On May 7-8, 2015, auctioneers J. Wood & Co. sold off the amazing collection of vintage motorcycles and parts amassed by a Vietnam vet from the Cuba, Missouri, area. According to Somer Hooker in his excellent article on the sale on gizmag.com, the “collector” started amassing and hording complete bikes and parts following his return from Vietnam. As the years passed, the horde grew, filling his barns, his house and covering his rural property. When Jerry Wood and crew went to examine the collection after the collector was declared mentally incompetent by his family, who then had to determine if there was any value in the rust they saw, he simply couldn’t believe how extensive it really was.
Although though they needed a lot of work to make perfect, this matching pair of 1972 Suzuki GT750 water-cooled triples went for $5,300 each, or $10,600 total.
Cuba locals — including the collector’s brother — were convinced the collection was only so much junk. The collector’s estate went to probate, and the judge, not wanting to spend any more money than necessary, suggested they simply call in a scrap yard – and they almost did, as they had no idea what they were sitting on.
On his first inspection, Jerry Wood thought the sale might net as much as $100,000. Continuing his inventory of the horde, he raised that to $300,000. The final results? $876,000, a number that climbs to almost $1,000,000 with buyer’s premiums thrown in. Importantly, it all sold with no reserve. “These prices are the new prices. They represent the real time value” of the bikes and parts, Jerry says, adding, “I like doing real auctions, when the stuff’s really for sale. If people put a reserve on it, that’s not an auction, that’s a sale.”
Nice-looking 1969 Bultaco Matador was rare in the sale for being essentially complete, sold for $3,000.
Highlights of the sale included the $30,000 achieved by a 1950 Panther Sloper and the similar figure achieved by a 1932 overhead cam NSU twin. Jerry’s predicted hammer price on both bikes was $8,000 each, but buyers clearly valued them more than expected, perhaps drawn by their barn-found status. “We have seen the barn finds trending,” Jerry says. Trending indeed.
An interesting aspect of the collection was the degree to which the collector had broken bikes down, with frames stacked here, engines over there, instruments and carburetors thrown together in boxes, and gas and oil tanks stacked together. No doubt, if you knew what you were looking for, there were complete bikes hidden in the piles of parts, a point underscored when the correct frame for the double overhead cam Manx Norton that sold on the first day of the sale was later located. The Manx sold for $18,000, with the numbers matching frame bringing another $3,000 — Richard Backus
Circa-1950 Panther Sloper sold for $30,000 against a presale estimate of $8,000.
Lovely high-pipe NSU overhead cam twin sold for $30,000 against a presale estimate of $8,000.
Rare German-built mid-1950s Simson went for $3,550.
Complete but scruffy 1972 Yamaha TX750 twin took $500.
Jawa Californian was a good parts bike and went for only $55.
Tatty Ducati 160 had lots of good parts, sold for $800.
Rare circa-1915 Spacke Deluxe V-twin engine sold for $1,450.
Yale gas tank went for $2,000.
Excelsior Super X gas tank sold for $1,700.
Pope gas tank sold for $1,800.
Honda CA95 “Baby Benly” went for $1,100, a high price for a bike missing lots of parts.
The $1,100 paid for this Benelli-built Wards Mojave seemed money well spent for what looked like a very complete machine.
This period chopped Triumph Trident with matching numbers went for $2,200.
These pallets of Suzuki, Honda, Kawasaki and Yamaha engines sold as a unit for $700.
This pallet of British engines including Villiers, Royal Enfield, BSA and more sold for $200.
Flathead BSA TRW 500cc twin was one of two that had been relegated to storage by, it’s assumed, the British military in 1958. It and its twin sold for $5,000 apiece.
Flathead Norton single in crate went for $3,750.
Panther Sloper engine took $1,500.
Double overhead cam Manx Norton with wrong frame and front end was later reunited with the correct bits, found on the collector’s property the next day. Total outlay was $21,000.
There were hundreds of gas tanks available, including this lot of Honda and other Japanese tanks that went for $900.