LAS VEGAS MOTORCYCLE AUCTION 2012
3 CLASSIC MOTORCYCLE AUCTIONS
JANUARY 12th - 14th, 2012


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Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction 2012 was led by MidAmerica Auctions, seen here going at it fast & furious, selling an ultra-rare '81 Triumph Bonneville Royal Wedding Edition.




LAS VEGAS MOTORCYCLE AUCTION 2012 - AUCTION WEEK!!
That's what I call it, anyway. I think I may have coined the phrase. Of course, this is really only the first year when it would have been appropriate. You see, just 2 short years ago, there was only one Classic Motorcycle Auction coming to Las Vegas each year: MidAmerica Auctions.

MIDAMERICA AUCTIONS STARTED IT ALL
For 20 years, MidAmerica Auction Company had been staging their biggest event of the year in Vegas every January. Now held at the enormous South Point Resort & Casino on the south end of the Strip, this 3-day event with 500+/- classic motorcycles for sale on any given year, quickly gained the reputation of being the biggest & the best classic motorcycle auction on the planet. And it must have worked out well for them, because it just kept getting bigger & better every year.

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Bonhams was back & ran about 125 Classic Motorcycles across the block at the Imperial Palace.




LAS VEGAS MOTORCYCLE AUCTION 2012-
THE COMPETITION SOON FOLLOWED

Well, maybe not so soon, but after 20 years of exclusivity in Las Vegas, MidAmerica suddenly wasn't alone anymore. Last year for the first time, in January 2011 Bonhams & Butterfields, one of the two oldest auction houses in the world (established in 1793, for goodness sake!), did their own Classic Motorcycle Auction in Las Vegas, at the Imperial Palace, and did so on the same day as the MidAmerica 3-day auction opened, Thursday, Jan 6th, 2011. Bonhams was conducting a one-day sale of around 100 bikes & would wrap up their sale before MidAmerica kicked off their 3-day event with the Thursday evening Dinner Auction. So, while I'm sure MidAmerica's Ron Christenson (a real pro & an all-around nice guy) was somewhat miffed, at least the two sales didn't overlap. And as it turned out, MidAmerica actually sold $400K more bikes in 2011 than they did in 2010, despite, or maybe even because Bonhams there in 2011. Bonhams had a good sale & planned to return next year, which is now this year.

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RM-Auctions America clearly had the best-looking stage setup, with big display screens. But they seemed to be struggling to get the bids they were looking for.




LAS VEGAS MOTORCYCLE AUCTION 2012 -
IT GETS WORSE...

Well, that was last year, January 2011. So, this year another Classic Motorcycle Auction came to town at the same time. RM Auctions held their own 400-bike, 3-day sale at the Rio Hotel & Casino on...get this...the same 3 days as the MidAmerica Auction, Thursday, Jan 12th through Saturday, Jan 14th. I'm sure poor Ron was less than pleased.

LAS VEGAS MOTORCYCLE AUCTION 2012 -
LET AUCTION WEEK BEGIN!

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I drove the 530 miles to Vegas from the Bay Area with my wife & the '73 Rickman-Montessa I was selling, in my minivan, arriving Wednesday evening at the South Point Resort & Casino, the location of the MidAmerica Auction. We checked in, then Thursday morning bright & early, I checked the Rickman in.

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LAS VEGAS MOTORCYCLE AUCTION 2012 - LIFE AS A SELLER
I've actually had a lot of experience with auctions. I was actually in the auction business (real estate auctions) in the early 1980's. Then when I owned my Classic Car Dealership, I used to buy most of my cars at auctions. And, I sold my lovely Yellow Bike at MidAmerica's 2009 Vegas Auction.

