Collecting Treasures: Vintage motorcycle market strong … for now

The demand for vintage motorcycles has everything to do with the age of the buyers — mostly men in their 40, 50s and 60s who are nostalgic for the motorcycles they grew up with

There’s no better place to ride the open roads on a vintage bike than Arizona. That could be one reason we’ve seen demand increase steadily at our auction house over the past decade.

But, this has been a national trend, and it has everything to do with the age of the buyers — mostly men in their 40, 50s and 60s who are nostalgic for the motorcycles they grew up with.

Celebrities’ bikes typically do well at auction. Last year, Jerry Lee Lewis’ 1959 Harley-Davidson sold at auction for $385,000, and, in a different auction, a 1915 Cyclone board-track racer that was once part of Steve McQueen’s collection realized $775,000.

Two weeks ago, we had an onsite estate auction in Black Canyon City that included 10 vintage and more modern motorcycles and scooters. As we expected, the interest was strong with 370 bidders onsite and more than 5,200 registered online.

Some of the highlights included a 2003 Honda VTX 1800 motorcycle that sold for $6,434. A 1972 H1 Kawasaki 500 Mach III sold for $5,605 — they call that one the widow maker. And, a 1966 (Honda 90) Cub CM91 bike sold for $760, which we thought was decent considering the bike would not start.

Like car collectors

Vintage motorcycle collectors are not that much different from car collectors. Many will ride on weekends, belong to clubs and attend special events with their bikes; others will store their bikes in their garage or man cave and proudly display them to family and friends.

Just like car collectors, many collectors of vintage motorcycles love to restore them. For the average mechanically-minded person, restoration on these older bikes is much easier than today’s more advanced machines.

Parts are another story, as they can be hard to find. You’ll need a lot of patience as you comb through the classified sections or spend time in motorcycle graveyards to track down the right parts.

And yes, there really are motorcycle graveyards that are full of hundreds, if not, thousands, of vintage motorcycles and parts. Usually, they are stacked in piles, and if you’re lucky, they’ll be arranged in order to help you locate the part you need. Otherwise, block out a lot of time for your treasure hunt.

Time to sell

If you’re a collector of vintage bikes, now is the time to sell. The market for these era motorcycles has never been stronger, and as time passes, interest will begin to decline as a younger generation will look to collect from a period from their youth.

If you’re bidding on a motorcycle — whether it’s vintage or not — be sure to do your homework. Research the VIN number of the motorcycle to match it with the year of the bike, preview it in person or have a friend check it out to assess its condition, and then check current market value for the motorcycle so you don’t spend too much.

Owning and riding a vintage bike is not only cool, it’s fun. Now, go explore Arizona on your bike and ride safe!

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