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The new collector car? An original Honda S800.

Okay, just maybe a Saab 9-4X might turn out to be something rare a decade from now considering how few rolled off the assembly line before the Swedish automaker went belly-up. But we’re having a hard time believing that something from the final year of the Pontiac Aztek will ever count as having a “collector car” in your garage.

The reality is that there are an awful lot of different products on the market, and plenty more used vehicles you can choose from.  So, if you were really interested in starting a hobby as a collector – and didn’t have a seven-figure nest egg to tap – where would you begin.

Luckily, we’ve got some friends in the right places, notably including McKeel Hagerty, the CEO of Hagerty Insurance, to lend some help.  Don’t bother to question his bona fides.  His firm is one of the largest in the business serving automotive collectors and that means he’s got the data to show what’s trending up.

Haggerty is out in Scottsdale, Arizona this weekend where he and thousands of other collectors and wannabes will be raising their paddles on bidding at a series of classic car events including the annual  Barrett-Jackson Auction.  It’s an easy time to get auction fever, letting emotions overcome common sense – something auctioneers are counting on as they work a crowd to fever pitch.

“It is easy to get caught up in all the high dollar sales that take place at auctions and wonder what interesting vehicles are still easily attainable,” Haggerty cautioned during a seminar on “Emerging Collectibles.”

Experts caution that it takes some real homework to know when to bid and when to sit on your hands.  And one thing that helps is to know what the hot emerging segments are.  Here are three Haggerty highlights:

  • Classic Pick-Ups.  Traditionally, trucks were run til they rusted into the ground, but B. Mitchell Carlson, a panelist in the Emerging Collectibles seminar, asserted that, “From Maine to San Diego, trucks are hot” with collecters;
  • Early Japanese Cars. A lot of the original Japanese imports “were used up and thrown away,” said panelist Rob Sass, who laughed that for someone who can now find a well-preserved Honda S800 or early Toyota Celica, “they are bringing tremendous money”;
  • If cars aren’t your thing, consider a classic motorcycle, a corner of the collector market that is rapidly heating up, according to motorcycle historian Paul Duchene.

“If you think cars are an emotional purchase, wait until you purchase a vintage bike,” he suggested.

One thing that seems to hold true, year-after-year, decade-after-decade, is that collectors tend to go after the vehicles they either drove or lusted for when they were young.  An even like the summer’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance might still focus on vehicles from the pre-War golden era of coachbuilding.  But the bulk of collectors have moved on to post-War and now the muscle car era.

If Hagerty is right, we could be in for yet another shift in the coming years.

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