Friday, April 1, 2016

The motorcycle collector’s world

I have been involved with motorcycles and motorcycling for many decades now and have a pretty good appreciation for most aspects of the culture from riding to competition, from street to dirt, and have participated in many over the years. But what I have never done is considered a motorcycle as an investment. 

Bonhams’ Spring Stafford Sale is coming up at the end of April and the catalogue is available online here: http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/23600/?department=MOT-CYC#/

It starts out reasonably enough with a few offers of ‘projects’ consisting of little more than frames and a few bits. The estimated prices don’t seem totally unreasonable to my uneducated mind, but I am also aware that there are many, many thousands of dollars and countless hours to be invested before any of the bikes offered as projects actually become complete, running motorcycles, if ever.

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Then there are the boxes of bits. The bidder has no idea what is contained therein, but they would be good collections to use as traders at rallies or auto jumbles, hopefully for parts the collector actually needs. A few hundred dollars might not be a bad investment considering what it could be leveraged into.

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Modern era vintage bikes are, it seems to me, priced optimistically – at least from a North American perspective. But if one really has his heart set on a 1977 Honda CF400F perhaps it’s worth $7500 CDN ($5500 US) to relive one’s youth. However there are better deals to be had on this side of the pond IMO.

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And that’s about where the riff-raff might as well pack up and go home because we now enter investment territory. $11,000 for a helmet worn by Barry Sheene back in 1974 is only worth it if you expect to sell it for more in a year or two – or if it’s the last piece needed to complete the Barry Sheene shrine in your man cave.

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Feel like something a bit more exotic that could be a daily rider? Lots of Vincents on the list, including this Black Shadow expected to fetch a sum slightly south of $100K.

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Then there’s anything Brough-Superior. What looks like a barn find, missing only the pigeon crap, is expected to bring at least $150,000 CDN.

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While a restored example of the marque can command prices in excess of a quarter-million dollars.

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In this rarified atmosphere these motorcycles, helmets, and so on are worth only what the next person is willing to pay. And by the time you add in the auction house’s take on top, as well as the VAT, that person must be willing to pay something like 25% to 30% more than you did or else you are now out tens of thousands of dollars. Or you have a very expensive motorcycle as an artistic centrepiece in your living room.

So, no, this is a world intended for much stouter folk than me – and with much deeper bank accounts. Interesting though it is, I will happily watch (and lust) from the sidelines.

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