Mecum (26th Annual) January 25-28, 2017, South Point Casino and Hotel
Bonhams January 25-26, 2017, Rio Hotel and Casino
This years' auction was more significant than any we have experienced in the past 10 years.
The auction venue for Mecum was in the 4600 seat South Point arena with floor seating and large auction stage.
Mecum displayed the motorcycles in Priefert Pavilion which is a 100,000 sq ft exhibit hall connected to the arena by a runway.
This year’s Mecum auction expanded from the traditional two and a half days in recent years to four full day and included close to 1000 motorcycles. Over 90 Triumphs were scheduled to be auctioned at Mecum Las Vegas this year.
We flew in early and attended all four days of the Mecum auction. We noted that attendance on Wednesday and Thursday was sparse, Friday was a bit better and there was a big crowd on Saturday as in the past. Mecum charges an entry fee to all attendees ($30 a day), but Bonhams does not.
This year the Mecum auction was held in a recently opened part of South Point that was much more spacious. Reviews from attendees we spoke to varied with some saying that they liked it because it was easier to negotiate through the motorcycle display areas. Others said they had difficulty finding people they were wanting to hook up with due to the sheer size of the venue. Everyone seemed to complain about having to climb up and down stairs to get around.
We thought the display area had a harsher feel than before as the motorcycles were displayed on concrete floors versus carpet in previous years. Getting a close look at engine numbers required kneeling on a cold hard surface this year and the lighting didn’t seem to be as good.
On the positive side, there was plenty of auction seating for everyone and because of the larger venue, the auctioneer volume seemed less overpowering than in other years.
Mecum messed up individual auctions a number of times. As an example, Leroy Turner’s 1967 BSA Hornet was announced on stage, but the picture and information shown was from the previous lot which had been dropped because of title issues.
Potential bidders were totally confused as to what bike they were bidding on and in my opinion resulted in lower and fewer bids on the Hornet. The bidding finished at $12,000, well below reserve and the bike ended up in the “corral”, and was eventually unsold at the auction … a shame for such a rare and well restored classic.
Mecum Results …
Highest overall sale price was a 1912 Henderson Four that sold for $490,000 plus 10% commission (+). Early Henderson motorcycles scored the next two highest prices as well and interestingly a 1916 Henderson Four was one of the top sellers at Bonhams at $112,125 (including 15% commission). Obviously, it was a good year to sell Hendersons.
To see all of the results from the auction, go to the following link and then register with your email to see the sales prices …
Triumphs at Mecum …
There were no Triumphs auctioned on Wednesday. Thursday sale prices for Triumphs were very weak.
Mecum sellers on Wednesday and Thursday were incented to go to auction on those dates via lower commission rates and lower reserve prices. When we first saw this arrangement, we suspected that this option might work for lesser quality bikes but not for better machines. That was proven correct when the results showed that many Thursday Triumphs, particularly Bonnevilles sold for much lower than expected. In our opinion, the higher sales prices on Friday and Saturday for quality machines easily offset the savings in lower commission and reserve rates on the first two days.
Highest price Triumph at Mecum …
The highest amount bid on a Triumph was $47,500 for the 1938 5T Speed Twin once owned by Steve McQueen. The bike never came close to reaching reserve and was well below what was expected. The 5T will now make its way back home with the seller who is a friend of ours. 1939 Speed Twin
The highest sales price achieved for a sold Triumph topped out at about $27,000 plus commission. There were four machines in the running for the top price tag including a 1949 TR5($26,500+), a restored 1973 X-75 ($27,000+), a 1949 Grand Prix square barrel ($27,500+) and a nicely restored 1939 T100 ($27,500+) which we were certain would sell at a price well into the $30,000s, but did not.
Best buys at Mecum …
If you wanted a 60’s Bonneville or TR6, this was an auction to get a deal at, especially on Thursday when most prices seemed to all be in the $6500+ to $7000+ range, even those we thought were nice quality machines.
Best Triumphs for the money …
A Canadian restorer named Tim Bardsley brought three Triumph to the auction … all of them desirable models with very nice restorations. They all sold on Saturday afternoon for well below what we thought they would go for. One was the previously mentioned ’39 T100, a model which we saw go for mid $30s just a few years ago. Another was a rare 1959 T120 Bonneville in what was close to 1960s Bonneville color scheme but with the traditional 1959 valanced fenders and headlight nacelle. This T120 sold for only $20,000+. 1959 Bonneville
The third Bardsley machine was in our opinion the best buy of all the Triumphs sold … a beautiful 1950 6T Thunderbird with a sprung hub. It sold for a bargain price of $17,000+. 1950 Thunderbird
Honorable Mention Triumphs …
Several other Triumphs are worthy of mention. They include:
- Lot F107 … an original 1973 X-75 Hurricane with only about 3000 miles on the clock. This should have been a $30K plus machine but sold for only $23,500. The buyer will probably have $5000-7,000 profit in their pocket if they decide to sell in a few years. 1973 original X-75 Hurricane
- Lot F143 … Leroy Turner’s 1969 TR6R sold for $17,000+. This Triumph is not the most desirable model but Leroy’s attention to detail and high quality restoration work drove the spirited bidding, in spite of the overall down auction market on Triumphs. It is a very beautiful bike and received a lot of attention. 1969 TR6R
- Lot S190 … 1968 T120R brought to Las Vegas and auctioned on Saturday sold for $18,000+. The online listing for this bike included a very well made video that must have been a big factor in it selling at such a high comparable price. We haven’t really noticed videos being incorporated into Triumph listings before but this seemed to work well for the seller. Here it is …. 1968 T120R Promotional video
Bonhams motorcycle auction was held in a very small room at the Rio. If bidders didn’t attend the Bonhams showing on Wednesday, they had to bid on Thursday without getting a close up look at whatever they were bidding on. Entering the motorcycle display areas on Thursday was forbidden and guards were there to stop anyone attempting to do so.
We understand the fire marshal forced Bonhams to stop the auction and clear the small room when it was discovered that there were more people there than was safe. We had left by that point thankfully.
Triumphs at the Bonhams auction were few and far between. A 1965 T120R with incorrect TR6 paint and questionable changes to the engine number sold for a paltry $3450 including commission.
Why the low auction prices for Triumphs this year?
Many at the auction felt that the lower prices for Triumphs this year came down to a number of key factors …
- Oversupply of Triumphs … Mecum expansion to almost 1000 motorcycles at the auction brought out too many Triumphs to support the prices we’ve seen in the past.
- The strong dollar kept international bidders away. We saw much fewer bidders from Europe and the UK than before.
- Uncertainty about the economy given the new political climate in the US, even with the current strong stock market.
Mecum has scheduled another Las Vegas motorcycle auction in June to replace the Chicago auction that did not do well last year. We asked many attendees if they planned to attend and most said no because it would be too hot in Las Vegas by then. A few others said they probably wouldn’t bring any Triumphs to sell but they might still attend because it might be an opportunity to buy given the low priced results of the January auction.