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Greatest Collector Car Auctions by Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale Arizona

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Cars, Cars, Cars! Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale, Arizona Boasts Five Decades and Beyond

Photography courtesy of Barrett-Jackson

2023 Chevrolet Corvette

What started as a collector car auction in the early 1970s has now transformed into a world-class lifestyle event in Scottsdale, Arizona, with Barrett-Jackson enjoyed by every generation.

Collector car enthusiast or not, you likely have heard of ICONIC Barrett-Jackson and perhaps attended the highly anticipated event in Scottsdale, Arizona a time or two. The World’s Greatest Collector Car Auctions is regarded as a barometer of the classic car industry. Thousands of the world’s most unique and sought-after automobiles are put on display in front of a global audience, both in-person and broadcast on live television. And if you’re lucky enough to attend one, or many, of the days of the 10-day-long event in Scottsdale, Arizona, you’ll be right in the middle of all of the action!

ICONIC LIFE Publisher, Renee Dee, had a chance to chat on her podcast with Craig Jackson, Barrett-Jackson CEO and Chairman, to learn about the auction’s history, his favorite aspects of the events and what his vision is for the future.

It all started as a charity fundraiser, which has continued on today, but the early days of Barrett-Jackson were a bit different than the ICONIC event we now know it as. 

“My mom and my dad and Tom Barrett met over a car in the early sixties,” Jackson begins. “They got to be friends and members of the Classic Car Club of Arizona, then they decided to do a charity fundraiser.” 

Craig Jackson

Craig Jackson

The first Barrett-Jackson auction, initially intended to be a one-time event, was held in 1971 and due to its enormous success, has become an annual event.

“The tent was actually where the Mercedes-Benz dealership is today. Ironic, because at the first auction, we sold a collection of German cars of Tom Barrett’s.” Jackson says. 

From there, the event continued to evolve as well as the city it calls home. Before finding its permanent home at WestWorld of Scottsdale in 1989, the auction was held at different locations around Phoenix. But, Herb Drinkwater, the mayor of Scottsdale, Arizona at the time, convinced the team to move Barrett-Jackson back to Scottsdale, and the rest is history.

“He had a great vision. He told us when we were standing in the middle of nowhere, WestWorld was geographically going to be the center of Scottsdale. Back then Scottsdale ended basically at Shea, at least civilization did, and he had quite a vision. And we bought into his vision and moved back to Scottsdale and from there we have just evolved and helped grow the auction together with the city of Scottsdale.”

And it’s a great thing they did! Jackson has made sure to make the event worthwhile for not only car collectors and automobile lovers, but for anyone who might want to get out and enjoy the atmosphere that Barrett-Jackson brings. When Jackson officially took the reins in 1995, he made it a goal to make the experience the best it could possibly be, which he did by getting feedback from current event goers and customers.

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“I sent out a questionnaire, and I asked my customers what they want, listened to them and changed the mix of cars and changed the auction from just an auction to a lifestyle event.” 

He wanted to add elements to the experience that would attract and entertain everyone, not just the car enthusiasts. To accomplish this, Jackson began adding fashion shows and the vendor marketplace to really make it a place patrons could hang out and in turn, Barrett-Jackson has become more than just an auction, it has become a world-class destination, as well as a tradition for some families. 

“I think one of my favorite times is opening day, when we see all the kids and the families out there and seeing the next generations. And seeing three generations walking around together,” he added.

Some people might think that car collecting is a thing of the past, but Jackson doesn’t see the hobby going away any time soon, even with the younger generations. 

“I think one of my favorite times is opening day, when we see all the kids and the families out there and seeing the next generations. And seeing three generations walking around together,” he added.

Supercars on display at Barrett-Jackson

“I’m seeing a lot of young kids who grew up watching us on television and I didn’t even realize the impact,” Jackson says. 

He recognized what Barrett-Jackson means to so many when he was at the Barrett-Jackson booth at another car show when some younger car fans asked him for his autograph. 

“I am like ‘You know who I am?’ and they go ‘I’ve grown up next to my dad on the couch for 20 years watching you. You are why I’m into cars.’” 

As the years go by, Barrett-Jackson will start seeing even more fans from the Gen Z and Millennial generations, and Jackson is thrilled that the love of car collecting will continue to be passed down. 

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Another favorite for Jackson? Super Saturday, the final Saturday of the auction, and when the team is cranking on all eight cylinders. 

“Last year, we did $80 million in sales just on Saturday,” Jackson says. “It is an unbelievable atmosphere at Barrett-Jackson.”

And while many aspects of the auction have changed and grown, there’s one aspect that has remained the same after all these years—charitable initiatives. Barrett-Jackson is well-known for its generous charitable donations, often auctioning select vehicles that auto companies consign for a good cause. Even celebrities consign their vehicles for charity, including big names like Travis Barker, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Pitbull, Justin Bieber and Burt Reynolds. 

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In 2010, Jackson also formed the Barrett-Jackson Cancer Research Fund at TGen to honor his late brother and father who both passed away from colon cancer. The car auctions have also raised money to benefit many other organizations including JDRF, Childhelp, the Bob Woodruff Foundation and many more. 

Jackson’s wife, Carolyn Jackson, conceptualized another important initiative, Driven Hearts, which works in conjunction with the Arizona Department of Transportation to benefit the American Heart Association (AHA). Car owners can show their support for AHA and their love of cars with a Barrett-Jackson license plate. Plus, $17 of every license plate purchase directly benefits AHA.

What can you expect from Barrett-Jackson in the future? 

“IMG, an Endeavor company and global leader in events, media, sports and fashion,” has just recently acquired a majority stake in Barrett-Jackson which will only help the event continue to grow and transform.

“As my partnership with IMG develops, you will see us becoming an event just like a lot of their other events around the world, just that absolute pinnacle.” Jackson continues, “That’s why they invested in Barrett-Jackson, they only buy best-in-class events and then how can they make them better?”

As we gear up for this year’s event, Jackson emphasized his vision for making Barrett-Jackson a top event for fans of all ages. 

“I think the kickoff weekend will be very cool. I look forward to how we get the young kids involved,” he says. “I keep going back to that but it is so important for all industries and we’re really doing an awful lot across all the different media to reach out to broaden our demographics and make our buyer pool younger and really introduce them to Barrett-Jackson and that has really been my main focus.”

We have no doubt that once anyone attends a Barrett-Jackson show, no matter their age, they’ll be wanting to go back year after year. 

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