Bonhams’ first ever motorcycle sale in Las Vegas on Thursday, Jan. 6, in the heart of the Strip, proved to be a resounding success for the world’s leading automotive auctioneer.
With a packed auction room of international buyers from around the US and overseas, approximately 200 motorcycles of diverse makes and models from every era of history sold briskly – even making world records – for a total sum exceeding $2.5 million. Six bikes made in excess of $100,000 on the hammer.
The "holy grail of motorcycles," the extremely rare and historic Hildebrand & Wolfmüller from circa 1894 Germany – the world’s first production motorcycle and the machine to which the word "motorcycle" was first applied, sold to an American collector for a world record price of $161,000.
It is interesting to note that the Bonhams international motorcycle department have now unearthed two of these extremely rare finds, both from the US, and strategically placed them in their international group auctions on both sides of the Atlantic to generate global interest.
The ex-Otis Chandler first-year production 1901 Indian "Camel Back" Single, sold for $131,500 after spirited bidding to a collector in the southern hemisphere versus American aficionados.
Other top motorcycle lots included:
The very rare, factory prepared competition 1939 BMW R51RS – one of only two known BMW factory racers in private hands and the only unrestored pre-War Rennsport in existence – made $130,200 after competitive bidding from US collectors.
The tremendous "time capsule" factory prepared 1929 Harley-Davidson "Peashooter" found in an Australian mine in complete original, unrestored condition brought a very worthy price $125,800 for a private collector.
One of a handful of surviving "Big Xs," a 1916 Excelsior Board Track Racer in original condition from a prominent Gulf Coast collection – previously shown at Pebble Beach – sold to a European for $117,000.
An early American icon from an important Long Island, New York, collection, a 1913 Flying Merkel Model Seventy Twin, saw competitive action from UK bidders but sold successfully to a private US collector for $115,000.
Two owners from new, documented by factory records as 1 of 12 built with original black frame with Chinese Red tinwork, a 1952 Vincent Series C Touring Rapide sold to a young American lady for $99,450.
From the John Shola Collection, which was 100% sold, the 1952 Vincent Series C Black Shadow sold for $87,400, the highest price realized for a Shadow at auction in the US in the last two years.
The ex-Tony Guest, Daytona BOTT Amateur Modified-winning, 1974 Ducati 750SS Racer doubled its estimate and sold for $53,820 after sparring by international telephone bidders.
Believed to be the sole surviving example of this Australian model, the 1919 GCS 750cc Twin was purchased by a prominent American collector for $52,650.
Furthermore, the Kenneth Klem collection of 50 Hondas was 100% sold, offering cult Japanese machinery to collectors of all budgets.
Malcolm Barber (CEO of Bonhams Group and the sales auctioneer) says: "We are very pleased with our inaugural motorcycle sale here in Las Vegas and we are all ready focusing on similar consignments for next year. We witnessed the continuing strength of the international collector’s motorcycle market with an increasing trend of new collectors entering this field."
Mark Osborne (Head of the US Motoring Department) says: "We were delighted with the attendance at this first sale and thrilled by the international interest it attained. The atmosphere in the room was energetic from the first lot to the fall of the hammer on the final lot.
"We were pleased to have already consigned during this auction some star lots for our next motorcycle sale at Quail Lodge in May. Bikes consigned to this upcoming auction include the ex-Steve McQueen Husqvarna 400 that was sold at this very location at the Imperial Palace by the McQueen Estate back in 1984."
The Bonhams international motorcycle team from both sides of the Atlantic and the East and West Coasts of America were in attendance. Ben Walker, director of the European team, orchestrated bidding from collectors in the UK and Europe live over the telephone into the auction room at the Imperial Palace.
Ben now heads towards the Bonhams auction at the Grand Palais in Paris, France, in February where highlights include a circa 1922 Megola and a 1955 Vincent Black Knight.
For a full list of sales results of the "Las Vegas Motorcycle Sale," please go to bonhams.com/vegas.