Bidding War…Squid leads a frugal life. Squid sees no reason to smarten up Squid’s flip phone. And Squid’s jalopy still has a perfectly good tape deck. Even so, Squid does tend to take notice when collector cars go for really big numbers. So Squid joined in the excitement Saturday night at Monterey’s downtown conference center when the auctioneer for RM Sotheby’s opened the bidding for a silver Porsche at $30 million. As the figure quickly shot up, Squid almost couldn’t help waiving Squid’s tentacles, cheering and risking an accidental bid. The number that flashed on the room’s screen and got sent out around the world hit a stunning $70 million.
Except that it hadn’t. The auctioneer had actually opened bidding at a more reasonable $13 million—that’s thir-teen, not thir-ty. The $70 million peak was really $17 million—again with that pesky ee—much closer to the $20 million the car was expected to fetch.
When the mistake was made known, people began to boo. There were shouted accusations of fraud. Some people just walked away in a sour mood. It was as if Steve Bannon had just walked onto a Berkeley stage.
RM Sotheby’s flubbed another auction some time back. They are the house that sold a piece of artwork by the elusive Banksy for $1.4 million, only to have it self-destruct while still on stage, in full view of a stunned audience.
But the auction house insists this was not a stunt. In a statement regarding the “unfortunate confusion” that swept through the room, the company blamed “an unfortunate misunderstanding amplified by excitement in the room.”
Squid has been the recipient of many corporate non-statements and can translate. The person responsible for broadcasting bid numbers misunderstood the auctioneer’s British accent. Or so the story goes. There was no such confusion on any other vehicle, including a McLaren sold the night before for a cool $19.8 million.
The Porsche? It didn’t sell.
Squid does wonder what sort of person would shell out even $17 million for the Type 64, hand-crafted by Ferdinand Porsche in 1939, almost a decade before he started his own marque. Ferdinand Porsche was a member of the Nazi party, and his car was commissioned by Adolf Hitler to celebrate Germany’s takeover of Austria and the Axis alliance with fascist Italy.
Some episodes of history are clearer than others when it comes to right versus wrong. Squid thought numbers were also pretty clear, until an acclaimed auction house botched it—and the proto-Porsche remains for sale. Maybe they can just stick a “For Sale” sign in the windshield and write down the asking price in marker; that way, prospective buyers won’t be confused.