The picture in your mind has you noticing an old barn back off the road a ways. You strike up a conversation with the owner and he shows you around and there inside the barn is an old Brough Superior or Matchless, maybe an early Harley Davidson which he’s willing to part with for a song. Yeah, that’s the dream, but in reality most of those old bikes have been scooped up by someone who already knows what they’re worth. If the owner doesn’t want to restore the old girl, she probably ends up at an auction house with a lot of similar bikes. What’s interesting about this auction is part of it is specifically called a “barn find” just like you dream about.
It’s always fun to go over the results to see what was on the block, lots of older bikes in need of TLC but some perfect specimens, too. Then there are the old parts and posters, lots of good stuff. Prices vary from $50 or $60 to over $100,000, it all depends on the size of the wallet.
Bonhams & Butterfields had an auction recently, what they called an “Important Sale of Collectors’ Motorcycles and Related Memorabilia, Petersen Museum, Los Angeles, CA” and the range of motorcycles and related items was enough to get most any biker all warm and fuzzy.
If Brough Superiors are your interest, they had a 1939 sales brochure that went for $260. They also had a 1937 Brough Superior SS-100 ASG 590 that went for $120,000. Steve McQueen’s 1933 Matchless 592cc Silver Hawk went for $40,000, a 1969 Münch 1200 TTS Mammoth with custom paint by Von Dutch selling for $46,000 and much, much more. These prices also had the “plus premium and tax” after the selling price which could add several thousands more to the final price.
But think about those prices for a minute. Look at the selling price for one of the custom choppers rolling out of the various shops today. Many are higher than these prices, even the Brough Superior at $120k is less than some of the most costly stretched chrome monsters. Which one will hold its value over time? Which one would you rather have? In my case, there’s no question, forget the choppers, I’ll have an old classic, maybe two. Of course, tastes vary and you may feel exactly the opposite attraction, that’s fine, too. But seeing these old bikes gives you a feeling of connection with the past the new bikes lack.
I think I need to find an auction over this way …