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The Most Expensive Vintage Motorcycles

Vintage Motorcycle
Photo: Matt Purdy CC

When it comes to collectible transportation, cars have stolen the show for decades. Recently a Ferrari NART Spyder sold at auction for a staggering $27.5M. An antique motorcycle has never sold for even 1/10th as much. Back in 2008, a 1915 Cyclone Board Track Racer changed hands for a comparatively measly $551,000. Other vintage motorcycles, from many different decades, have changed hands for between $200,000 to $400,000.

Pre-War Vintage Classics

cyclone board track racer
Cyclone Board Track Racer
Photo: Kenneth Lively CC

By far the most valuable bikes on the planet nowadays were made before the second, and even the first, World Wars. A bike with documented race history, like the record-breaking Cyclone, is more valuable than a bike designed to be ridden on the street. Harley Davidson, Brough Superior, Vincent, and Crocker motorcycles command the highest prices. One of these bikes in good, or even not so good, condition, is often worth upwards of $100,000 at auction.

If you’re a “picker,” look for old bikes in old barns with single and twin cylinder engines, simple steel frames, and tires that would look more appropriate on a bicycle than a contemporary motorcycle. You never know. You might just hit the jackpot one day.

Cutting Edge Racebikes

Motorcycles manufactured before 1940 sell for the highest prices, but that doesn’t mean modern-day MotoGP machines go for pennies-on-the-dollar after top-flight teams are done running them ragged on international racing circuits.

Ducati Gp11 Vr2

ducati gp11 vr2
Ducati Gp11 Vr2
Photo: f1jherbert CC

Back in 2012, famed auction house RM Auctions moved one of Valentino Rossi’s 2011 Ducati GP11 VR2’s for an impressive €245,700. That’s about $325,000 in 2014’s dollars. The 2010 bike sold for a little more than that at the same auction. The reason? It’s anyone’s guess why wealthy collectors paid what they did, but it probably had something to do with Rossi’s heartbreaking two seasons on what was supposed to be a partnership between the greatest motorcycle racer in the world and the famous Ducati marque from his home country, Italy.

Given what it costs to field a MotoGP team, a quarter million dollars for a used race machine is, in fact, “pennies on the dollar” by the end of the season.

“Affordable” Exotics and Modern Classics

Although most of us aren’t going to park any of the aforementioned bikes in our living rooms or offices anytime soon, that doesn’t mean we can’t get in on the action.

Honda RC45

honda rc45
Honda RC45
Photo: romano1952 CC

Honda’s RC-series sportbikes, like the RC40 and RC45, routinely sell on eBay and other sites for tens of thousands of dollars. They’re considered exotics and are highly prized by collectors. Might we one day see one roll across the auction block for hundreds of thousands of dollars? It’s anyone’s guess, but plenty of collectors seem to think they’re a good bet.

Yamaha RD350

yamaha rd350
Yamaha RD350
Photo: abbyevg CC

For the rest of us, modern classics are still available for reasonable prices. Sportbike enthusiasts lust after classic two-strokes like the Yamaha RD350 and RZ350. Perfect examples of either bike often change hands for $10,000 or less.

For touring enthusiasts, boxer-engine BMWs make great daily riders. And nothing beats a good, old fashioned 1970s shovelhead Harley Davidson for making a statement on the road.

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About the Author

Michael Padway is a motorcycle accident attorney with over 40 years of experience in motorcycle cases. He’s been a lifelong motorcycle rider, and fanatic for its culture, advocacy, and safety. If you need assistance with a motorcycle accident, contact him at (800) 928-1511 or visit michaelpadway.com for a free consultation.