“One person’s trash is another’s treasure,” or so the old saying goes. In the world of vintage motorcycles, what is trash and what is treasure may be in the eye of the beholder. And needless to say can have a huge impact on the asking price.
Fortunately, for those of us who take more than a passing interest in vintage motorcycles of nearly all brands and countries of origin, there is a source of information on how to determine what is trash and what is treasure and how much it may be worth.
The Comprehensive Vintage Motorcycle Price Guide 2020-2021 Edition, which is compiled by the Motorcycle and Model Railroad Museum of Wisconsin, is that resource.
We told you about a previous edition of the book back in 2016, which covered model years 1901 through 1996. It included data on 70 brands from around the world, covered in 240 pages.
The latest edition is beefed up with coverage of 91 brands (including some scooters), vintage from 1901 through 1999 in a handy pocket-sized book spanning 432 pages.
The book includes a fascinating section called the “Price Mart Showroom,” where insights about sales and price trends in motorcycle categories are offered up to help would-be collectors/investors know where the best investments may lie. The book states its sales and condition data arise from more than 400 contributors around the world, including brand experts and bike show judges. Pricing data is based on actual sale prices, auction results, swap meet, and internet sales information.
It includes a very helpful section on the six condition or grade levels used to assess value relative to condition. Here’s an example of how it can be used to help a buyer or seller determine the right price range for a given bike:
Let’s say you always wanted a vintage Triumph motorcycle. And, out of the blue, an example of some really special quality came up for sale from a private party near you—a 1977 Triumph 750 Bonneville Silver Jubilee limited edition (example for illustration only—no images or similar examples are included in the book)!
The bike is super-clean, with only about 6,000 original miles on it. It runs and rides like new but the mufflers are not original and it has been converted to an electronic ignition system from contact breaker points. Otherwise, it is nick and dent-free, paint, chrome and the unique blue-with-red-piping seat upholstery are original and first-rate. Everything works.
You’ve been squirreling money away but not by the fist-full, and this is a very special bike that has won some bike show prizes, so how much could such a gem be worth?
The Comprehensive Vintage Motorcycle Price Guide 2020-2021 Edition is a great place to begin sorting it out. So, let’s do a dry run. First, it wouldn’t be considered a Condition 1—i.e. perfect, as-new, showroom condition—bike because it has been ridden several thousand miles and has had some alterations from the original. That’s ok if you’re a buyer with finite resources because if it were condition 1, it could be worth in the $15,000 range—perhaps out of your price range.
But given what we know, it is a strong candidate for a Condition 2—excellent—meaning it has had limited road mileage and appears to have little to no wear. In that condition category, it could bring about $12,000.
Here’s where being observant of things like non-original exhaust system and other alterations from original can affect value. This example, with non-stock exhausts (even though they look great), and an altered ignition system may be a stronger candidate for Condition 3, which is very good, but not necessarily perfect overall or all original. A Condition 3 would be in the $9,000 price range, based on the Price Guide.
There are three condition grades below these three—Condition 4 is Good—a basic, usable machine, but with some visible wear and may be showing its age, may need some parts, but still may also be substantially original. Condition 5 is Fair—a bike in need of substantial repair or restoration; paint may need a re-spray, chrome may be pitted or discolored, but the machine is basically sound. Condition 6 is Poor, getting into basket case territory. These are non-running, usually incomplete, but maybe complete with plenty of visible corrosion, paint and chrome are bad, rubber and plastic parts are cracked, faded, or broken, and the bike may be a better candidate as a parts bike than as a resto project.
Of course, at the end of the day, what the seller is firm on and what the buyer is willing to pay are the criteria that will ultimately determine the sale price, or whether a sale will take place at all.
The book can be a tremendous asset for both the serious collector/investor as well as the casual, occasional motorcycle or scooter buyer.
- Title: The Comprehensive Vintage Motorcycle Price Guide 2020-2021 Edition
- Author: Compiled by The Motorcycle and Model Railroad Museum of Wisconsin, Inc.
- Published: 2020 paperback, 432 4.25” x 6.5” pages
- Publisher: Halfcourt Press, Green Bay, WI
- ISBN: 978-0-884313-95-0
- U.S. $15.95 Available online from www.motorcycleclassics.com/store/product/the-comprehensive-motorcycle-price-guide-2020-2021
- For more information, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org