Sunday, October 19, 2008
The supercharged ex-Reg Dearden Vincent Black Lightning was sold at Bonham's Stafford auction for £221,500 ($383,400), well below the high estimate of £320,000 ($553,000). And, exactly as I predicted (spooky), the machine set a new record for a British motorcycle at auction, but didn't reach the heights hoped for by the auction house.
What does this say about the frenetic state of motorcycle collecting in 2008? I have a few opinions on the matter...
1. The catalog was laid out indifferently, with poor emphasis paid to the star of the auction (the Vincent), which was placed amidst a jumble of junky barn find scooters, and several other machines (Ducati, Morini, etc) which had failed to sell at previous auctions (collectors Know what it selling and what isn't..). See scan of the catalog page- no drama, and this machine is inherently charismatic, and could have made for a very sexy layout. Strangely, the Stafford catalog was a complete contrast to that produced for the Brian Verrall estate auction only a few weeks prior, which was Bonham's best ever catalog, a pinnacle, and beautifully laid out. Which brings us to..
2. Single-owner or closely-focussed auctions bring higher prices. If I were trying to sell a few high-dollar gems, I might be very selective about the context of the sale. Some machines (say, a Cyclone, which never comes up for auction) can sit as if dropped from space among its brethren at a sale, and buyers will come for that one machine. But given the tenor of the times...
3. When all the banks are collapsing, you've got to try harder at marketing high-dollar collectibles!
I'll be attending Bonham's Peterson Museum auction in LA next weekend, to take a close look at the 'Blue Bike', Marty Dickerson's record-breaking Vincent Rapide. A month ago I would have predicted this machine to make over $350,000, but this week.... we'll see.
As an addendum, I should note that the mid-priced and modestly priced motorcycles sold very well at this auction, indicating continuing strong interest among collectors of more modest means, for affordable machinery. The classic scene is alive and well.
I've already updated my Top 20 Auction Results page.