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Price and Prejudice

When it comes to buying and selling, one thing is clear. You want to sell at the highest price and buy at the lowest possible price. What you notice when you are at something like the Classic Dirt Bike Show at Telford, is that people are trying to do this simultaneously, and in turn looking to rip off buyers and sellers at the same time.

You could buy a 1977 CZ with work for less than £600, and (try) to sell an early 1960’s Twinport CZ for more than £12000. In many cases its a questions of perceived value rather than market prices and a wishful hope that some idiot is going to make an appearance with loads of cash, or having that rare Husqvarna that you’ve been longing for. Having bought and sold a few classic bikes over the years, the process is one of mixed emotions and that roller coaster ride that goes from elation (“wow, I’ve really found one”) to a post coital low (“it’s got no piston, what have I bought”) through to a later joy (“really, it might have been a works bike”).

I think a lot of people are actually looking for a number of things when dealing with a buyer/seller:

  • a price; there is nothing more frustrating that sellers saying ‘make me an offer’. If they don’t have a price, they don’t really want to sell it
  • sensible pricing; people sometimes put on a unassailable price in the hope they can haggle down to something still too high
  • genuine buyers : sometimes there are too many tyre kickers and the seller will quickly become frustrated with the endless dialogue which might start with “I’ve always fancied one of these” or “I had one of these when new”.
  • genuine seller : someone who really wants to sell the bike; at Telford in particular its common to find people who’ve brought along a bike to sell, but don’t really want to sell it but want to see either someone say ‘how much !’ or ‘wow that must be rare’.
  • .

Then there is the use of the word rare. I think a well known importer of US bikes (in Worcestershire) has used rare as a description as part of all his ebay adverts. Obviously this leaves you with a problem if you have something that actually rare. You need to move to ‘very rare’, ‘extremely rare’ or ‘super rare’. Being ‘rare’ is also subjective. At Telford, a Honda TLM250 was described as rare as there were only 850 made, whilst to me a 1964 Bolt Husqvarna might be seen as rare as there were only 100 made, and only one ended up outside of Sweden / Norway. This one, owned by Dave Bickers who decided to pick it up from the factory after breaking his Greeves (again) at the Finish GP that year, actually starts of another discussion.

That is the ‘famous person’ bike. Steve McQueen seems to have owned multiple copies of every type of dirt bike manufactured between 1960 and 1974. However, the high value attributed to a CZ at the 2015 Telford Show because the owner has a picture of an elderly Dave Bickers sitting on it probably pushes the limit when it comes to celebrity value.

Rare might be subjective, but of course so is value. Finding a bike you trialled or raced in your youth will be worth more to you then just another punter. This whole discussion is true for any collectable commodity (like vinyl records) but like any fair, bourse, market, it amplifies the good and bad practice.

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