"BRIT IRON" takes you behind the scenes at
January 2012 - Issue #19
IN THIS WEEK'S ISSUE:
JUST GOT BACK FROM AUCTION WEEK! - I'm beat...
PROJECT RICKMAN: THE FINAL OUTCOME - Did I sell it? Did I make any money?
CELEBRITIES GALORE! - and I meet a few of them.
WEIRD STUFF - 2 TO CHOOSE FRO
I JUST GOT BACK FROM AUCTION WEEK
No, I mean I literally just got back. It's an 8-1/2 hour drive from Las Vegas to the Bay Area & I just pulled in about an hour ago, unpacked & here I am. How's that for dedication?!
SO, HOW WAS IT?
It was fantastic! In fact, it was almost too good. With three auctions in town at the same time now (last year there were only two), it's a bit overwhelming, trying to be in all places at once. With nearly 1,000 classic motorcycle between the 3 sales in 3 different locations all around Las Vegas, I had my work cut out for me. After all, one of my primary missions for this trip was continuing to never-ending effort to take eye-popping photos of gorgeous British bikes for the website. And I took thousands of them...really, thousands! You'll be seeing them soon, as it will take several days at least, just to get them all organized.
BUT, 3 AUCTIONS AT ONCE?
Well, not quite at once. The way it worked was the Bonhams one-day sale ran from Thursday 1/12 morning until about 6:00 pm, at the Imperial Palace. Then, at around the same time, MidAmerica kicked off their 3-day sale with their Thursday evening Dinner Sale (to benefit Children's Hospital), at the South Point. Challenging enough to get from one end of Las Vegas to the other without missing too much. But now this year, for the first time, a third auction has come to town, RM-Auctions America, with their own 3-day sale, running at almost precisely the same time as MidAmerica's sale. This really added to the complexity of it all, for me certainly, but more so for people wanting to buy something. I'm sure more than one buyer had to choose between one bike at one sale & another at the other. And of course, one never knows what something will sell for in auction, so its very plausible that one could choose one auction over the other in hopes of buying a certain bike, only to be outbid, while letting the one at the other auction go entirely. It must have been very frustrating. And for sellers (and I was one, this year), it could also prove challenging. My feeling, having attended all 3 auctions, was that the addition of the third auction in town caused all three to be thinned down. RM seemed to be fighting hard to get prices & the sales numbers seemed to be lower at MidAmerica than they had in the past few years. This is just my gut feeling based on my own observations at the sales, but is not based on the actual sales figures which should be available in a few days.
PROJECT RICKMAN - HOW DID IT ALL COME OUT?
If you've been following my recent exploits you know that I bought a '73 Rickman 250MX with the idea of selling it at this MidAmerica Auciton & make enough profit on it to pay for my trip to Vegas. That was my mission. So, how did I do?
PROJECT RICKMAN - THE BREAKDOWN
I've been keeping it a secret what I paid for the Rickman when I bought it. I didn't want it getting out to anyone who might be a potential bidder. But now it's sold, so time to come clean. I paid $2,000 for the Rickman & thought I had absolutely stolen it! It as gorgeous & needed nothing, mechanically. I stripped it down to the bare frame & hand-polished that lovely nickel-plating & all the rest, so that it looked like a piece of jewelry when I was done. A similar bike, but not nearly so pretty, had sold at the 2011 MidAmerica Vegas auction for $4,000, so I was confident that I could get at least the same. Besides all my elbow-grease, the only cost I had in the bike was titling it for $48.
SURPRISE, SURPRISE! TWO RICKMANS!!
So, what could possibly go wrong, right? Well, I already mentioned the fact that the RM Auction was siphoning off buyers from the other sales, and Saturday morning, when my bike was to run at MidAmerica, RM gave a free breakfast & rolled out the celebrities with bikes to sell (including Chriss Angel & David Labrava from the TV series 'Sons of Anarchy'). So, attendance on Saturday morning seemed a little light to me. But that wasn't the weird part. There was another nearly-identical Rickman 250MX also for sale, and MidAmerica thought it best to run them one after the other, with mine running second. I wasn't sure of this strategy, and I'm still not. I guess the idea was to draw all the Rickman buyers out for these two 250 plus a Rickman-Triumph Metisse running just before. Now, my Rickman looked a little nicer than the other, a 1972 model, all my hand-polishing making it look much nicer. I also had brand new tires on mine while the other had newer tires. The other had been rebuilt by BigD Cycles in Texas & was supposed to be mechanically perfect. But, there was no reserve on it & the seller was not in attendance. Mine was also much better presented, with a nice sign I prepared, which included the extra items I was including with the sale (original sales brochure, original 1973 magazine ad, original owners manual & parts list). And of course, I was there, right at the side of the stage, which always seems to help the auctioneers' enthusiasm.
