Should provenance matter when it comes to car sales? It’s a question that has crossed our minds many times over the years and a few more times in recent months. This occurred mostly while reading mainstream automotive websites and/or advertisements for classic or sportscars. Provenance is defined as the history of ownership of a valued object or work of art or literature. Of course, some cars are among the more valuable things one can buy these days. A classic Mercedes-Benz sold for a staggering $143m (yes million) last year. You can learn more about the car from the record-breaking sale at this link.

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History Matters

In the automotive world, provenance has extended beyond just ownership, as it can. Artworks and manuscripts have to sit idly in palatial homes enjoyed only by one’s eyes. Cars, on the other hand, can be driven and raced. And they most definitely should. We are firm believers, here at Double Apex, that cars should be driven as much as possible. It is, after all, why they were created. Ironically, driving cars too much usually tends to lower their value, but we’ll discuss that another time.

Cars that have been raced, and successfully at that, tend to fetch higher prices when they change hands. The more famous the race, the higher the price. The value of our MX-5 racecar is unlikely to increase because it scored a victory at a club level series. However, a Porsche that won the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans or a Ferrari that Michael Schumacher steered to an F1 title will carry a hefty premium. And understandably so. The car has a place in automotive history and several people will want to own that historic object, which invariably drives up the price.

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But Does Ownership?

More and more often we see cars advertised that proclaim ownership history. Or at very least the famous bits to help drive up the asking price. The Ferrari F50 (featured image) was once owned by Rod Stewart. We saw an article a week ago with the proud headline: We Drove Jay Kay’s Ferrari that’s for Sale. We read that same kind of headline regularly. You can own A-list Actor’s Lambo or Some Famous Rappers SUV (we’re paraphrasing here).

That level of ownership ‘provenance’ (used loosely here) extends even further. We regularly get offered cars to advertise through our personal channels, cars that friends of friends are trying to sell. The pitch can sometimes leave us scratching our heads. “This car was owned by the dealer principal of the third largest dealership in the Western Cape. It was the fifth grey one delivered in 2012.” Errr. We’re not sure exactly how that factors into the equation, but okay…

We understand that people try to inflate the values of cars they want to sell, but should previous ownership really matter? Stewart’s F50 is considered a piece of supercar and rock’n’roll history (their words, not ours) Is it really though? Sir Rod may have owned it, but that’s it. He was one of half a dozen or so who did. You aren’t getting a free concert; the seats aren’t covered in song lyrics and he won’t ever care who bought a car he drove, probably very little, almost 30 years ago.


The question remains unanswered for us. We can’t see any good reason why the previous owner’s tush parked in a seat should raise the value of any car, but it does. Why it does is completely beyond any logic. Extending this further could a laptop or mobile phone once owned by a music star also command a premium. We don’t think so. We are keen to hear your thoughts, leave them below or comment on our Facebook under the link to this article. Feel free to tag a buddy who told you about the ninth red model XXXX in the country that his family doctor is trying to sell.

Image from Collecting Cars.