LAS VEGAS MOTORCYCLE AUCTION 2012 - MY SIMPLE PLAN
At last year's Vegas Auction, I vowed to buy a bike each year that I could resell at the Vegas MidAmerica Auction in January & make enough profit on to at least pay for the trip. So, after returning home last year year, I bought a gorgeous '73 Rickman 250MX, which I disassembled down to the bare frame, hand-polished & detailed it, then put it all back together. It was gorgeous! And now it was Lot #335 in MidAmerica's Auction, set to go across the block before noon on Saturday morning. I'd paid $2,000 for it & wasn't in it much more than that. I was hoping to sell it for around $4,000, which another Rickman 250 not as nice as mine sold for last year. Taking out $600 for MidAmerica's fees, that would leave me around $1,200, more than enough to pay for this 5-day Vegas trip. But now, there was a third auction in town, and RM was pulling out the stops on Saturday morning to try to lure in the bidders (free breakfast & celebrities galore like "MindFreak" magician Criss Angel & David LaBrava who plays 'Happy' on "The Sons of Anarchy" TV series. Would all this draw some of the bidders away from my bike? Only time would tell.

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LAS VEGAS MOTORCYCLE AUCTION 2012 -
IT GETS EVEN BETTER

But, the big surprise came when I discovered that my '73 Rickman MX was going to be running just behind an almost identical '72 Rickman 250MX, same color, same everything...almost. Mine was a little nicer & cleaner, but otherwise you almost couldn't tell them apart. And this one had "No Reserve" (the seller would accept any price that was the highest bid, no matter how low. Now I was starting to worry.

LAS VEGAS MOTORCYCLE AUCTION 2012 -
LOTS TO SEE

Aside from having a bike for sale, my primary mission on this trip was to take pictures of the roughly-500 Classic British Motorcycles that were being sold between all three auctions. And this proved to be slightly more difficult than anticipated. While the Imperial Palace (where Bonhams was holding their auction) and the Rio (where RM was holding their auction) were fairly close to one another, the South Point (where MidAmerica was holding their auction) was well-south of the other 2. And with 2 huge 3-day auctions running concurrently (Bonhams had already ended by this point), I was constantly running from one end of The Strip to the other. I can only imagine what the Buyers were doing, trying to be at both places at once, so as not to miss anything. And it seems that was indeed the case. While the final numbers aren't in, it was my impression, having attended all three sales, and having attended these auctions in the past, that both MidAmerica's sale & RM's were weaker as the result. Certainly in the Classic Car Auction, auction companies pile on top of each other in places like Scottsdale & Pebble Beach, and somehow it all works. However, Classic Motorcycles is a different, & somewhat smaller game. We'll see how things shake out next year & beyond.

LAS VEGAS MOTORCYCLE AUCTION 2012 - THE BIKES

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Another stunning Bill Whalen restoration, this ultra-rare 1971 BSA Rocket 3-5 speed sold for $31,000, probably a record. (MidAmerica)

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Nicely-done 1965 Norton Atlas Cafe Racer, with period-correct alloy tank. (MidAmerica)

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A fine example of a 1969 Norton P11, which as essentially a factory hybrid, dropping a Norton Atlas 750 motor into a Matchless G85SC lightweight frame, for desert racing. MidAmerica)

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The obligatory Brough. Every auction these days seems to have one. This lovely example is a 1938 Brough Superior SS100. (MidAmerica)

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"Far out, man...peace, love, dove..." This wild late-60s custom really captured the spirit of the day. Nicely built '69 Triumph TR6 Chopper was a real head-turner. (MidAmerica)

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1938 Brough Superior SS100 (Bonhams).

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1955 Vincent Black Prince (Bonhams)>

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1953 AJS Model 18CS (Bonhams).

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1969 BSA A65 Firebird Scrambler. (Bonhams)

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1957 Norton Manx (Bonhams).

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This was the year of the "barn find".

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RM-Auctions America had 400-or-so bikes, including this 1959 Ariel Square 4 Mk II.


THE RESULTS ARE IN: ANOTHER RECORD!


MidAmerica Auctions posted another record-breaking sale, with over 3,000 buyers & sellers in attendance, and over 80% of their bikes actually selling, for a total of $4.6Million, a new record for them, and for the industry as a whole. The top sale was a 1915 Iver Johnson at $299,600. Congrats go out to Ron, Sandy & the whole MidAmerica crew for another job well done!

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