Owning and Collecting Classic BMW Motorcycles

A beginner's guide to BMW motorcycles

| May/June 2007

Keeping any classic machine on the road is a combination of who you know and what you know, and this is especially true in the classic BMW motorcycle market. Shops specializing in classic BMW motorcycles are few and far between, so networking can be critical. To learn more about these bikes and the hobby, we turned to four enthusiasts with a great deal of expertise and experience in this field: Peter Nettesheim, Mac Kirkpatrick, Kevin Brooks and Darryl Richman.

What are the most collectible BMW models?
Our experts all agree that the earliest models (think pre-World War II) are the most collectible. However, because so few early Beemers are left, especially in the U.S., they are increasingly expensive. “Ask a veteran BMW collector about the most collectible early BMWs,” Nettesheim says, “and he might answer the 1960-1969 BMW R69S models. This is probably because most collectors have no experience with the bikes from the early 1920s, and don’t even consider them.”

As for the highest values paid for classic Beemers, Nettesheim notes that examples of the 1923-1926 BMW R32 have recently sold for $80,000 to $130,000, and a 1926 BMW R39 has sold for more than $50,000. He also says that other models from the 1920s, such as the R42, R47, R52 and R62, can bring $40,000 and up.

“For the 1950-1954 plunger twins,” he adds, “prices range from about $8,000 to $18,000. And 1955-1969 Earles fork models have been bringing $4,000-$20,000, depending upon model and condition.”

Why collect classic BMW motorcycles? “It’s varied,” Nettesheim says, “but one underlying reason surfaces regularly, and that is the attraction to quality machinery. A BMW is typically perceived as a machine of the highest quality. It is the most significant reason by far that I collect BMW motorcycles.”

Mac Kirkpatrick is also an avid collector. He lives in Pennsylvania and, like Nettesheim, has a personal BMW museum. “I think the BMW R90S is the most collectible, hands down. I am sure there are other BMW models that are rarer, and therefore more desirable, but practically speaking they cannot be more collectible as there are so few,” Kirkpatrick says.

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