Webbs Motorcycle Auction Review 25th Nov 2009

So how many of you Barnstormer readers went along to the auction? And what did you think? Since living close to the Orkland province (Auckland to my English teacher) me and the Knubster decided to venture along. Within the 43 lots offered up there was some amazing machinery with a mixture from 1905 to 1977 but as Barnstormers representatives we were more interested in the pre 1945 girder fork models.

Motorcycles for me don’t all have to be glitz and glamour as a well used machine can hold just as many stories as a fully restored one, so my favourite choice would have been shared between the ‘as used’ 1927 Ariel 500 OHV and the really nicely presented 1930 Raleigh 500 OHV Twin Port. Or for those of us that have a vision of ourselves with a set of goggles, a reversed flapcap and in racing pose then the unrestored 1924 Rover 3 ½ hp (500cc) to be used for vintage racing ‘as is’ would be the answer. The appeal of roaring around the track on this bike with ones bum that close to the rear wheel and no protection for a mans???? should he slide off the back of the seat makes ones eyes water. I took a few extra photos of the Rover so click on the thumbnail below to see them. Interestingly vintage 500 ohv machines are not that common and here were 3 machines within a acceptable price range on offer.

The only bikes that would require some major attention was Lot 1 – the 1929 Model D Harley Davidson which was about 70% complete so would be a long term restoration, and Lot 25 €“ the 1911 Triumph TT500 with a ladies wicker side saddle basket. With a little TLC and some attention to the engine I would get this bike going and use as is whilst trying to retain the external patina. Seldom do you find such motorcycles like this and to remove its history competely after surviving 98 years by sandblasting its framework and applying a new gloss exterior would truly be a shame. Just ask our readers in the UK €“ ‘oily rag’ motorcycles in original unrestored condition are highly sort after.

The venue was Deus Machina, it was new for a Webbs auction site and even thought it did have a lot of space and parking was good I am undecided as to whether it had any extra benefits. The free beer definitely attracted people however the discussions and noise created by all the extras who were quite clearly not interested in the auction itself made it difficult to hear what was going on at times. The auctioneers realised this and turned up the sound system, only for the noisy ones to speak even louder. Some days you just carn’t win. Perhaps the next one might be different (all the rude people might stay at home).

Click on the thumb nails below to view closer photos of some of the more interesting motorcycles on offer.

My favourite machine was the 1924 Rover 3 ½ hp racer.

What a neat machine, and modern for its time with its unit construction and the engine as a frame stress member.

Buyers Premium €“ This is something that has started to creep in more over the last 10 years and for some of the auctions that I have attended I have noticed that this rate has been slowly getting higher with this particular auction charging you a whopping 15% plus GST for the privilege of buying a bike. Had Lot 18 sold on the night for $45,000 then the BP (Buyers Premium) would have been $6750 plus a further $843 for GST. This is a better return than the 3% a real estate agent gets selling your property and we all know how unpopular they are. Perhaps this was a limiting factor in the success of the auction as of the first 20 girder fork bikes offered up only 7 sold. The other 13 were ‘conditional’. This is where the auctioneer tries to convince you to part with more money (so that they can get ‘a sale’ and get paid). Whether it results in the reserve being lowered or the BP being reduced who knows? However auctions are a true measure of the current climate and what is happening is that buyers are realising that the true value of the bike is the hammer price, and not the hammer price plus BP plus GST. High BPs falsely inflate the price of the motorcycle and these costs are not retrieveable should the buyer wish to sell the bike later on. Perhaps auction sites like Trade Me are a better bet as they only charge 5% and your closing bid is the total price you pay (the seller pays the fees). Just a thought.

Anyway I have had my rant so for your interest here is the fact sheet of the first 20 girder fork machines. Be amazed.

Lot #


Hammer Price

(Seller Gets)

+ Buyers Premium


= Total

(Buyer Pays)

Sold – Yes/Cond


1929 Harley Davidson Model D







1927 Ariel 500 OHV







1930 Raleigh 500 OHV Twin Port







1923 Rover 2 ½ hp







1924 Rover 3 ½ hp Racer







1904 (Circa) Brown







1930 Sunbeam Model 9







1928 Bill Skilton Special Speedway Bike







1926 Douglas 350 EW







1908 Triumph TT 475 with Fixed Engine







1913 Triumph TT500 with Sturmey Hub







1913 Baby Triumph (2 stroke)







1915 Triumph 550 and Wicker Sidecar







1921 Triumph 550 Model SD







1911 Gamage of Holburn







1914 Triumph 550 with Sturmey Hub







1948 Harley Davidson Panhead







1922 Triumph 550 Model H







1925 BSA Flat Tank







1911 Triumph TT 500 with Ladies Side Saddle






We didn’t stay until the end of the auction as Knubster likes to be tucked up in bed with Mr Ted (his bear) by 9.30 and that time was quickly approaching. But the the main body of bikes that we were interested in had been auctioned so after Lot 25 we headed off.

