Hemmings’ 70th Anniversary: Q&A With Jonathan Shaw

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Jonathan Shaw, President of Hemmings, with the 70th Anniversary logo. Photo Huw Evans

Iconic classic car marketplace undergoes major update.

Many of those who’ve been actively involved with the classic car hobby are familiar with Hemmings. Since 1954 it has provided a range of services that support the classic and collector car industry. In celebrating its 70th anniversary, Hemmings has undergone a major revamp. To help understand a little about what that entails, Autosphere interviewed Hemmings President Jonathan Shaw.

Autosphere: At its essence, what does Hemmings represent for the classic car hobby?

Jonathan Shaw: When Ernest Hemmings founded the company back in 1954, his mission was to provide an aggregate marketplace for classic vehicles. Back then, the audience for collector cars was primarily pre-war vehicles from cars like Cords, Packards, Buicks, Cadillacs, Oldsmobiles and Lincolns; to mainstream vehicles like Model T and Model A Fords. Today, 70 years later, that mission hasn’t changed, even though the hobby itself and our brand, has evolved a lot since then.

Hemmings’ collector car marketplace provides an extensive range of resources for both dealers and private sellers. Photo Hemmings

AS: Tell us a little about Hemmings today and what it provides for the marketplace.

JS: A big part of Hemmings today is our online classified site. We have, at any one time, around 30,000 classic and collectible vehicles for sale both from dealers and private sellers. We also have a network of approximately 500 classic car dealers that we work with who help us run the site. There are three distinct marketplaces on Hemmings.com.

The first is our traditional classified ads where the individual is responsible for all the reach out and handling of the sale of the vehicle. The second is our live auctions, which we launched in 2019 where people get to bid on vehicles and that’s been a huge growth area of the business. The third is a hybrid product that combines the economics and fee structure of the auctions, with the transactional aspect of our traditional ads, meaning people can submit an offer, but it’s not timed. What’s unique about Hemmings auctions and products offers is that we do a lot of research on each vehicle, verifying the ownership and title. In order to bid on our site, you also need to be a registered bidder with your credit card on file. 

AS: We’ve seen that online bidding of classic and special-interest vehicles has exploded over the last several years—what do you think has driven that?

JS: I think perception has had a lot to do with it. Convenience is one thing, but another is the fact that today, people are much more willing to purchase vehicles they haven’t seen in person, so long as they are purchased from a trusted resource that’s presenting those vehicles accurately and transparently. While Hemmings is an independent marketplace, we have 70 years of customer-centred service and have earned a reputation as a trusted and valued brand within the collector car hobby. We feel that’s a good fit with today’s online auction marketplace, especially given the volume of classic vehicle transactions we have across North America.

During the 2023 SEMA Show, attendees got to see the new Hemmings branding, including this ad that ran on the Las Vegas Monorail the week of the show. Photo Hemmings

AS: Tell us about your approach to the Canadian classic vehicle market.

JS: We have a lot of sellers based in Canada. We know there is a great deal of interest and activity in the collector car space in Canada, and we’re seeing opportunities to grow our footprint both in Canada as well as the U.S.

AS: What are some of the newest initiatives you have underway?

JS: I think the growth in the e-commerce side of collector cars is providing new opportunities and we’re focused on bringing new technologies into that space. We sat and we listened to all the feedback from our customer base including questions such as Who do you recommend for shipping? And how should I insure my car? Or I just inherited this car and would like to know how much it is actually worth? From this, we were able to start building what we call a frictionless marketplace, which we’ve been working on over the past year.

We now offer a valuation service where people can submit photos of their vehicle along with a description, and then, our research team [that we also use on our auction site to price vehicles] will create a custom valuation of the customer’s specific vehicle using real market comparison data to get a full PDF or an outline of the value that’s personalized, based on your specific vehicle. While people have used Hemmings for decades, flipping through the book or going online to look at relative asking prices, now, we’re using all our sales data that’s coming back, because the market changes so fast now.

In the past, you could base the market on the marquee auctions that happen at the start of the year, such as those in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the market would determine pricing based on the information from those auctions until the next big event in the spring, such as Pebble Beach in Monterey. Today, because the market is changing so fast, you can’t rely on that anymore, you need to have real-time data on the pricing of collector cars because those prices can change tremendously and very quickly.

AS: Tell us a little about the 70th Anniversary refresh and what it means for Hemmings going forward.

JS: It’s essentially about re-imagining the timeless Hemmings brand and positioning it for a new era of full-throttle growth. Our new icon is designed to pay homage to the rich history of Hemmings while embracing a new and modern look. At the same time, along with our new Insurance Marketplace, created in partnership with InsuraMatch, we’ve also got the new Hemmings Mobile App, which brings our entire collector car marketplace right to the palm of your hand, as well as new online video programming.

Ultimately, our goal is to demystify the collector car marketplace and eliminate every reason why somebody would not take the plunge and purchase a classic or collector car, whether it’s their first foray or they’re a seasoned enthusiast. Ultimately, it’s about making the buying/selling and ownership experience as exciting and frictionless as possible. 



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