The most valuable bike collection… in the world

Set for auction in a week

ON March 20-21 what’s probably the most valuable motorcycle collection in the world will cross the auction block in Las Vegas.

EJ Cole has spent half a century collecting bikes, and has more than 220 of them as a result, many in completely original condition, even if that means they’re little more than wrecks. All of them are being sold in one go at the Mecum sale.

Highlights include a 1907 Harley-Davidson Strap Tank, which could be one of the world’s most expensive bikes with an estimate of $800,000-$1m, a 1915 Harley Model 11 ($110,000-$130,000), a 1942 Crocker ($300,000-$350,000) and a 1911 Flying Merkel board tracker ($350,000-$400,000). Whatever happens, EJ Cole is going to walk away from the auction a multi-multi-millionaire…

Of course, no bike auction would be complete without an ex-Steve McQueen bike, and Cole’s is a 1915 Cyclone board track racer, estimated at another $650,000-$750,000 but quite likely to go for even more than that given its rarity and the McQueen connection.

There are several early four-cylinder bikes – for instance a 1942 Indian ($85,000-$110,000), a 1912 FN ($100,000-$125,000), a 1915 Militaire ($130,000-$150,000) and a 1917 Henderson ($135,000-$175,000) – and plenty of early competition machines like the 1929 Excelsior hillclimber ($105,000-$120,000)

There are plenty of machines from short-lived brands that have long since been forgotten, too. How about a 1913 Minneapolis Model S twin? That will be $150,000-$170,000 to you, sir. Or a wrecked-looking 1911 Thiem single that thanks to its rarity and originality is expected to take $65,000-$75,000 despite appearing ready for the scrapyard?

Browsing through the collection on Mecum's website you’ll find a few cheaper offerings, like a Harley two-stroke 125cc single from 1956 at $5000-$6000 or a crazy-looking 1903 motorised tandem bicycle for $9000-$14,000, but there’s a massive number of $100,000-plus machines in the collection, proving that Cole used an incredible knack for picking out machines that were set to rocket in value as he built his collection.

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