We will leave the comments open on this as we would like your input about the prices that were expected including the buyers premium and what you also thought about the venue. And if you did buy a motorcycle on the night is it what you expected? Of course you will have to registered and we will moderate the comments.


5 thoughts on “Webbs Motorcycle Auction Review 25th Nov 2009”

  1. Thank you for your general interest and comments. Having worked with key collectors for many years Webb’s is dedicated to offered outstanding examples of all things desirable. As a keen rider myself I am very proud of the motorcycle events we offer the New Zealand public and without the BP the ability to hold such an event would not be possible (as an aside international auction houses such as Mid America or Bonhams set the BP at 22.5%).

    As far as trade me goes I should point out that we do not accept bikes that have been offered on this platform as it generally devalues the machine. Our service is based on professionalism and privacy. Our clients value this. From my experience Trademe does not have the ability to fetch international prices nor the ability to present the machine with dignity.

    Although a couple of bikes are still under negotiation of the 41 machines offered on the night 35 have sold.

    Webb’s Summer Sale of Important Vintage Motorcycles saw unprecedented interest from local and international collectors keen to acquire high quality machinery. Held at Deus Ex Machina the opening event hosted over 400 interested folk and over the week no less than 6000 people made the journey to take in what could only be described a museum quality offering. With the media also taking a strong interest in the event the night of the sale saw 600 people attend the auction and with standing room only the event made for quite a spectacle. Sophie Coupland (Webb’s Director) took the rostrum and went on to secure some of the highest prices paid for vintage machines seen in the country. Of the 41 machines offered 35 sold with records prices paid for many of the machines. Overall the entire event was a roaring success. With this key collectors are already in discussion with us about the next event planned for 2010.


    Neil Campbell
    Webb’s, Director.

    1973 Triumph Hurricane
    1939 Triumph T100 $55,000
    1948 Indian Chief $56,000
    1937 Velocette MSS $34,000
    1904 Brown $28,000
    1928 Bill Skilton Special $19,000
    1963 BSA Super Rocket $28,000
    1926 Douglas EW $25,500
    1908 Triumph TT $28,000
    1948 Harley Davidson Panhead $51,000
    1911 Triumph TT500 $17,500
    1961 BSA Catalena $28,000
    1919 Indian Power Plus $52,000
    1973 BMW R90S $23,000

  2. Hi Neil
    Thanks for your reply.
    As you know Barnstormers had over 350 unique hits on our site for the original post including a high search rate from overseas, in which we redirected the viewer to your site. This doesn’t include all those who subscribed to our site through RSS feeds. Interestingly, we were ahead of your own site in the google ranking for searches that didn’t include the names ‘Webb’s. We are happy to advertise these types of events as we see them as important to our growing readership, as we are dedicated to, and obviously ride, pre 1945 motorcyles.

    Below are my observations and thoughts from an ‘Interested party’ perspective.

    Of the 600 who attended the event only 100 or so seemed genuinely interested in the auction, the rest, in my opinion saw it as a social function to catch up with old friends and enjoy the free drinks on offer. The noise levels from the general chit-chat rose in proportion to the volume of the P.A system, making it very difficult to hear what was actually happening at the sharp end. So in that respect I suppose you are correct, it was quite a spectacle…..

    I was amazed that the auctioneer lost track of the bidding on more than one occasion and had to be directed back on track by one of the 2 helpers on the rostrum. Perhaps the noise at the front was also an issue?

    I disagree with you comments about Internet based auction sites. These give buyers and sellers a high level of privacy and ensure the seller has complete control throughout the process. Ultimately the value of a machine is set by what the ‘market’ is willing to spend. Buyers can arrange viewing directly with the seller if required. I agree that international buyers can have difficulty purchasing through local sites, but this is not insurmountable to the dedicated buyer. Most owners of such machines are generally aware of the ‘international price’ of their machine and generally set their reserves with this in mind. The buyer pays the ‘hammer price’ and the shipping costs.

