That ability to garner favorable terms isn’t the primary reason Serio and co. have full date books for sales months in the future and for multiyear long-term plays. It’s about their encyclopedic knowledge of obscure makes and models; a network of collectors, brokers, mechanics, and restorers, mostly gained by word-of-mouth; and old-fashioned common sense.

“I’m used to being disappointed,” Serio says. “And then, one time, I’ll find that 550 A Porsche that had been missing for 50 years in a garage in Dusseldorf. These things still exist, they’re still out there. You just need to know where to look.”

More subtly, the job is also about navigating the ethical cesspool of used-car sales, which, after all, is ultimately what auctions are—even if they do serve Champagne swirled with the glitz of red carpet and chandeliers. Car auctions are a largely unregulated business that exist, let’s not forget, to enrich the auction houses, not consumers. Sorting through VIN numbers, international registrations, back-end buyback guarantees, and the level of restoration or lack thereof—notoriously difficult to verify—on a million-dollar piece of rolling art is a full-time job. “I deal with liars, cheats, and thieves on a daily basis,” Serio says with a wry grin.

Those who are not so lucky to have Serio or one of his brethren by their sides might resort to carrying magnets in their pocket for an easy test to see if Bondo has been applied. (If the magnet doesn’t stick to the side of the car, it’s a sign that a repair or previous collision has occurred.) I saw one man in Scottsdale use a handheld device to detect the thickness of the paint on a red Ferrari Testarossa—which helped him determine how original the paint job was.

On To The Next One
The sale of Serio’s vintage Mercedes with the whitewall tires and patina-ed leather seats is especially sweet, considering its timing: It’s the only one of his million-dollar bunch to sell this week. Neither the Jaguar D Type nor the BMW 328 Roadster meet their reserve price, for reasons that vary, depending on whom you ask.

“Every year, it’s something: devaluing of the euro, Brexit, Harry and Meghan, the election, you name it,” Serio says. “You can’t get emotional about these things. This is just another day in the office—this just happens to be the office.”

The morning after the last auction, we meet for coffee to debrief the sales. Serio is crowing about the veal last night at his favorite Italian spot, where he hosted a dinner for a dozen major collectors. Brotman, saying a quick goodbye, will drive to Los Angeles to visit a valued client.

Later, Serio texts an update: The Jaguar will find its way to Bring a Trailer, and the BMW is being shopped to a buyer of means in the U.K. He has hitched a ride back to Boston in a friend’s private jet—another day at the office, this time sky-high. “Sometimes you throw more than one dart to find the board,” he says.

This article was provided by Bloomberg News.

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