Vintage Motorcycle Values – Both Kinds!

March 8, 2017

Vintage Motorcycle Values

How much is a vintage motorcycle worth? How can we assess vintage motorcycle values? After first carefully assessing the condition of the motorcycle, we can look at a number of authoritative sources.  They show estimates of how much someone money someone could get by selling a particular vintage motorcycle.

We feel dirty just talking about it! We certainly wouldn’t talk about, say, our girlfriends that way! And here at The Black Douglas, we don’t so much feel like we own our trusty steeds. It’s more like we have a relationship with them. With that initial purchase we embark on a relationship that doesn’t end til we ourselves do. Til death do us part! (Keep the rubber side down, boys and girls!)

Cleveland - Good Condition Increases Vintage Motorcycle Values

Good Condition Increases Vintage Motorcycle Values – Internationale Ibbenbuerener CC 2

But people do buy and sell vintage motorcycles, crass and inappropriate as it may seem. And we must admit that is ok with us. If no one sold them, we couldn’t buy  them!

We love our true vintage bikes for their history. And to truly love someone, you have to accept their flaws. Really, you must go beyond that and love them not just in spite of their flaws, but for their flaws. So we love that our true vintage rides require frequent maintenance and offer us head-scratching puzzles to solve, although some days we prefer the simplicity of a bike we can rely on to run smoothly with no maintenance.

Unlike our the humans we love, motorcycles do not breeze into our lives on the winds of serendipity. We have to buy or trade for them. So let’s talk about vintage motorcycle prices and ways to assess them.

Assessing Vintage Motorcycle Prices

Three principal factors are most important in assessing vintage motorcycle values: scarcity , originality, and condition. Bikes that were manufactured in large numbers and more recent bikes tend to be easy to come by. People will pay more for something that is rare and hard to find.  Bikes that have all original equipment have more collector value for their authenticity. And obviously bikes in good condition fetch a higher price.

What kind of overall condition is the bike in? Has it been crashed? Are the frame and forks straight? Check the condition of the wheels, brakes, clutch, gas tank, suspension, electrical system, engine, chain and sprocket. Will you need new tires?

Harley Davidson number 1 - Rareness enhances vintage motorcycle values

Harley Serial Number One – Harley Davidson Museum CC 2

We recommend you bring a mechanic with you who can make a good assessment of how much it will cost to bring the bike into good working condition. If you can find one who is an expert in the particular problems unique to each vintage bike model, that’s even better. Even if you don’t live in the UK, you can join the UK Vintage Motorcycle Club and avail yourself of their living history library of expert vintage bike geezers. If you send them photos, they can help you verify if the parts are all original.

Then you can take a look at one of the bike bibles. In the US, the Kelly Blue Book, and in Australia, the Red Book are market leaders. Blue Book only goes back to 1960, so you will need a different resource for older bikes. Outside of a personal relationship with one of the mavens at UK VMCC, there is one book that stands out as the best reference on vintage motorcycle values: The NADA Vintage, Collectible, and Retro Motorcycle Appraisal Guide. This ponderous tome is packed with listings going all the way back to 1905, with 5 levels of “condition” for each entry to give you a really well-researched idea of the fair market price at a glance. The book will set you back $36, which is only gonna come to a percent or so of your purchase probably, so we think it is well worth it.

True Vintage Motorcycle Values

So.. the phrase vintage motorcycle values has a couple clear meanings that might jump out first. We might be talking about the value of these rides in terms of buying and selling. We might be talking about the best deals you can get on vintage bikes, using “values” in the sense of “bargains.”

But for us, the salient meaning of “vintage motorcycle values” is different. We think of “values” in the sense of Platonic Ideals. When we see this phrase we think: What is “good”?  And what is “true”and  “beautiful”? What is “virtue”? What are our personal values that we hold dear, and how do they  relate to vintage motorcycles?

Good is a lot of things: Good is not discarding things just because they are old. Good is feeling happy and free. What is true? Many things. One of them that we feel is important: People came before us and did amazing things and left us a wonderful legacy. We should appreciate their lived truths. What is beautiful? Something made by with care and love by human hands that is pleasing to the eye and pleasing to the touch. That is beauty for us.

What is virtue? Virtue is observing the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Do you want to leave a contribution, a legacy, something that people in the future can appreciate? The people of the past have left us an amazing legacy. A legacy of feats, like Burt Munro’s amazing unbeaten land speed record, set on a 1920s motorcycle. A legacy in the physical form of the marvelous, magical machines of yesteryear. (If you don’t believe in magic, the amazing story of Burt Munro and the world’s fastest Indian might change your mind! Read it and then tell us machines can’t feel love when you give it to them!)

We believe that to appreciate a vintage motorcycle is virtuous. To experience the happiness and the freedom, the carefree feeling of cruising through the country side on a bike that is your friend, not just your tool, that is virtue, truth and beauty all at once. It is good to keep the past alive. This virtuous act will enrich your life and provide continuity in a time of tumultuous change, connecting you to those who came before and to a simpler life. A simpler time when men controlled machines, before machines began to control men.

More Articles About Vintage Motorcycles

For our gear head friends, we have an article on the history of vintage motorcycle engines that might be of interest. While also have an article on vintage motorcycle brakes and stopping power, and we should mention we’ve got an article on vintage motorcycle tires too. If you are a fashionista of sorts, we have articles on vintage motorcycle helmets and vintage motorcycle goggles. We’ve got plenty for you to read. But maybe its time for a ride!