Motorcycle sales could heat up auctions in Vegas

Motorcycle sales could heat up auctions in Vegas
Mecum's annual Las Vegas motorcycle auction will include this 1937 Harley-Davidson UL valued at $225,000 to $275,000. (Mecum Auctions)

Top motorcycle collectors, consignors and museum curators are headed to Nevada this week for the Mecum Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction.

The 27th annual event, which every year is a top draw for motorcycle enthusiasts worldwide, will see a record 1,750 single lots cross the auction block.


That should mean spirited bidding, as professionals and private parties vie for that historic Husqvarna motocrosser or vintage Vincent Black Shadow.

Last year, Mecum reported a total of $13.7 million in sales and an impressive 92% sell-through rate.

Bikes on the block included several highly prized Italian motorcycles from the much-admired collection of celebrity photographer Guy Webster.

This year, in addition to the usual array of American and European classics from Harley-Davidson, Indian, BMW, Triumph and other marques, Mecum will be offering an entire brand.

The auction house will be gaveling the name and all the intellectual property controlled by the Excelsior-Henderson motorcycle company.

That iconic manufacturer, once the great rival to Harley and Indian, fell upon hard times. But its classic motorcycles fetch top dollar. At last year's Mecum auction, big sales included $490,000 for a 1912 Henderson Four, $150,000 for a 1913 Henderson Four, and $117,500 for a 1928 Henderson Big Bertha.

Classics from Henderson's glory days will be joined by early 1900s motor-bicycles and board track racers made by fellow early American marques Marsh Metz, Thor, Pope and Flying Merkel.

As has been the case in several previous auctions, the offerings include bikes once owned, or claimed to have been owned, by the late actor-racer Steve McQueen.

Also up for grabs is the 1967 Husqvarna 250 Cross on which legendary off-road racer Malcolm Smith won the first of his multiple ISDT gold medals.

Mecum will also be offering this road racer, the first production motorcycle from designer Erik Buell. It is expected to fetch as much as $225,000.
Mecum will also be offering this road racer, the first production motorcycle from designer Erik Buell. It is expected to fetch as much as $225,000. (Mecum Auctions)

Among the motorcycles being offered is a selection of 160 machines from firearm manufacturer Tom Reese's Moto Armory Collection in East Moline, Ill.; a choice batch of 17 pristine bikes from the Roger Hanke collection; more than 100 American and Japanese motorcycles, including many trikes, from the Northern Arizona Collection; a sampling of early motocross examples from the Northwest Collection; and a variety of Japanese and European sport and racing motorcycles from veteran dealer Bob Weaver.

Motorcycle historian Paul D'Orleans, who does color commentary for the Mecum auction, predicted this year's take will greatly exceed the sales total in 2017, when 24 individual motorcycles sold for more than $100,000 each, because so many more motorcycles will be offered.

"I expect we'll see well over $14 million sold at the South Point Casino this year," D'Orleans said. "I'm being very conservative. There are 50% more bikes than last year."

Other collectible motorcycles will be on sale at the competing Bonhams motorcycle auction, being held this year at the Rio Hotel and Casino. Of particular note at the 8th annual event on Jan. 25 will be a variety of historic Ducati racing machines.

Last year's Bonhams event saw some high-value sales, including $195,000 paid for a 1914 Feilbach Limited Twin, a 1955 Vincent Series D Black Knight that went for $150,000, a 1952 Series C Black Shadow that sold for $135,000 and a 1949 Series B Black Shadow that gaveled at $112,125. A Bonhams Henderson Four, from 1916, went for $112,125.


The Mecum event, held at the South Point Hotel, Casino and Spa, runs Jan. 23 to Jan. 27. Portions of the auction will be broadcast on the NBC Sports Network. The entire auction will be streamed live on