One man’s ceiling

June 2017 on sale now

ONE OF THE more entertaining parts of this strange job is the annual ritual of working out fresh prices for the guides. I say it’s entertaining – which it is, in a peculiar anorak
nonsensical kind of way – but it’s also an endless puzzle. As well as the ‘Who’d ever pay that much for one of those?’ there is the increasingly common ‘Who’d pay so much for a pile of problems?’ And that was a question which rattled around my largely empty cranium as I scribbled down prices and worked out averages.

Because – remember that this is a generalisation and that there are always exceptions – the ceiling prices for the more common (aka ‘popular’) machinesaren’t rising much. Sitting down with my own notes from a year ago confirms this. Where the change is happening, pretty much across the wide and ever-expanding spectrum of ‘classics’, is that the floor prices are rising. This started in the ancient Brit world, where ‘unrestored’ and ‘barn-find’ machines have been sailing up in value for some time. And in case you wondered, I put those two adjectives in quotes because the bikes they describe are very often neither of those things.

There are several reasons for this. In the ancient Brit world it appears that an increasing proportion of buyers don’t actually want a bike to ride – they want to rebuild or even restore it. And… the same philosophy now appears to have shifted to the world of the elderly Japanese machinery too, despite – or maybe because of – the considerable availability of US market motorcycles making that transatlantic trip. A year or so back this was only rarely the case, now it seems to be much more common, helped no doubt by the current fashion for building modern customs, brats, baggers, bobs and their kind.

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And although I rely heavily on auction sites, where it’s possible to see the prices bikes actually sell for, rather than their asking prices, I’m also an inveterate jumble-goer, and have watched the prices of unrestored – but complete – machines rising steadily, a trend not matched by the prices of rebuilt/restored machines.

And why now? As well as famously needing to beware, the buyer does actually control the market. Which is all good news.

That’s it. See you out there.

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Frank Westworth
editor@classicbikeguide.com

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