Las Vegas 2014: Vintage Motorcycle Auctions

Harley-Davidsons, Ducatis and original patina set the stage at the Bonhams and MidAmerica vintage motorcycle auctions.

| May/June 2014

It’s been 23 years since the first MidAmerica motorcycle auction was staged in Las Vegas. Originally held during Super Bowl weekend, it evolved into the Super Bowl of motorcycle auctions. Now held in early January, it has become the “must do” auction for vintage motorcycle collectors.

Once very much a U.S. event, the Vegas auction has become a crossroads for vintage motorcycle enthusiasts worldwide; this year, no less than 30 countries were represented. This also added up to a phenomenal number of bidders, purportedly more than 1,100 at MidAmerica. For some, it is primarily a social event, for others it is a time for acquiring, selling — or both! As I explained to one person, “It’s like going to a giant motorcycle show, and they’re all for sale!”

Originally run by MidAmerica Auctions, English auction house Bonhams set up shop four years ago, competing for their piece of the pie. And this year another significant transition transpired, as last fall MidAmerica was acquired by Mecum Auctions, a large, established auction house primarily into cars, tractors, boats — and now motorcycles.

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Creating auctions like Las Vegas isn’t easy. “You have to have a large collection as your core to build around,” says Ron Christensen of MidAmerica. By having an exciting collection to initially advertise, the vendors then want to get their product “on board.” This year, both houses had several large collections as the nucleus of their sales.

Both Bonhams and MidAmerica had large collections of Harley-Davidsons, and Bonhams also featured a major Ducati collection. Between both houses there were more than 100 Harley-Davidsons and more than 40 Ducatis. In the early years it was difficult to sell a Harley here, as tastes were more focused on vintage British motorcycles. This year, vintage H-Ds represented some of the highest performers.

The Wayne Pierce collection offered by Bonhams primarily sold with no reserve. Over and over, I’ve seen “no reserve” auction offerings escalate higher and higher since bidders know they aren’t providing an impromptu appraisal, but an actual buying opportunity, and I’ve seen “no reserve” vehicles sell for more than vehicles with a reserve.

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