Motorcycle Investments

Vincent Black Shadow for $1795Stocks are down, then up, then down and real estate is mostly down but not always, what's a motorcycle guy supposed to do? Let's see, where to put your money for the long haul, decisions, decisions. Just doing a little digging in The Kneeslider's research library and came across this ad in a 1970 magazine for a completely restored Vincent Black Shadow series C. $1795.

Now, 40 years later, you might see that same motorcycle for sale at, oh, $50,000 or more. Let's see, investment value up by over 25 times and you get to ride it in the meantime. If the market is down, just ride a little longer. Neat.


  1. Kozzy says

    By my calcs, that’s around a 9% compounded return. Not bad, but not great. The problem with this type of investment, is the same problem with every investment – stocks, real estate, etc – picking the winners looks easy with hindsight.

  2. says

    You can’t loose with an investment like this.
    Even if the bike was sold at a loss, you would still get the enjoyment of riding it, working on it, staring at it in your garage, or donating it to a museum ; and with a Vincent or similar bike, in the hands of a connoisseur, these things are damn near priceless!

  3. fast eddie says

    What will be the next hot collectible? In my mind I’m riding it. 1997 Buell Thunderbolt
    It’s already rose in value about a grand since I bought it last year[17,000 trouble free miles ago]. Buying low and selling high . Been doing it for thirty years now . I wish I had the Vincent or all the others I had to get rid of . You can’t ride stocks buy bikes
    Speed safely F. E .

  4. QrazyQat says

    You want to invest having the advantage of hindsight? Okay. It’s October 1970 and you’ve got the $1,795 to buy that Vincent. Instead of buying it though, you buy 100 shares of Walmart stock, which costs you $1,650.00. By 1999 those 100 shares are 204,800 shares worth $89.75 each. Total = $18,380,800. With 18 million dollars you can buy one hell of a lot of perfectly restored Vincents.

  5. Litzow says

    This is a Vincent for sale mystery from that time period,and
    boy did I ever try to invest.
    It was the summer of 1969 and I was in the army (draftee) located in
    El Paso, Texas. My copy of Cycle World arrives and there is an ad for
    a Black Shadow in El Paso. No phone number,just an address.
    I knew the street was near where I lived, so jumped on my trusty CB450
    and went. The address had listed a street number with a 1/2 in it like
    1752 1/2 W Blah. There was no such #. I knocked on every persons
    door on that street, nothing for information.
    If any body has some Cycle World issues surviving try checking.
    It would probably be an Aug or Sept one. I didn’t throw my issues away
    they all got drowned in a rain storm at the motorcycle shop I worked for
    many years later.

  6. kneeslider says

    QrazyQat, I was strictly looking at how the price of this model of bike went up over time and I thought it was interesting seeing the price compared to what you see today. I covered collectible motorcycles in a series of earlier posts that delved into greater detail, several years ago.

    Here’s one: Collectible motorcycles

    Here’s another: Affordable classic motorcycles

  7. Beale says

    So what will be future winning investments?

    Let’s see, how about sandcast CB750’s, naked Goldwings, tube frame Buell’s, Ducati 916’s.

  8. Kozzy says

    Future winning investments….yamaha RDs (actually, pretty much any 2 stroke streetbike).

  9. todd says

    I’m with QrazyQat. Let’s hope he DID buy those 100 shares back in 1970. For me, if I bought the Vincent, I would have put a half million miles on it by now. Probably wouldn’t be worth the $50k then. Here’s a kicker though, if you refrained from buying a new bike every 5 years you would have saved another $50k or so over the 40 years (considering a 20% trade-in reduction each time). Shoot, in the last 20 years and 30-some motorcycles I’ve never paid more than what I’ve resold a bike for so I figure I’m already ahead without trying to speculate on full priced future classics.


  10. jim says

    In 1974 I bought a much-used ’72 BSA B50 for $750. Thirty-six years, one total renovation and who-knows-how-many smaller repairs later, it’s worth about $5,000. Not figuring in all the fun I’ve had riding it over the years, I just about broke even. Figuring the fun, I’m a wealthy man. Motorcycles are for riding, not investing! Ride ’em!

