Vintage motorcycle auction returns to Las Vegas, attracting avid collectors

Motorcycles filled the South Point Arena and Equestrian Center on Wednesday — day two of Mecum Las Vegas’ annual vintage and antique motorcycle auction — and the only thing that could move faster than motorcycles was the commissioner’s mouth- auctioneer.

Collector car auction house Mecum Auctions brought in around 1,500 pigs for its five-day event which ends on Saturday. The company sells between 80 and 90% of its shares, at previous auctions.

Auction enthusiasts say the motorcycle collection reflects a love of history and power.

“My grandma used to drive a car, for God’s sake,” laughed Greg Arnold, director of Mecum Auctions’ motorcycle division. “I get in trouble with the car guys all the time.”

At the center of this year’s auction is the Harley Davidson Heritage collection comprising 95 vintage bikes that are “beautifully restored” with at least one from each year between 1910 and 1969, Arnold said. Each bike will be auctioned separately with no minimum sale price or reserve. Arnold estimates the collection will sell for up to $4.5 million.

Las Vegas resident William Adler said he would track the price of a vehicle over time to determine what he would pay. But, he noted, it could be more than the best price.

“As always, the bike is only worth what someone is willing to pay,” Adler said. “If it’s an emotional attachment, and you buy it and love it, well, that’s the value of the bike, no matter what the book says.”

Adler, a retired commercial racer, considers the auction a “pilgrimage” for himself and other motorcycle collectors. He sits in the front row every year, bringing earplugs to drown out the auctioneer’s voice.

He said he enjoys restoring motorcycles, mostly 1970s Japanese street bikes, because of the work it takes to restore one to “vintage” standard.

“That’s really what takes the most time – finding and ordering the parts,” Adler said. “It’s the ultimate global treasure hunt, if you will, because you have to order them around the world.”

Richard Spagnolli of North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, said he’s attended the auction every year for years and bought about three or four bikes in the past. His collection of 38 bikes is too big for his wife’s preference, he said, so he now visits for fun.

“The great thing about coming to Las Vegas for this auction is that you get to see a lot of motorcycles – different varieties, different conditions,” Spagnolli said. “I see a lot of people I’ve known over the years in the vintage motorcycle community. I don’t mean it’s a reunion, but it’s just a lot of fun to be here.

Others come to auction to sell.

Waterloo, Illinois resident Matt White built a 1978 Yamaha XS 650 with the signatures of three world champion riders – Wayne Rainey, Eddie Lawson and Kenny Roberts – to sell in the auction charity of the Welcome Home Heroes Foundation, a service group for veterans. It was White’s first time building a bike so it could be auctioned off.

He didn’t know how much the bike would sell for given his rare autograph combination. The bike’s tank had to be shipped to each former pro racer for signing before the auction.

“It’s the only tank on the planet that has these three world champion signatures, and they’ll never sign another tank together again,” White said.

The auction runs until Saturday. Doors open at 8:00 a.m. with the vehicle auction starting at 10:00 a.m.

Bidder registration is available online at or onsite for $200, and includes admission for two through Saturday. Visitor tickets are $20 in advance or $30 at the door.

McKenna Ross is a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms. Contact her at [email protected] To follow @mckenna_ross_ on Twitter.

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