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Navigating the Collector Car World

ACM’s Master Collector exhibit featuring Peter Gleeson.

By Scot Keller, Curator of Exhibitry

One of the most frequent questions asked by America’s Car Museum guests and members of the media are “What is the most valuable car in the Museum?” I enjoy this question because it gives us the opportunity to point out that we trade in a currency that isn’t monetary, but rather the emotional connection and stories visitors have about specific cars.

That connection is predictably a result of individual experiences and memories. Their first car, a great road trip or possibly the car they always cherished but never owned. By the way, this last of these is true in my case, but my 1963 split-window Corvette story will have to wait until another Motor Mouth post.

Photo: Reneé Crist, ACM Collections Manager.

However, the monetary value of an automobile in the collector car world is both tangible and complex. Navigating this complicated subject can be a little daunting for all but the seasoned collector, but a whole lot of fun.

When creating exhibits at ACM we draw information from a number of outstanding resources, chief among them Hagerty Classic Car Insurance, Hemmings Motor News and Sports Car Market. All three are well known in the collector car community and enjoy sterling reputations.

For instance, are you curious which classic car is most popular in which state? Hemmings Motor News recently conducted a very interesting study based on a massive number of classified ads placed in the publication dating back to 2010. After crunching the huge amount of data one brand emerged all conquering. Can you guess what it is? Hint: it derives its name from the fast strike ships that gained fame in World War II.

ACM’s Corvette exhibit in 2013.

One of my favorite resources is Hagerty Classic Car Insurance. The wealth of information available on their website is impressive and arguably the most quoted in the media. The tools available include the Hagerty Monthly Market Rating, which measures value trends among classics in North America. Their website also has a steady stream of insightful articles and videos on a wide range of collector car subjects.

As ACM’s Curator, another resource I depend on is the Hagerty Valuation Tools, which include well-written descriptions of cars and their current values.

A third source of valuable information we rely on is Sports Car Market. SCM is a significant source of information from collector car auctions, insightful articles, and data from over 270,000 individual auctions that can be sorted by make, model and year on their premium site.

When curating the ACM audience experience we focus on the role of the automobile in American history and culture with heavy emphasis personal experiences and storytelling. It’s what we call “Celebrating America’s Love Affair with the Automobile.”

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