Vegas, Baby! - Feature

Auction explosion in Sin City.

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1915-Iver-Johnson

Vegas: Bright lights, dancing girls, piles of money...and roughly 1300 motorcycles up for auction from three different companies. Yes, this past January, a trio of auction houses invaded Las Vegas, all looking for a piece of the collector-bike market. For two decades, Mid-America Auctions had the town to itself, but last year, Bonhams rolled in, followed this year by Auctions America by RM.

The latter is the 300-pound gorilla, amply funded by RM’s sizable business in the collector-car world. Its first-year effort was impressive (about 700 bikes), generating a bit more than $4 million in sales from Thursday evening to Saturday—and in direct competition with Mid-America’s schedule, which ran roughly 450 bikes through at $4.6 million.

Auctions America’s potential motorcycle-price record-setter, an 1894 Roper steamer, was bid to $425,000 but not sold, and most of the lower-priced, no-reserve stuff turned out to be amazing bargains.

Mid-America’s star was a never-started 1915 Iver Johnson 500cc V-Twin, sold for $299,600, with strong sales on other highline bikes.

Bonhams’ pride was landing the roughly 50-bike du Pont collection (L. Paul du Pont successfully ran Indian through the Great Depression), with machines ranging from early-American to Seventies’ British, plus huge lots of rare parts. A 1953 Vincent Series C Black Shadow with 3000 miles sold for $122,500.

Bonhams’ total was close to $2 million on its one-day Thursday sale, which finished prior to the kickoff evening sales for Auctions America and Mid-America and deftly stood clear of any potential “crowd splitting” over the rest of the weekend.

If the collector-bike market can support multiple auctions in Las Vegas long-term, potential exists for the event to become like the annual multi-house collector-car extravaganza in Scottsdale, Arizona. The more than $10 million in sales this year in Vegas shows healthy interest. We’ll be there next year to see what happens.

Mid-America's 1915 Iver Johnson

Mid-America's 1915 Iver Johnson

Bonham's 1953 Vincent Black Shadow

Bonham's 1953 Vincent Black Shadow

Auction America's 1894 Roper steamer

Auction America's 1894 Roper steamer