December 18, 2019

What is the real cost of provenance?

You’ve heard it before: the ex-famous celebrity ownership, former race winner, previously on the cover of a magazine classic car that is worth so much more as a result. This is provenance. Provenance is simply something that gives your car a history and a story over and above other examples of the same make and model.

The question is: what’s the real price of provenance, and how much is it worth for a buyer and a seller?

Firstly, if you’re looking to put a price on provenance, value the car as if it didn’t have this history. Do your research and see what it is worth on the open market. Using tools such as Price Trends on The Market or the Kidston K500 index will help, as will various classifieds and even marque-specific enthusiasts’ groups. Car club members will have an idea or at least know of the other cars like the one you’re looking at, and at what price.

Once you have an idea of what a car is worth if it was standard and didn’t have this extra provenance, you should look at the documentation. Whether you’re buying or selling, it’s all about what can be proven. Documentation comes in many forms, from V5s with famous ownership to prove that their name was on the ownership certificates, to pictures of celebrities with the car. We’ve even seen photographs of cars at prestigious Concours events with rosettes used prove it was been a winner. Whatever the form of documentation, if you’re buying you should check its authenticity. Marque-specific clubs, race series’ and event organisers are worth their weight in gold. Whether you are buying a car based on its history, or are selling one and want to increase the car’s asking price, it pays dividends to put the hard work in.

You’re through the biggest hurdles, valuing a standard car and then gathering the relevant documentation. Now it’s time to rank your history – some provenance is worth more than others. For example, if your car has been on the front cover of a magazine, that could rank as a one. On the other end of the scale, a famous celebrity owner would merit a five. This slightly unscientific method takes the emotion out of buying or selling a car with provenance. Once you have all of the documents ranked, add the scores to produce one aggregate number. The higher the number, the more the car is potentially worth.

Then, with this ranking figure in mind, approach some specialists. They might know of the vehicle or have sold one with similar history to yours. The same goes for car clubs as members often have a good idea of what they’d sell a similar car for or what they’d pay for it on the open market.

Finally, if you’re thinking of selling your vehicle rather than buying, why not show it for others to enjoy? If you’re struggling for storage space and your car is full of provenance and interesting history, approach a motor museum to see whether they’d be interested in exhibiting it on your behalf.

We’d love to hear if you have a car with interesting history or if you’ve recently bought a classic that has a tale. Leave your story in the comments section below.

Interesting article. I am fully restoring a 1966 Jaguar Mk2 that was first ordered by K Shoes of Kendal in their heyday. The car was then sold on a few times before being bought by the last owner Charlie Gallagher , ex drummer with the Cryin Shames , whos hit if the same year as the car in 1966 Please Stay ,topped the Mersey Beats chart for many weeks when they played in the Cavern sharing billing with the Beatles at that time. Charlie sold the car on in 2022 to myself via a classic car dealer in the Wirral in 2022. The car DEC 3D is a Jaguar mk 2 3.8 manual o/d with all optional extras that were available fitted plus a full length Webasto dealer fitted sunroof. DEC 3 D featured on the front cover of Classic and sports car Feb 1990 and in the hardback book Jaguar Mk 2 by Duncan Wherrett. I have traced the owners back to the 2nd owner in 1968 and met them to discuss all the first hand provenance in great detail. Surprisingly he also retrieved the original green logbook from his father draw and passed it on to me. He is also now keenly following the full bare metal rebuild which is being built at Blockley in the Cotswolds by Cafecars Ltd

Bob , 07/11/2023