Las Vegas Auctions 2016

Bonhams and Mecum pull in record crowds, and Vincent command top prices at the Las Vegas auctions.

| May/June 2016

Vincents, including Egli-Vincents, continue to command top prices, with 12 sold at Bonhams’ Las Vegas auction for an average of $129,856 and six at Mecum’s auction for an average of $80,583.

It was a good event for Mecum and Bonhams, with combined total sales for both auction houses coming in at $13,854,965 in 2016 against $11,800,000 in 2015, an increase of almost 17.5 percent. Mecum had total sales of $9,054,965 in 2016 against $7,300,000 in 2015, an increase of more than 24 percent. Of 646 bikes offered, 516 sold for an 80 percent sell-through. The average price at Mecum in 2016 was $17,000, $5,000 more than 2015.

Bonhams saw a smaller increase, with total sales of $4,800,000 in 2016 against $4,500,000 in 2015, an increase of almost 7 percent. Of 241 bikes offered, 198 sold for an 82 percent sell-through. The average price paid at Bonhams in 2016 was $24,242, $4,343 more than 2015. Mecum charges a 10 percent buyer’s premium on bikes sold with a reserve and a 7 percent buyer’s premium on bikes sold without a reserve. At Bonhams, the premium is 15 percent on the first $100,000 and 10 percent on any amount over $100,000. Bonhams prices reported here include the buyer’s premium while the Mecum prices do not unless noted.

The bikes

So what’s the market looking like, and are vintage bikes continuing to increase in value? Generally speaking, yes, but the evidence, as usual, is somewhat mixed.

Viewed through the Vegas lens, Vincents are, to no one’s surprise, still rising to the top of the collecting heap, as are rare pre-World War I and World War II American machines. At Bonhams, a one-of-one 1951 Vincent Series C “Red” White Shadow cost its new owner a staggering $434,000. That’s the most ever paid for a Vincent at auction, beating out the $418,940 paid for a 1939 Series A Rapide at Bonhams’ annual Stafford, England, auction in 2015. In both cases, rarity was the determining factor; only 80 Series A Rapides were built between 1937-1939 and this particular 1951 Series C was truly a one-of-a-kind, powered by an unpainted Black Shadow-spec engine and wearing red paint on both frame and sheet metal, the only bike ever to leave the Vincent factory so equipped.

Over at Mecum, top money went for a 1912 Henderson Four, which hammered at $165,000, or $181,500 with the buyer’s 10 percent premium added. That makes it the third-most expensive Henderson ever sold, but in a weird twist that underscores the market’s unpredictability, that same bike also holds the title of most expensive Henderson ever sold, having hammered at $225,500 at the E.J. Cole Collection auction in 2015. 

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