Newman's memorabilia vs McQueen's: what we learned from a $250,000 Corvette

We awaited the weekend's magnificent classic car sale in Amelia Island with great excitement, and certainly weren't disappointed. Auction highlights included a 2002 Corvette Trans Am series racing car owned by none other than Hollywood legend Paul Newman.

The 2002 Corvette racer has a 700-horsepower engine. This was pushed to the max by Newman, star of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, when he raced the car between 2003-2007. Newman achieved his last win in the Corvette at Lime Rock, Connecticut, just a year before his death in 2008.

In the end, the car brought $275,000 at Amelia Island. While a final sale value of $0.25m-plus is nothing to be sniffed at, it was closer to the lower bracket of the Corvette's $250,000 to $350,000 presale estimate.

Why? Well, the answer can be found by looking at the legacy of Newman's friend and co-star Steve McQueen. The pair starred together in 1974's Towering Inferno, before McQueen died just six years later in 1980 aged just 50.

Paul Newman's 2002 Corvette Trans Am series racing car 

McQueen's collectibles have since benefitted from what is commonly known as the 'James Dean effect'. This is when a star dies young at the height of their powers - like John Lennon and Marilyn Monroe - leaving behind a strong impression and legacy in the pop culture psyche.

Steve McQueen's legacy has had years to gestate, hence last year's huge sale of the racing overalls worn by McQueen in the 1971 film Le Mans. Believe it or not, those overalls sold for $984,000 - nearly four times the value of Paul Newman's 2002 Corvette.

Newman and McQueen's memorabilia seems to appeal to the same types of collectors - in much the same way that the friendly rivals' movies appealed to similar audiences during the stars' lifetimes.

Paul Newman, like McQueen, is no stranger to success in the collectibles markets. A superb 1969 Rolex "Paul Newman" Cosmograph Daytona timepiece was one of the top Rolex wristwatch sales of 2011. The elegant piece exceeded its presale estimate to bring £47,000 ($73,200).

Like Steve McQueen's Le Mans racing overalls, the Rolex also boasted authentic and classic '60s and '70s provenance - unlike the 2002 Corvette.

So, as Paul Newman's legacy continues to endure and grow, his collectibles values could gradually catch-up with Steve McQueen's in future years. And Newman's collectibles like his Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, or even the 2002 Corvette, should prove themselves as excellent appreciating assets.


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