The society-changing force generated by the youth of the sixties is now becoming evident on the auction block, and the last five years has seen one of the enduring icons of sixties personal freedom begin to soar in value across the globe.
Collector cars that appreciate in value are normally associated with aristocratic marques such as Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, not the proletarian brands personified by Volkswagen, the "people's car."
The auction marketplace is a reflection of sentiment of the population though, and the same post-war baby-boom that reshaped society during the 1960s has now come of age and controls the vast majority of the world's wealth.
The society-changing force generated by the youth of the sixties is now becoming evident on the auction block, and the last five years has seen one of the enduring icons of sixties personal freedom begin to soar in value across the globe. The van pictured below best captures the way we all saw the Volkswagen's Samba van in its time. It was the boomers' freedom machine, pitch-hitting as a mobile bedroom and lounge room too.
The post-war baby boom now controls the world's investment capital, and the alternative culture that was championed by this age group is no doubt at least partially responsible for the rise of cars, sports and entertainment memorabilia as legitimate alternative asset classes.
This trend was highlighted yet again over the weekend when a 1967 Volkswagen 21-window Deluxe Samba (below) sold for $143,000 to set a new record for the model at the Scottsdale round of collector car auctions just outside Phoenix, Arizona. Just to emphasize how hot the market has become, the record lasted just 24 hours before another 21-window Deluxe Bus took the outright world record with a sale of $302,500, more than doubling the 21-window record of just 24 hours prior. The 1965 21-window Samba is pictured above.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the sale was that, although the US$302,500 price is a world record for the 21-window Deluxe Samba Bus produced from 1964 to 1967, the previous model 23-window Deluxe Samba Bus has always been considered even more valuable.
Above is a sampling of record-setting Volkswagen 23-window Deluxe Sambas. The American record price for a Volkswagen Type 2 (Kombi) of any model at auction was held by the vehicle at top left prior to this week. It's a 1963 model 23-window Deluxe Samba sold by Barrett-Jackson in 2011 for $217,800. Top right is the former European and World T2 record holder, a 1955 model Deluxe Samba that sold for €190,000 ($236,639) at Auctionata in Germany in November, 2014. At bottom left is the Australian record holder, a 1960 Deluxe Samba (in right hand drive configuration) that was sold for AUD$202,000 (US$157,690) in February, 2015. At bottom right is the British record holder, a 1960 Samba Deluxe that sold for £91,100 ($143,347) at Bonhams' Goodwood Festival of Speed sale in August, 2015.
Quite clearly, people power is flexing its muscles once more, and although the prices of rare 21- and 23-window Deluxe Samba vans are the most visible sign of the boomers exercising their preferences, the rising water mark has seen the value of all Volkswagen Kombi vans grow likewise over the last few years.
Paying $200,000 plus for a collectible car isn't nearly as perception-challenging if the badge on the grill reads Bugatti or Bentley, but the Volkswagen T2 is now moving into that category, too.
That is, it is appreciating in value at the same time as it is still being used by mobile street vendors around the world for selling coffee, fruit, veggies and alcohol. Indeed, many of those vendors may not even be aware that their trusty workhorse may soon eclipse the price of their home.
A prime example of just how much the market for T2 variants has been influenced by the banner-carrying 23-window Deluxe Samba is the crew-cab Kombi above ,which spent most of its life as a tradesman's workhorse but is currently advertised for $100,000 in Germany.
The following T2 Volkswagens are the most valuable to have been sold at auction to date. To track this global phenomenon, we've converted any non-American sales into American dollars at the prevailing exchange rate on the day of the sale.