Auction fever in Las Vegas
For 19 years, auction house MidAmerica stood alone on the Strip with its annual January vintage motorcycle auction. Things changed last year when Bonhams, gambling it could attract some of MidAmerica’s audience, decided to get in on the action, hosting its own classic bike auction just down the road from MidAmerica — and on the same weekend. Pundits worried Bonham’s move into MidAmerica’s territory would weaken overall auction activity, diluting the crowd of auction regulars. But reality didn’t support prognostication, and the 2011 Las Vegas auction scene — aided by a steady immigration of buyers from the vintage car scene — was one of the hottest ever; Bonhams sold $2.5 million worth of vintage bikes and MidAmerica a whopping $4.7 million-plus, an almost 10 percent increase over its 2010 performance of $4.3 million.
Now a third vintage motorcycle auction joins the party. The Auctions America by RM Las Vegas Premier Motorcycle Auction Jan. 12-14, 2012 will be hosted at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino. Headlining the auction is a steam-powered motorcycle built by Sylvester Roper (a direct relation of racer David Roper) in 1894. Sylvester Roper built two bikes, famously expiring while testing the very bike slated for auction. Auctions America predicts the Roper will break the record $520,000 a 1915 Cyclone OHC board track racer drew at MidAmerica’s 2008 Monterey auction. Other features in the 400-plus offering include a 1911 Wagner and a 1917 Henderson Four board track racer.
MidAmerica expects to attract plenty of attention with its headliner, Steve McQueen’s 1971 Husqvarna 400, which McQueen raced and famously posed with for the cover of Sports Illustrated. The McQueen magic shows no signs of slowing down, and this fully documented Husky is sure to draw huge interest. Special guest of honor will be McQueen’s widow, Barbara McQueen, who will be on hand for the auctioning of McQueen’s Husky, along with 500 classic and special interest motorcycles at the South Point Hotel & Casino Jan. 12-14.
Not to be outdone, 2011 newcomer Bonhams returns, featuring 50 vintage motorcycles from the private Du Pont Museum at its 2nd Annual Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction Jan. 12, 2012, at the Imperial Palace & Casino. Eleuthere Paul du Pont took over Indian in 1929, and many of the bikes in the collection were restored at the Indian factory in Springfield, Mass. Bikes to be auctioned include an original, untouched 1903 Indian Camelback estimated to bring $60,000-$80,000, a 1908 Indian Twin, an original 1909 Pope single, and what is believed to be the last Indian Chief supplied to a dealer. MC