Taxi medallion auction price hits new low


New York’s troubled taxi medallion industry, which recently has been the subject of a New York Times investigation and a City Council hearing, continued its precipitous decline in value. An auction Thursday of 16 medallions at an East Elmhurst, Queens, hotel came to an early end, with just three sales and a top price of $138,000.

Bidding for the three medallions started at a floor price of $130,000.

Once the bidding moved to a group of medallions with a floor of $140,000, there were no takers, and auctioneer Richard Maltz halted the proceedings, according to two people who attended.

The 16 medallions had been foreclosed on by Aspire Federal Credit Union, which set the reserve prices. Medallions can have different reserve prices based on the requirements of investors who may have been involved in their financing.

The second and third medallions sold for $137,000 and $136,000. The final prices will include a “buyer’s premium” payment of 6% of the sales figure.

At an auction one year ago, a hedge fund paid $170,000 apiece for a bulk sale of 131 medallions. At other auctions last year, medallions sold for $175,000 to $185,000.

Recent private sales of individual medallions have gone as low as $100,000, according to the Taxi and Limousine Commission website.

The declining value of medallions, which reached a peak price of $1.3 million just five years ago, has triggered a chain reaction of personal bankruptcies and suicides of taxi owner-drivers. The loss of the medallion’s value has been attributed to competition from app-based services Uber and Lyft and a pricing bubble that drove purchase figures to unsustainable heights.

In the past two years, the biggest buyer of medallions has been the Greenwich, Conn., based hedge fund Marblegate Asset Management, which insiders believe sees an opportunity in the distressed asset.

If there was a silver lining to today’s sale, according to one observer, it was that the three buyers appeared to be cab drivers looking to put the medallions to work.