Elvis Presley’s 1976 FLH 1200 Electra Glide finally sold last week, and despite bringing in a huuuuuuge amount of money, the sellers didn’t see the money they’d hoped.
Kruse GWS Auctions, the Los Angeles outfit selling the bike, had made much ballyhoo about their expected take. The story was that the motorcycle could bring in as much as $2 million US, which would have set an all-time record for motorcycle auction sales.
Instead, the auction saw the bike going for $800,000 when the gavel fell on Saturday, well below the hoped-for amount. Supposedly, there were 21 bids in the sale. That $800k means the Harley-Davidson is the third most expensive motorcycle ever sold at auction—a lot of money, for sure, but the market is not left all shook up.
Or is it? It’s curious to see the Harley didn’t bring in as much as hoped, because that’s just the opposite of what we’ve seen in the past few years. Fact is, vintage bike prices have been going up, up, up in recent years. Vintage bikes used to be suuuuuuper cheap when compared to classic cars, which is indeed how some of the greatest collections were started—savvy rich guys started buying them, because they offered more bang for your buck. And then, the whole supply/demand circle began its vicious course, and the price tags rose. That’s how the world-record ’51 Vincent Black Lightning sold for $929,000 last year.
Why’d that Vincent sell for more then Elvis’s Harley? Probably because the Vincent had a lot more value to a bike enthusiast than the Elvis bike would. Elvis collectors would of course be very interested in his Harley-Davidson, but there’s lots of other assorted memorabilia vying for those dollars as well. Those Vincents are absolutely legendary for its performance, while the Electra Glide, not so much.