando, and Harrisburg over the summer. Auto fans who can’t make any of those locations can still keep up with the fun online, on MotorTrend+, or on Mecum’s On The Move podcast hosted by Matt Avery and John Kraman. Finally, by August, Mecum will end up in Monterey, celebrating Car Week like any dutiful auction house should.  

It’s a rapidly changing industry, but at least some of the important things – like being where the the people are and the action is – remain the same.  



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