UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020
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There’s another world out there, and it has two wheels (sometimes, three). If you know a motorcycle collector, you know what that world looks like – and how unbelievable it can be. If you do not know much, take a look at collections like the Motorcyclepedia museum, opened by the Doering family. The collection space houses more than 400 motorcycles, from a 1929 Scout (the first bike of the collection) to unique military motorcycles ordered by the government.
The scale may be astonishing, but the decades-long Doering habit is familiar. Some collections focus on one time period. Some focus on rideable bikes that look good in the street. Others prefer off-road adventure bikes. And some collections are mostly rust, waiting for the loving attention of restoration expects. Indeed, when it comes to motorcycle and motorscooter collection, loving attention is the defining factor. The other details? They are up to you.
A Collector’s World
Motorcycle collections span garages, parks, storage units, and basements. They also span countries – nearly every Western nation has its own band of diehard collectors. No surprise, the home of Honda also has a thriving community of Japanese bike-lovers scrambling to find vintage Kawasaki and Meguro models. If you happen to be a collector in Britain, you can aim for some of the earliest models ever created, like Matchless and Norton. And from Harley Davidson to Excelsior, the United States has a thriving cycle history with plenty of brands to choose from.
Vintage is only one possibility. More pragmatic or speed-focused collectors devote their bike passions toward sports bikes, like Triumphs and Yamahas. These newer bikes are collected based on performance, so vintage quality is not necessary. It also makes it a lot easier to repair or customize bikes…which leads to some exciting niche markets. Factory sportbikes are fun, but what about superbikes designed for racing, or garage-amped models that vary based on the imagination of home mechanics?
Bike collectors are not the few-and-far-between types, either. The Antique Motorcycle Club of America has 11,000 members and you can join in minutes. The Harley Davidson fan meets and events are widely known throughout North America. The American Motorcyclist Association has thousands of members (you can look for a club in your area) and is responsible for the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum. And with the low costs of motorcycles these days, more people are starting to ride, which means even more potential collectors in the future.
Joining in the Fun
Owning one bike makes you a rider. Owning two makes you a collector – so do not worry about needing an extra garage for your hobby. Reasons vary as well. It helps if you love a particular era, brand, or style, but not all collectors have such traditional interests. Some look for good buys on vintage bikes and scooters so they can resell them for a profit in different channels. Others prefer to save up and purchase an ideal model just for them. In the early 2010s, many collectible models averaged around $15,000, with lower end versions available for $6,500.
If these numbers make you wince, you are not alone. Deals are easy to find, and prices vary so much based on age and location that you can always find something within your price range. If you want a labor of love, buy a rusted out Honda for a few hundred dollars and start a long-term restoration project. Or mail-order parts and start piecing together your own off-road masterpiece. If you want to be really unique, start a project like Istvan Puskas and build your bike out of wood!
When purchasing older factory models, make the National Automobile Dealer’s Association guide and the Kelley Blue Book your good friends to avoid bad deals. Explore local or online auctions to pick up vintage models or find great deals. Watch some American Pickers episodes. While you are collecting information, keep an eye open for nearby events. Many places have scooter and cycle swap meets where you can meet other collectors and get involved in the community.
Making Your Mark
When you become a bike and scooter collector, you are defining the bike world. New bikes are always on their way – in 2012 trends moved toward touring scooters, three-wheel models for senior citizens, and lightweight, low-cost models for cash-strapped 20-somethings. That means all new markets to specialize in when it comes to collections and interests. So pick a brand, buy a kit, or start dreaming! A global community is waiting to welcome you with open arms and lots of valuable tips.