  11. QrazyQat says

    Sure it’s interesting, kneeslider, but your post pretty strongly made the suggestion that this was a savvy investment. And it’s not bad, given hindsight. My comment merely pointed out that given hindsight you’ve got investments that absolutely bury that Vincent. But let’s forget that and look at other possibilites from the Vincent ad era, ones I’m familiar with from my olden days working at a Ferrari distributor. A Ferrari GTO went through our place back then for $25,000; this year one sold for about $19 million (they’ve gone as high as $29 mill or so). Again, this buries the Vincent increase, and talk about fun, not to mention it being a pretty sure bet for a price increase. A Ferrari 250 SWB, which is a great car and loads of fun as a road car, sold for about $5-7 grand back then and goes for over a million now. So less than 4 times the Vincent price then and more than 20 times the Vincent price now. And neither of the Ferrari investments needed any hindsight at all; they were well known by then to be great investments, whereas motorcycles at that time were not.

  12. rohorn says

    Bought an XR1000 in ’83 for near list (cost about what I earned the previous year) – sold it with PM wheels and other $$$ upgrades for about half what I had in it in ’88, back when you couldn’t give them away.

    Now they are worth quite a lot.

    What none of the investers will ever have is the experience I had hammering it around the mountains, using it as a touring bike to see my brothers several states away, and otherwise enjoying the daylights out of riding a fairly unique and interesting motorcycle. I sometimes regret selling it, but selling it provided the money to finance other priceless experiences.

    My memories and experiences ARE my portfolio. The best ones were with bikes that cost far more than I could “justify” – don’t think I would have enjoyed life more with the money I “should” have saved by buying forgetable bikes.

  13. powermatic says

    @ Qrazy Qat-

    Plus inflation, plus overhead (tax, license, insurance, gas, parts, labor, cost to return to “restored” level, all if you actually rode the bike, which might reflect an actual net loss if sold in 2010). These maintenance costs might be partly or fully ameliorated if you simply started and ran the bike occasionally without putting on any real miles. But who would want to own a motorcycle, particularly a Black Shadow without riding it?

    All this is also applicable to your Ferrari examples-even though there’s a much higher rate of return, the maintenance and restoration costs are (vastly) higher. Your GTO example obviously offers a lot more wiggle room-I can’t imagine resto costs are that much greater than the 250-but I wonder if you’d be under water with a full accounting of actual costs with the SWB. Minus the fun factor, of course.

  14. Azzy says

    Best part is, you buy a little bit used, save up a bit, you can use this to get newer bikes all the time. Pay yourself a payment, add it to what you sold your last bike for, and buy a better / bigger / tougher / cooler looking one :)

    I see one thing though.. people these days look for something to be collectible. things back then weren’t thought of being collectible, they were used and sometimes scrapped. Like comic books… modern ones are worth squat, because everyone is hoping for another Action comics #30, but forget that paper drives in the 40’s for the war effort ate most of those other copies.

  15. says

    An old friend of mine, who was a Renault dealer here in Denmark, often muses about the 5 or 6 early model (1919-1928) Nimbus motorcycles for which he paid $15 each, as a trade-in when someone came to buy a new car. $15 was more than what they were worth back in the late 1950s, but in any case they went to the junkyard. The story makes Nimbus enthusiasts’ hair stand on end, because those bikes are rare now and go for $20-30K. But then of course they would cost that much if all 1,200 produced were still around, instead of the estimated one-tenth of that number.

  16. kneeslider says

    @QrazyQat: “your post pretty strongly made the suggestion that this was a savvy investment.”

    Really? … Seriously?

    Most visitors here think this is a motorcycle blog. If I point out that someone involved in the hobby might almost accidentally make a decent investment buying a bike and holding on to it, an observation that I made because I came across an ad, it’s not a market alert, it’s a nice way to pleasantly justify spending a few bucks on a cool bike.

    Rohorn makes a nice point, too. The riding experiences make a nice portfolio, or maybe they’re the dividends.

    Now if this were an investment blog we might talk about Walmart stock, if it was a car blog, we might talk Ferraris, but, it’s a motorcycle blog, so we talk motorcycles.

  17. Denis says

    It seems to me there are two main drawbacks to regarding motorcycles or any other form of tangible goods as investment opportunities. First, there is always the possibility they may lose value as time goes on. There is no guarantee that Vincent motorcycles as the stated example will continue to be desirable objects. It is possible, even though it seems unlikely to me now, that collectors may experience a sea change in attitude and decide they don’t want them. Second, and to my mind most important when thinking in terms of investment, they can be lost, stolen, or destroyed. That’s true of any material possession, whether motorcycles, cars, paintings, historic buildings, or gold bullion. If you can hold it in your hand, admittedly a really big hand in the case of historic buildings, then it can be taken away from you. So it seems to me the best plan is as others have already said or intimated, buy what you like. Enjoy it while it’s in your possession. Then, if it increases in value consider yourself fortunate. If it doesn’t, you still have something you enjoy owning, so you win either way. But buying strictly for investment purposes is risky at best. It’s fun to talk about, but doing so courts financial disaster. There are better ways to invest, if that’s what you want to do.
    I also think we have an obligation to care for such objects because they’re ours for only a short time, then we pass them on to generations to come. However, that’s another topic for another time.

