Collector motorcycles gain attention as classic car values soar

Classic bikes are fun to ride and affordable to own, and they don't take up much space | Bill Hall photos
Classic bikes are fun to ride and affordable to own, and they don’t take up much space | William Hall photos

Want an exotic, high-performance classic from a boutique Italian builder? How about a glorious relic from a bespoke British marque? A big American cruiser, or perhaps a reliable Japanese road-scorcher?

If your epicurean tastes have been priced out of the collector car market, you might discover that classic motorcycles offer much of the same mechanical fascination, require less space, and are much more affordable than their four-wheeled counterparts.

Interesting sport bikes at a recent Mecum auction
Interesting sport bikes at a recent Mecum auction

Dana Mecum of Mecum Auctions, which calls itself the world’s largest collector car auction company, is betting you will.

Three years ago, Mecum Auctions absorbed Mid-America, the country’s premier motorcycle auction house, on the idea that car guys would soon recognize the relative bargain of collector motorcycles and want to add them to their man caves and car collections.

“Cars and motorcycles are being looked at and collected as art, and with motorcycles, you are able to appreciate everything about them as they are totally exposed,” said Sam Murtaugh, vice president of Mecum Auctions. “The mechanical artistry is what makes a motorcycle so captivating, and it’s all right there in plain sight.

“Many car collectors are adding motorcycles to their collections, and with their size, you can put one in your office or even your living room and enjoy them through and through.”

The trend toward urban living, which means smaller if any garages and workspaces, is feeding the interest in cycles amongst younger enthusiasts. And the urban café culture that gave the “café racer” its name is bigger than ever. Individual expression is satisfied by the myriad of makes, models and modifications available in the motorcycle world. All of which is achieved with a smaller financial outlay than with a classic car.

A classic Norton Commando is fun to show and ride
A classic Norton Commando is satisfying to show and ride

Hagerty Insurance has taken note of the heightened interest in collector motorcycles and began monitoring values in October 2015 to complement their classic cycle policy coverage.

“We started publishing the motorcycle section of Hagerty Valuation Tools quite simply because people were asking for it,” said McKeel Hagerty, CEO of Hagerty Insurance. “In the end, it benefits everyone, from the aspirational buyer watching and preparing to buy, to the longtime owner looking to keep a pulse on their collection.”

As to the spike in interest among collectors, Hagerty added, “The reasons for growth come down to passion and availability. The average price-point of a classic motorcycle is approximately half of the comparable collector car. A typical price of entry is about $5,000 versus $10,000.

“When you combine that with a renewed, pop-culture image for motorcycles, the market was ripe for growth.”

Here are some results from the Mecum motorcycle auction in Schaumburg, Illinois, last month that provide a quick primer on this still-accessible area of the hobby with sales (all results are hammer sales not including auction fees):

 

A 1960 Benelli 175 and a 1958 Moto Morini 98 Sbarazzino (foreground) sold for $500 each.1
A 1966 Greeves Challenger MX2, an early British motocrosser for $1,500.2
A period Honda chopper, a piece of American folk art and a hipster favorite, sold for $1,500.3
A vintage-raced 1969 Ducati Desmo 450 single for $5,000.4
An award-winning, restored 1967 Honda CL77 Scrambler hammered for $6,250.5
Resplendent in green and wearing hi-pipes, this 1969 Triumph Trophy 500 probably sold for the cost of its restoration at $9,750.6
A British-made 1946 Velocette 350 MAC, expertly restored and sold for $7,750.7
This 1978 BMW R 100RS, with fantastic Hans Muth bodywork and showing 18,000 original miles, for $6,250.8

Photos by William Hall

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