    Lastly I take issue with the Buyers Premium. I dont see why the buyer has to pay for the priviledge of purchasing one of these machines.
    It is difficult to say if the BP overvalues or undervalues the machine. Does it overvalue the machine by 15%? Is it artifically reducing the sellers potential price by 15%?(buyers can be a canny lot). How much more could the seller get if there was no BP and buyers didn’t have to factor that cost into their bidding?
    I realise that these machines are appreciating assets but how many years does one have to wait before ‘breaking even’ on the final price paid?
    I did a quick fag packet calculation based on the figures you supplied and estimate Webbs took in excess of $80k in Buyers Premiums (exclusive of GST). I realise that Webbs are a not a charity and are in business to provide a service for a reasonable return, but I’d be surprised if staging the event cost anywhere near that sum. (Some auction houses have a reducing scale on the BP as the price goes up to ensure that the buyer is getting a fair deal – McS).
    As for international auction houses charging in excess of 20% to me this is just plain greed. If international buyers are happy to be gouged by this amount then good luck to them.

    Finally a general observation.
    In a perfect world it would be nice to believe that these machines would be used as intended and ridden on the road, or track, for the enjoyment of their owners and the general public.
    The reality is sadly different. These type of vehicles are now viewed as commodities to be bought, stored and sold soley at a profit without regard for their unique mechanical ability and historical importance and as such are seen as far too precious to ever turn a wheel in anger again. If we are lucky they’ll turn up in a museum where we will have the pleasure of paying to view them from behind a velvet rope.

    For those few that do make it back on the road, I look forward to seeing you and chatting about the bike and its history.


  3. Wow! You greedy buggers! Why have such a confusing system where the buyer has to try and figure out the true payment he will have to fork out for the motorcycle. The price you bid should reflect the total sum you are prepared to make on the item. The seller should then be responsible to the auctioneers payment. Webbs are doing no favours to both the seller and the buyer with the obvious greed on the more expensive motorcyles. People will end up bidding lower than they should have to incorporate these outlandish charges so the seller misses out on more profit. If they must run this system then surely when the price exceeds a certain amount that the BP percentage will drop eg up to 20k 10%, over 20k 5% (15% is just too bloody much in my opinion and then GST of the BP on top!). They will still make a crap load of money and in the end how much more work for them is involved in selling a lesser valued bike compared to an expensive one? Someone is giggling like a school girl all the way to the bank.

  4. Thank you for your support Knobby and I agree that online activity is a definitive aspect in todays setting. Overall the motorcycle section of our web site attracted over 40,000 unique visitors who spent an average of 4.50 mins browsing. An incrediable result and reflective of the worldwide interest in great motorcylces.

    I also agree that it takes a lot of effort and energy to put together an event such as this. I do not have any problem with like minded people turning up and enjoying our hospitality whether or not they intend to acquire a machine. But agree the din was troblesome. As for Sophie losing track – all I can say is Auctioneering is not for the faint hearted and that she did a wonderful job that was appreciated by the vast majority.

    The BP issue is one of economics. Try finding 40+ interesting machines and then telling their individual stories for the national and international public. Staffing, markleting and follow through – this all takes real time and real money to make happen. The buyers in the last sale (all of which were NZ based) were thankful that I had personally taken the time to find these machines and convinced the owners not to send them off to Bonhams (UK) or Mid America (USA) auctions where they have traditionally ended up. Eitherway as a third generation motorcycle rider from the far north I am genuinely pleased that New Zealand now has a forum that will give the broader New Zealand public a chance to celebrate the great machines we have here on the island.
    Cheers and have a great summer.

  5. Am I the first person who actually bought a bike to make a comment? I bought the Brown. Having been to and bought from auctions around the world, I thought it was very well done (espically the venue)The commision system is the same as any other, and not rocket science to work out, and anyone who can’t do it, either should not bid, or not be let out on their own! As to the the prices and values? It is up to each buyer to decide, and you must be your own valuer, guided by any other bidders against you. This has to be fairer than when the vendor sets the price, as it could be twice what anyone else would pay, how would you know? Having said that I think I paid twice the true value of the Brown, but that was my choice for a particular reason. I would be interested to hear from the other bidder who made it so expensive as to why they wanted it so much? My reason was that in 1904 my grand parents had a Brown, and fifty years ago granny gave me a picture of them on it in 1904, I have been looking for one ever since. It is a great picture and I would like to put it up for inclusion on the Granddads bike section, if anyone can tell me how to do it?

    As to the greed of the Webbs, anyone who would like to make themselves an “easy” $80,000 go right ahead, no one is stopping you. You may though find there is a ten or twenty year apprenticship whilst you establish the infrastructer, and you have to keep your self and others employed for 12 months, not just on the day of the auction!!

    Most folk are familiar with the saying “money talks” but don’t know the full quote is “MONEY TALKS YOU CAN’T DENEY, I HEARD IT ONCE, IT SAID GOODBYE”

    Steve Wynne (New Kiwi not Whinging Pom)

    As to the comment about folk not using them, I have ridden the Brown already, and now half way through the restoration, when it is done my first trip will be 200 miles (the reason is another story)

Comments are closed.