By “Dazzlin” Shannon Venturo and Mecum.comView the Mecum gallery here
“Following last year’s phenomenal $13-million-plus record sales and 92 percent sell-through rate, the Mecum Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction has again cemented its title as the world’s premiere vintage motorcycle auction with a repeat successful performance at this year’s 27th annual Mecum Auction,” stated Mecum officials. The auction featured an estimated 1,750 antique, vintage and collectible motorcycles that crossed the block. Held again at the fabulous South Point Arena and Equestrian Center and Priefert Pavilion, the extravaganza has become an annual gathering of consignors, buyers and spectators that all share a deep passion for the history, beauty and camaraderie among enthusiasts from around the world.
Mecum featured collections and offerings abound in the 2018 auction lineup, with many historic race bikes and more among them including Jeff Ward’s Championship-winning “Works” 1985 Kawasaki SR250, a 1911 Flying Merkel Single, a five-time national championship-winning 1948 Vincent Rapide Series B Hillclimber, the first production bike built and sold by Eric Buell, a 1984 Buell RW750, and so much more.
“The sold percentage of more than 92 percent reached at this year’s Mecum Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction shows that the collector-motorcycle market is thriving,” commented Ron Christenson, President of Mecum’s motorcycle division. “The auction has more than doubled in size since 2014, both in the amount offered and in the sales totals achieved, further solidifying Mecum as the largest vintage motorcycle auction company in the world.”
Among the auction’s seven featured private collections was the 175-plus consignments from collector Tom Reese, who holds a long-term goal of presenting the world’s finest dirt-bike museum: the Moto Armory. From Aprilia to Zundapp, all off-road racing disciplines are represented within the Reese assemblage, whether it is MX, ISDT, Flat Track, Hill Climb or Trials bikes. From Malcolm Smith’s gold-medal original 1967 Husqvarna ISDT to Chris Carr’s Harley XR750—this offering had it all.
According to Mecum’s buyer’s guide information, “Tom’s voracious appetite for hunting down and buying the world’s best motorcycles has led to his collection outgrowing his museum. Tom believes in giving each motorcycle its appropriate space to be presented and appreciated, along with the associated memorabilia. So in order to facilitate that approach, he has had to make the difficult decision to make some room, which means parting with some of the most historic, significant and collectible bikes that have been offered in decades.”
Tom was present during the Las Vegas auction and is always excited to meet, greet and share the stories behind the bikes with the soon-to-be new caretakers. He said, “The best cure for my seller’s remorse is seeing a happy buyer’s smile.” No doubt there were “miles of smiles” in Las Vegas throughout the auction.
From his own private assemblage of investment-grade motorcycles, Ray Hott also brought a selection of offerings, which included seven no-reserve motorcycles donning the badges of Harley-Davidson, Indian, Motobecane and Whizzer. Bob Weaver, Jeff Schwartz, Roger Hanke and several others brought collection offerings as well.
What was the highlight of the auction for me, you ask? It was the nail biting bid on the headlining, main-attraction, potential sale of the Excelsior-Henderson Brand and its related intellectual property. This is the third largest American motorcycle brand in the world. Bidding started around 500k and grew quickly. Half million…One million!! A million and a half!!! TWO MILLION!!!!! As I pointed my camera towards the crowd, scanning the room to see who the bidders were, hoping to get the “money shot” when the gavel dropped, I found myself holding my breath. And “The Bid Goes on!” I exhale…… this is the registered trademark phrase that means it didn’t make the reserve price. This item up for bid had a reserve of THREE MILLION.
I spoke with Ron live; “For 2018, we’re anticipating a more than 50 percent increase in consignments that will only enhance the attention that the auction already receives from collectors and enthusiasts globally. In addition we have raised over 4 Million dollars for Curing Kids Cancer. Mecum is a hometown auctioneer. You can get down closer and see the bikes. It’s not stuffy. It’s fun.” I have to agree with Ron!
The big hit of the week was the 1911 Harley-Davidson model 7D that brought $154,000! WOW! It is an incredibly rare survivor with matching case and cylinder serial numbers: #819A. It is one of only a few first-year Harley-Davidson V-twins known to exist, and it is considered by some to be the “Holy Grail of collectible early American motorcycles.”
There was an interesting story provided on Mecum.com about this machine. It was purchased from the estate of a 95-year-old Texas man who was a lifelong employee of the Fisher Body Company, as was his father, who had owned a 1911 Model 7D in his youth. The son found this machine and purchased it in his honor. The bike has been comprehensively restored, and out of respect for its history, many parts were left as-found, although the whole machine is in beautiful condition. There is not a more historic production Harley-Davidson twin; this was the first of the twin-cylinder lineup.
The model 7D was followed closely by a 1917 Henderson Four, previously owned by Steve McQueen that sold for $110,000. Other six-figure sales included a 1968 Vincent Shadow Recreation and a 1941 Indian Four Cylinder. Mecum reported, “Not only was the Top 10 list mostly dominated by American-built motorcycles; the segment as a whole once again demonstrated its enduring appeal with most American-built offerings selling for especially impressive sums. Both pre- and postwar Harley-Davidsons showed a marked increase in value evidenced by sales like that of the 1945 Harley-Davidson EL that brought $99,000 and landed among the auction’s top sales. Vintage off-road motorcycles also brought stronger selling prices than ever before, and prices for vintage Japanese motorcycles, including 1980s sport bikes, demonstrated that they are on the rise as well.”
The big surprises for me were the little bikes. Yep! 50 cc Indians that went one after another for upwards of $10,000. I’m looking forward to the upcoming return to Las Vegas June 1-2. Currently over 600 bikes are already listed for sale. I am definitely registering this time to be a bidder as well. Day One of the Auction, Mecum provided a panel of experts on how to get into vintage motorcycles. I found it incredibly interesting. I will share more about that discussion with you all next month, so watch for my story. I’ll share their tips with you as well as some stories from a few of the new owners of motorcycles from this event.View the Mecum gallery here