GOING ONCE, GOING TWICE...SOLD!!
So, the first Rickman 250MX comes up on the block, right before mine & they look nearly identical from a distance. It rolls onto the block, with mine just a few feet behind it. The bidding struggles & finally settles on $1,750. That's right, $250 less than I paid for mine!!! And it sold for that! I've got to tell you, at that point, I was sweating bullets. All my work, all my time, hauling in 500 miles in the back of my van, setting up a nice display...after all this, could I actually lose money on it? I mean, why would anyone pay more for my bike than the one just like it that just rolled through a minute before? And I forgot to mention that my bike had a nice little puddle of fresh oil under it (in the pan that all the bikes had under them to protect the carpet), & the other one didn't. Oh well. So, mine comes up, they flash the owners manual, rev of the audience with a nice narrative about the bike & the bidding didn't stop until $3,250. At this point, my reserve was set at $3,500. I had a decision to make & I quickly removed my reserve in hopes that it would spark another round of bidding. Unfortunately it did not. It sold for $3,250.
AS THE SMOKE CLEARS...
So, did I make my goal? Well, I paid $2,000 for the bike & $48 to title. I sold it for $3,250, but a $300 selling commission was taken out by MidAmerica & it cost me $300 when I consigned it to them. So, after all is said & done, I cleared $605 profit on the sale. Not quite enough to pay my hotel bill, but a big help nonetheless. While that's almost a 30% return on my investment, with all the time I put into it, it probably works out about minimum wages for me. So, was it worth it? Hell yes! I had a great time, got to document the entire process on this website & made a little money to boot. When it comes to things like this, sometimes the best you can hope for is some help in supporting your habit.
Ever watch the History Channel show 'Pawn Stars'? If so, you know that they often call in experts to verify the value and/or authenticity of some of the things people bring in to sell. One of them is Mark Hall-Patton, curator of the Clark County Museum. Well, he was strolling through the MidAmerica Auction during Auction Week & I caught him for a few choice moments of conversation about classic motorcycles. Turns out he's a fan! So, I invited him to the upcoming Clubman's All-British Weekend in San Jose on March 31. I think he's going to come.
I ran into this chap at the Bonhams & Butterfields Auction on Thursday. He is Richard Backus, editor of the excellent classic bike magazine "Motorcycle Classics", one of, if not THE only classic motorcycle mags printed in the US. He's a real nice guy & we're may find some way to work together in the future.
Any "Sons of Anarchy" fans, out there? If so, you probably recognize Happy Lowman. He's played by actor David LaBrava who was auctioning off his Harley Dyna that he rode in this last season, to benefit the charity, Ronald McDonald House. A great cause, a beautiful bike, and a real nice guy...despite was he does for a living on the show.
There were lots of other celebs there, including Barbara McQueen (Steve McQueen's widow), Criss Angel (Mindfreak magician), Buzz Walneck & others. I think with 3 auctions competing for attention, celebs are going to be more of a regular fixture at Auction Week.
WEIRD STUFF - YOU CHOOSE
It's only appropriate that our Weird Stuff this week comes from all the stuff I saw at Auction Week in Vegas. The problem is, there was just too much to choose from. So I narrowed it down to two, not easy, but see what you think. Which one is weirder?
Believe it or not, this is a real motorcycle, a real CLASSIC motorcycle. It's a 1935 Bohmerland Langtouer 600 built in Czechoslovakia & sports 3 seats. Weird enough for you?
The "Skeleton Bike" was built in 2006 out of stainless steel & a 2000cc OHC Ford 4-cylinder car engine.
Hope you enjoyed this issue of "BRIT IRON" as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please tell your friends about it, and my website, Classic-British-Motorcycles.com. And please urge them to subscribe to this e-zine. It is my hope that the right people will discover this website & tell the right people, who will then pass it along to more of the right people, and...well, you get the ideal.
Thanks for all your interest & support,
PS: I'd love to hear from you, get your comments, ideas, suggestions, criticisms, whatever. Please contact me.
And above all, enjoy the ride...