Las Vegas 2018 Motorcycle Auctions

The annual Las Vegas vintage motorcycle auctions show plenty of demand and a changing market.

| May/June 2018

The annual January Las Vegas vintage motorcycle auctions always produce interesting if not surprising results, with record highs and unexpected lows. But while the auctions are seen as an indicator of where motorcycle values are going, the direction isn't always clear. Longtime enthusiasts and collectors Robert Smith and Somer Hooker share their observations, with Robert's report first.

Provenance sells

The ex-Tony McAlpine, Jack Ehret 1951 Vincent Black Lightning set a new motorcycle price record of $840,000 ($929,000 including buyer's premium) at Bonhams' 2018 Motorcycle Auction in Las Vegas. The 1953 Australian Land Speed Record Vincent was sold to a telephone bidder and is heading back to Australia. Also into six figures were 1926 and 1939 Brough Superior SS80s, fetching $126,875 and $120,500, respectively.

No other motorcycles offered at Bonhams (including five other Vincents) sold for more than $100,000, and two machines expecting big money failed to sell: a 1975 MV Agusta 750S America reached $72,000, while a 1977 MV 850SS was bid to $80,000. Neither made the reserve price.

Meanwhile, the five-day Mecum auction across town offered 1,750 motorcycles. Headlining the Mecum auction was a 1911 Harley-Davidson model 7D, the first H-D twin, which made $154,000 (a similar machine sold for $260,000 in 2014). A 1917 Henderson Four with Steve McQueen provenance sold for $110,000, with a Patrick Godet Egli-Vincent with Black Shadow engine (a former Best of Show winner at the LeMay concours) going for just $250 less. Also selling for just over $100,000 was a 1941 Indian Four.

The biggest difference between the Bonhams and Mecum auctions was of scale, with some 100 motorcycles on the block at Bonhams against Mecum's 1,700-plus. But there were still some interesting comparisons of similar machines sold at both auctions. For example, a 1990 Honda RC30 with just 14 "push" miles fetched $92,000 at Bonhams, but you could buy one with 11,000 miles at Mecum for "just" $44,000. Two examples of the RC30's competitor, the Yamaha FZRR OW-01, sold, one with 74 miles at Bonhams and another with 8,700 miles at Mecum, for $34,500 and $17,050, respectively.

And while Ceccato may not be a household name, there were three of the tiny race bikes from the early 1950s for sale: a 75cc single overhead cam at Bonhams from the Jack Silverman collection and two 100cc machines (one single overhead cam, the other a double overhead cam) at Mecum. Bonhams' single overhead cam Ceccato sold for $16,100, while Mecum's in similar condition sold for $33,000. The difference? Possibly the fact the Mecum bike was signed by its designer — the legendary Fabio Taglioni. Other Italian bikes at Mecum included an unrestored 1974 Ducati 750GT that sold for $17,050, a 2008 Ducati Desmosedici D16RR for $50,600, and a rare 1988 Bimota DB1SR at a very reasonable $19,250. A 1978 Ducati 900SS bevel sold for $47,300, while a 1973 750 Sport sold for $55,000.

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