The CRM team made our way to last weekend’s Mecum Motorcycle Auction at the South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for the first time in several years. First-timer Blair Powell was eager to witness an event he’d been hearing about for years. Being the owner of a half-dozen classic bikes, he was, like most of us, curious about the values of some of his machines while also furiously debating whether to add to his garage fleet during the five-day event.
He was far from disappointed as this year’s auction proved just as multifaceted and exciting as we’d expected. “It’s hard to imagine just how many ultra-rare, classic and custom motorcycles come up for sale here, because I didn’t realize that many people were into them,” a slack-jawed Mr. Powell remarked after his first stroll through Mecum’s vast pre-staging area just off the auction floor. We led a VIP tour for some of our readers through this densely-packed hall on both Friday and Saturday, giving these lucky insiders a look at the assembled motorcycles before they were rolled out for bidding.
Once the sales got underway, we noticed some definite trends emerging from the final results, while there were plenty of surprises – some downright shocking- to be seen as well. Blair, for example, owned a Kawasaki H2 triple back in his college days, a remembers the smoke-spewing two-stroke fondly “despite the fact that you had to fight it to make it go around corners.” The original price for the used, 1973 machine was around $5000 in rough-but-running condition, which is why Blair nearly choked on his beer when restored versions of this and other Kawi triples easily drew bids in the $20,000 to $30,000 range. A pristine, blur 750cc triple sold for a walloping $55,000, which proves the two-strokes are here to stay.
And while Kawasaki two-strokes were certainly ascendant at Mecum this year, some other stalwarts of the antique bike trade were softening for the first time in recent history. Indian V-twins of late 1940s vintage were climbing into the crazy-money world a few years back, but we watched a few of these full-fendered, air-cooled classics sell for less then $25,0000, sums that would have been outright rejected by owners just a couple of years ago.
British classics, I’m afraid, continue to sell at modest sums, perhaps, as some auction insiders suggested, their sheer numbers causing investors and would-be owners to consider more exotic fare. That meant a pair of identical, mid-1950s Norton Dominator 500s sold just minutes apart with one drawing atop big of $7,700 and the other selling for $17,000. We’d long ban fans of Vincent V-twins, the vaunted British roadsters becoming so valued in recent years that collectors were often paying six-figure sums for restored Black Shadows and Rapides. This year, we cane closer to owning a Vinny than ever before as a running, un-restored Rapide failed to reach its reserve price of $40,000. The seller of this non matching numbers bike was willing to entertain offers around $35,000, but as Blair commented “that’s still an awful lot of money for British classic when you already own a six.”
Custom cafe racers drew respectable cash this year, with a couple of modified Honda CB750 fours taking home low five-figure sums, while BSA’s venerable DB34 Gold Star 500 dipped and dived between $17,000 and, for one lucky buyer, just $10K for a museum-quality restoration.
The fluctuations in the market values of so many incredible motorcycles is a fascinating thing to follow. Developments that few of us could have imagined just months ago come to pass, making this one of the must-attend bike events of the year.