  18. says

    $1800 may seem like a pittance now, but in 1970 you could get a brand new BMW (a spendy bike even then) for about that. This seems to be more an illustration of significant inflation rather than a particularly cheap Vincent.

  19. rohorn says

    “Dividends” is a better choice of words.

    I’m also glad that there are people willing to restore/preserve motorcycles. I have no interest in doing that myself, but when others do – and share their bikes – it is the best of both worlds for me. That those bikes can be considered investments means that they are more likely to remain that way.

  20. '37 Indian says

    Hindsight investments are fun, like the 4 ex-police ’47 Knuckleheads I saw for sale at Laidlaw’s HD in 1970 for $700 apiece, or the ’65 Shelby 289 Cobra, blue with white stripes and Weber carbs, in the Ford dealers showroom in Pasadena, CA (same year) , for $5500. Couldn’t afford either of them on part-time college student’s pay. We all have these type of stories. I live in Northern Nevada, next to Lake Tahoe. What I need here is FORESIGHT, not hindsight, like being able to see 15 seconds into the future. I could clean up at the casinos in ONE NIGHT, then go out and buy all the Vincents, Brough Superiors, Indian 4’s I want.

  21. Bob Nedoma says

    Had you bought the (1948?) Vincent for $1795 in 1970 and rode it – regular basis – till today, you’d be lucky to recover some of the amounts of money (and/or time) you had plowed in to keep it running and looking “restored” in the meantime.
    Great bikes, GREAT museum pieces, fun to own in 2010, but riding one for fun, rain or shine, AND making money as well, you must be joking!!! as John McEnroe would say. But, as you point out, this is not a tennis blog.

    @ fast eddie:
    R U sure you have some 60 odd years left to collect good on your Buell “investment”?

  22. Parkwood60 says

    1985-86 Honda VF1000R’s my bet for a future collectible from the 1980’s. 7500 of them made worldwide, and very few parts interchange with any other bike, so no way you are cloning one.

    I like the CB750, and I have an early one, but Honda sold hundreds of thousands of them over the years. You may say, “but the sandcasts are rare” and the are, but how much of the sandcast bike is unique to those 7400 bikes? 25%, maybe? The rest interchange with the other K0 bikes and many K1 parts. How come the CB750A isn’t more collectible? Its nearly as rare as the sandcast. Instead I’d bet on the CB450, especially models like the CB450D scrambler-ized 4 speed, and the 1968 CB450 toaster tank 5 speed.

  23. Sportster Mike says

    Re: the value of bikes now against way back when…
    I was talking to a guy a few weeks ago on the Poole Quay Bike Night (in southern England) about the 4 Brough Superiors parked in a row (in among all the other British bikes there). I said “Nice to see the bikes being ridden and not stuck in a museum, what are they worth these days?’, “We don’t talk about values in the club”, he said, “anyway I brought mine 20 years ago for £2500 and just ride it”. And sure enough it was a ridden machine and not a museum queen. On talking to him further the old rag under the seat was Lawrence of Arabias old pants!. He had loads of old rags from when he brought the bike. The bike was George III (Lawrence’s third Brough, he gave all his bikes a name). So if the value now of a normal Brough was £40,000 – with his name on the logbook it was now £100,000??+ who knows. BUT he just rides it!!. No headlight fitted so a daylight MOT only. That floated my boat I can tell you.

  24. says

    Future collectible motorcycles eh..

    Well, let’s all hope Aniket gets his Musket V-Twin project off the ground – there’s only one now, with one more in the works. If his plans work out, he might start producing kits. Probably a few dozen will make it to the streets.

    Now those bikes won’t be insanely expensive to build/buy. Fast forward 4 decades, and you could well be looking at a reasonable profit – especially if you got a old of the magazines that featured the original bike..

  25. Al says

    The best part if somebody offered me $50.000 for my (imaginary) Vincent BS today would be able to say: NOT FOR SALE.
    I would rather sell one of my kidneys than selling a bike like that…I mean ‘You’ (I would have) BOUGHT IT FOR a (hopefully THE RIGHT) REASON IN THE FIRST PLACE.
    There is 2 lungs, 2 ears, 2 eyes, 2 kidneys, 2 balls, 2 legs, 2 arms, etc. for a reason…because if life gets tough…you don’t have to sell your VBS first.

