A much-hyped car auction sputtered out in the weirdest way Saturday.
A 1939 Porsche “Type 64,” the only of its kind still existing, was expected to sell for around $20 million at an auction by RM Sotheby’s
in Monterey, Calif., on Saturday night.
Auction-goers heard bidding start at $30 million, then $40 million, and as the now-abuzz crowd gasped and cheered, it quickly zipped up to $70 million — a record price for any car auction.
The auctioneer stopped the bidding when he noticed the price on the screen was wrong.
“It says 70 guys, it’s 17,” the auctioneer, Maarten ten Holder, can be heard saying in a YouTube video. “It might be my pronunciation, we’re at $17 million.”
Apparently the screen operator had misheard the auctioneer’s Dutch-accented English, and input 30 for 13, 40 for 14, and so on.
The crowd was not amused, and many walked out, accusing Sotheby’s of pranking them.
There were no further bids above $17 million — which was below the car’s minimum bid price — so the lot was pulled from the auction.
“What a joke,” Johnny Shaughnessy, a Southern California collector who attended the auction, told Bloomberg News. “They just lost so much credibility.”
It’s the second high-profile black eye for Sotheby’s in the past year. Last October, a Banksy painting shredded itself at a London auction shortly after being sold for more than 1 million pounds, apparently as a prank by the mysterious artist. At the time, Sotheby’s denied being “in on the ruse.”
Sotheby’s apologized Sunday and denied any shenanigans. “This was in no way a joke or prank on behalf of anyone at RM Sotheby’s, rather an unfortunate misunderstanding amplified by excitement in the room,” the company said in a statement, according to Jalopnik.