Motorcycle Auction Action & Kickstart Classic
SHIFTING GEARS, by Buzz Kanter, Publisher
I’ve just returned from the annual motorcycle auctions in Las Vegas, and my head is spinning from all the amazing motorcycles and record-breaking prices.
I was quite impressed with the levels of knowledge of participants. Some were world-class experts, and others didn’t seem to have a clue. I saw people from both groups bidding, sometimes against each other. It made for some interesting action. Prices were all over the board from crazy cheap to insanely expensive.
At the Bonhams auction, a 1947 Knucklehead sold for $26,450 (all prices include commission), which seems pretty reasonable for a Knucklehead. Then at the same auction later that day, a 1940 Knucklehead sold for a staggering $159,000. Granted, it was a pretty nice bike, but a lot of experts who had carefully inspected it wanted to know why it went so very high. I know a little about Knuckleheads, but I’m far from an expert. So when asked why it sold so high, I replied “That’s simple. One person with the resources thought it was worth $158,000 and a second person thought it was worth $159,000.” But I have no idea why it sold for so much.
Speaking of expensive Knuckleheads, a stunning, restored, first-year 1936 EL from the George Pardos collection sold at the Mecum/Mid-America auction a few days later. Even though it might have set the record price for a Harley Knucklehead at auction at almost $180,000, few people seemed surprised. I learned a lesson when my friend Bill Melvin told me of a motorcycle auction many years ago when he was looking at a rare and valuable motorcycle he wanted to buy. One of the world’s leading experts on that particular machine carefully looked it over and proclaimed out loud “Well, that is just not correct!” and walked away. Pretty soon, everyone at the auction was sure the bike was not correct, but my friend was still interested in it. So he asked the expert to come over and point out what was incorrect on the bike. The expert replied “The bike is terrific, but the auction house simply had it listed incorrectly.” My friend said the bidding on that motorcycle was weak, and he bought it cheap.
The next day, I was interested in a rare, old motorcycle that had crossed the block well below reserve. I asked a few people about it and was told it was probably a good replica and not the real deal. So I asked my pal Dale Walksler to look it over. He did and told me it was the real deal and encouraged me to buy it if I was interested. And that’s what I did, at well below the market value for that particular machine. In fact, I bought it for just a little more than what I had sold my old dual-carb Panhead bobber for the month before.
Ride a few years ago, we organized an all-brands, two-day motorcycle ride for the readers of our various magazines (American Iron Magazine, Motorcycle Bagger, and what is now called Motorcycle). It was so much fun, we’ve held the Kickstart Classic every year since. Our next one will be in beautiful backcountry mountains in late July. We’ll gather at Wheels Through Time for a welcome reception and dinner for all registered participants. The next morning, we’ll ride a couple hundred miles to Coker Tires for dinner and an overnight stop. The next day we’ll ride another couple hundred miles to Cyclemos museum for dinner. We’ll stay off the highways for more enjoyment on the old machines, but don’t think this will be a slow ride.
If you wish to join us, please register ASAP, and make sure you and your bike are up for the ride. We’re limited to 100 motorcycles. All makes, models, years, and brands of motorcycles are welcome. If your bike doesn’t have a kickstarter, you’ll ride in the back to pick up any parts that fall off the older bikes up front. Registration is $100 per person, and you can call Rosemary at 203/425-8777, ext. 114 to register or ask questions. For more info on this ride, visit AIMag.com.
Ride safe, ride smart, have fun.
This article originally appeared in the issue #309 of American Iron Magazine.
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