Things we think of while riding down the road

Vintage values

There’s an old saying, “something is only worth what somebody else is willing to pay for it”. I write another blog about vintage motorcycles, www.vintagemotorcycles.wordpress.com and here is where I learn what people think their motorcycle is worth and I will say this right off the bat, some people have a very inflated sense of the value of their motorcycle or their 1970 metalflake helmet.

In my years as a surf shop owner I spent a great deal of time helping people determine the value of the used surfboard they wanted to sell. A customer would come in toting an old surfboard that maybe they have had for years or they picked it up at a garage sale somewhere for a few dollars, either way it’s time to sell it. I would always start off the conversation by asking how much do you want for it? The customer would reply, “how much is it worth?”, next is me asking again how much they want for it, knowing that they do have a dollar figure in mind…getting that figure out of them is a very funny game of cat and mouse. This game goes on for just a bit and then I throw out a price of what I think I can sell it for (we sold surfboards on consignment for a small percentage). One of three things happen now, the customer is surprised in a good way, they’re offended or sometimes I get lucky and I’m right there with what they had in mind. At least half the time it’s door number two. If the offended one doesn’t walk out the door in a huff, I try to explain why I put the value on their board that I did. It comes from the knowledge of knowing what it will sell for, not what it may be worth. There is a difference.

The other difference I have to explain to people whether we are talking about surfboards or motorcycles, is the difference between just old and classic. What is the difference? To make it as simple as I can, a ‘classic’ is something that truly stood out in it’s time and has stood the test of time. A ‘classic’ is something iconic, something that helped define that time period, either technologically or sociologically. In surfboards, a 1967 Dewey Weber Performer is a classic, a 1967 stock production, no model name surfboard is just an old board. A Honda CM400A is just an old motorcycle, a 1969 Honda CB750 is a classic. A Kawasaki Samurai is a neat motorcycle but it’s just an old motorcycle, a ’72 H2 is a classic. You get my point here I hope.

I spend a portion of each morning perusing ebay for cool old motorcycles or interesting parts for my vintage motorcycle blog. If I find something interesting that I have some history with, I write a story about it, add some pictures then post it. If I find something interesting that I don’t know much about, I do some research and then write what I have learned..spread the knowledge you know. But here’s the best part of looking at bikes on ebay…the value a seller puts on the motorcycle. I catch myself laughing out loud every morning, I guess laughter is the best way to start the day. For some people the price is based on sentimental value, “I have had this bike since I was just a boy back on the farm in Iowa”, or, ” I completely restored this bike from the ground up, I have $7324.14 in receipts”, opening bid for this Honda CB350 is $7500. Here’s the deal folks, sentimental value does not translate in real world value. If you don’t want to sell it for a realistic price, then don’t put it on the market. If you spend $7324.14 on a CB350, well first, you should be institutionalized, then you have to realize that every dollar you put into it was for your own enjoyment. When you add accessories or do restoration work, the rule of thumb is that you can expect to get back around half of what you put into it. That’s the real world.

I put together a little list of bikes I thought fit in the “you must be kidding” category, ready…? A rusty, sidecover missing, fenders all scuffed up 1979 Honda XR80 for only $2000. How about a custom Maico dirtbike from the ’70’s for a paltry $7,000, or maybe you have fancy a dirty, banged up, yellowed gas tank, not sure of the mileage or hours on the bike ’88 Yamaha BIG Wheel with a starting price of $3500. How does a very nicely restored 1968 Suzuki T500 for $7000 fit in your garage? Now here is where the fun really begins. How can you turn down the opportunity to buy a 1969 Indian 50cc minibike in well used condition for only $2600. I don’t even think you could get that much for one of the Harley Clone Indians from a couple of years ago!?
And here is the capper for the day, a beautiful, 99% original 1978 Kawasaki Z1R turbo that will only lighten your wallet by $25,000, you can actually find a real nice one for less than half that.

What do all these bikes have in common? besides crazy prices, they have all been on ebay a while, and they all have zero bids. I wonder why.

So what was my point in writing this today, it’s not really to make fun of anybody or what they believe the value of their motorcycle is, the point was to take my experience in selling used goods for people and use it to help somebody think about pricing their Suzuki 250 triple that needs work, or that 1970 metalflake helmet to sell..not languish about on ebay. If you want to sell it, sell it. Get a fair price for it and be happy. Like my old friend Doug used to say, “buy it for $1, sell it for $2 and be happy with a one percent profit”

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2 responses

  1. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    August 3, 2010 at 5:09 pm

  2. I love your blog. I’ve added it to my favorite bookmarks and subscribed in a reader.

    Thanks

    August 5, 2010 at 8:50 pm

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