  26. bblix says

    @SportsterMike: That George III gets a mention in Wikipedia. Now that’s a bike! and, as Al says, the best part, the priceless part, is being able to say, “Not for sale.”


  27. Leston C says

    Im gambling on my WLA with a sidecar thats sitting in my garage. It’ll be worth every bit of $50k in memories, leaking oil, and black smoke. Ride them like they’re meant to be ridin.

  28. Art says

    @Parkwood60, You might want to be sure you don’t spend too much now on 80’s Honda V-4s, no matter how “right” they look. Here in Canada I’ve seen a number of the 1000’s for sale over the years, and they just don’t seem to sell quickly or command big $$$. I’ve tried to sell my nice, one-owner ’85 VF500 (only made 3 years, larger production numbers than the 1000) twice over the last couple years, but no “I want to ride THIS bike” offers. Honda doesn’t make a lot of key VF parts anymore, esp for the 500’s and 1000’s, so they are a tough sell even to “future collectible” seekers, let alone “just ride ’em” types. Check out the VFR World site for others who believe there’s a hidden gold mine in ’80’s V-4’s…

    eg, Non-rebuildable stock rear shock on your VF500 leaking oil? Honda hasn’t offered new replacements for at least a decade, good luck finding an aftermarket item that doesn’t cost more than the bike is worth. Or you can get certain later Honda shocks modified as acceptable but not exact replacements. As in the Pro-Link rates on the VF don’t match the later shocks. OK for trolling around town, but be careful if you like to seriously backroad scratch. Or the mufflers are rusted out?… don’t just hang slip-ons, this drops power significantly. Don’t forget those 16/18 inch wheels… use any BT45 you like…

    Add in that the 1000 was known as heavy and less than sterling for handling even in the day. For max power-to-cc, the ’80’s inline 4’s ate the V-4s for lunch. 30 years later, even my “Backroad Dancer with a 12,000 RPM Heart of Gold” (Cycle World?) 500 feels sluggish, remote and mushy compared to it’s class descendant, an ’06 CBR600RR. Don’t get me wrong, the Mini-Ceptor was a fabulous ride, great fun embarrassing the hell out of many on newer, bigger bikes, BUT… there comes a time when it is just another old bike.

    Old bikes are old bikes, and if you enjoy them for what they were, fine. But very few examples will ever make a big ROI without a significant push from a booming economy and a little Tulip Bubble market mentality to stoke the collector fires. Are big bucks being made from the barns stuffed with old bikes now turning up as the hoarders pass on, or need/want to “cash in” on those “bargains” from 30 years ago? I don’t know, but give it a go if you enjoy the chase and have the space.

  29. Oldtimer says

    rohorn’s first post, kneeslider, and AL… guys are singing my song, and AL, to put it in terms that others might understand, I’m LMAO, although I am willing to bet they won’t know why.
    The value of a motorcycle is not measured in dollars, and if you are unsure of that, then you have not really experienced motorcycling. Just my humble opinion. The inflation in dollars of any motorcycle, if it happens, is just a byproduct of people who have experienced motorcycling as described above, and are willing to pay X in order to experience this particular little slice of motorcycling history.
    When I’m riding “ROI” is just something that thankfully never enters my mind.

  30. todd says

    If it wasn’t for T.E., there wouldn’t be much desire to own a Brough, any more than a nice Matchless twin. Though no one knows Rollie Free, the image of some guy on the flats in his skivvies at 150mph sure is iconic.

    Now if Pitt or Leno tragically came to an end on a Confederate, a Wraith would be a good investment. Such an event sure helped create the legend of the Porsche 550 Spyder. I don’t think Seinfeld would own one if it wasn’t for James Dean’s demise.

  31. Panu Horsmalahti says

    ‘What cost $1750 in 1970 would cost $9561.86 in 2009. ‘

    The annual gain for this Shadow was non-inflation-adjusted 8.8%, and inflation adjusted 4.2%.

  32. oldtimer says

    Which, once again begs the question: What is the value of owning one of whatever? If you run it into the ground and sell it for scrap, was it worth it? Only the rider can answer that. If somebody wants it for 10 or 15 times what you paid for it, well, bonus.
    To me, most of the value is in the experience if owning/riding. Perhaps my philosophical point of view has kept me trapped in the lower middle class all my life, and always will. Wealth is not always measured by the bottom line……….How’s that for SAPPY??