Classic motorcycle prices soar at auction

As a prestigious auction inEngland showed, prices on collectible vintage motorcycles are soaring.

The 1951 Vincent Black Lightning tops the list of the most valuable, as compiled by U.K. insurance buying site GoCompare.com. In U.S. dollars, the Vincents current value is $929,000, according to Ben Walker, international director of the motorcycle department for Bonhams auction house.

It will always be on every collectors wish list, Walker said. Only 19 all-original bikes are known to exist.

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Despite that, he said, bidders on the Vincent, which auction house Bonhams sold in Las Vegas earlier this year, were enthusiasts whod probably ride it someday, not investors who planned to store the bike and watch its value appreciate.

The market for collectible bikes values those with original, matching-number frames and motors, he said.

If the Lightning hadnt had matching numbers, its value would fall 40% to 50%, Walker said.

Bike collectors also value patina, a finish that shows the bike has lived and been used over fresh, restored paint, he said.

Its only factory paint, once. If youve got that, value it.

A new generation of bikes are becoming collectible, he said.

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Interest from baby boomers is tailing off. Theyre selling bikes, not acquiring them.

As with collectible cars, baby boomers fixated on bikes from the 50s and 60s. Generation X is focused on bikes from when they were kids in the 1970s and 80s, frequently from Japanese manufacturers.

The prices of top models are rocketing, Walker said.

A couple of bikes from the 70s set records at Bonhams recent spring auction in Stafford, England: a 1970 Clymer M眉nch 1,177cc TTS Mammoth and 1973 MV Agusta 750S.

American bikes were in short supply at the English sale, but a 1940 Indian 78ci Four went for $96,042.