It was intended to be the star lot in a classic care sale for RM Sotheby’s in Monterey Beach, California. Hailed as the “first” Porsche, the Type 64 car from 1939 was the only surviving one of three that were ever build. RM Sotheby’s had estimated that it would fetch upwards of $22 million, but it turned out to be a much different story. The car ultimately failed to sell because of a mortifying technical difficulty as well as Maarten ten Holder, the auctioneer’s, thick Dutch accent.
A starting bid of $13 million was falsely heard as $30 million and suddenly everything went wrong. A video circulated showing the auction and how the initial error was actually projected onto the screen as $30 million and climbed to $40, $50, $60 and eventually $70 million, before abruptly dropping to $17 million. It was never $30 million however, and certainly not $70 million. $70 million would have made it the most expensive car to ever sell at auction.
Eventually, the distressed auctioneer realized the bidding increments were being posted incorrectly and corrected the course, but it was too late. The cheerful crowd had turned agitated and confused. The screen was saying one thing while the announcer was saying another.
RM Sotheby’s site still listed the car for sale after it was offered on Saturday. The closing $17 million bid did not go through, however a statement from Sotheby’s suggested otherwise. In the statement, Sotheby’s wrote: “As bidding opened on the Type 64, increments were mistakenly overheard and displayed on the screen, causing unfortunate confusion in the room. 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 auction was not canceled. The car reached a high bid of $17 million.”
Some perplexed audience members thought it was another publicity stunt, or an attempt to replicate the “Shredded Banksy” incident from last October. “What a joke,” Johnny Shaughnessy told Bloomberg. a collector from Southern California, who was in the room during the sale. “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.”
The statement further said that it was a “totally inadvertent and unintentional mistake” in which an “unfortunate misunderstanding” due to the incorrectly displayed bidding increments were compounded by “excitement in the room.”