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How to advise on the sale of a collection?

Magnetoman

Well Known and Active Forum Website User
VOC Member
Part A

I was contacted a few days ago by the widow of an acquaintance to advise on the sale of her late husband's collection of motorcycles and spares. At least six of them fall into the "valuable" category. I haven't yet seen the collection, but I expect from having known the guy that most of the bikes will be complete and well restored. I'm overcommitted the next couple of weeks so I won't be able to look at anything until then but, in the mean time, I'm looking for suggestions on how to approach this.

Anyway, for this exercise assume your widow has gotten over losing you and now wants to sell your collection for as much as possible. If despite the assumption that you're no longer alive (and also assuming you like her) how would you advise her to proceed? Consign the best of the bikes to one of the big auctions (e.g. Stafford or Las Vegas)? The auctioneer will take 15%, and it will cost a lot to transport the bikes there (and back again if they don't meet reserve), so this would take a chunk out of your widow's inheritance. Put an ad in 'MPH"? Fine for the Vincents, but there are other valuable machines as well and so such an ad wouldn't reach the widest number of potential buyers. As for the parts, should she try to get someone to help her group them into "reasonable" lots in order to sell them at the auction too? Trickling things out over eBay might maximize the eventual total return, but the widow might not want to put the necessary time into doing that (plus, eBay takes a hefty fee).

Again, the question is, how would you advise the widow to proceed in order to maximize the total revenue generated with a "reasonable" amount of effort on her part and on the part of people advising her?

Part B

Prompted by the above, Part B is, what steps should we take now to help minimize such a problem for our families later (hopefully, much, much later)? Since we know our stuff best we could start selling it off now to generate maximum profit. But then we wouldn't have any bikes left(!), so that's not a reasonable option.

You probably know what's in your garage far better than your wife does, so you know the brace of Black Shadow carbs and 5" speedometer are worth more than $50. However, even if she has an inkling that they are valuable, she doesn't even know you have them because they are hiding in the bottom of some dusty box marked "sandpaper" You know that a frame number of +1900 means your Vincent is a "matching numbers" bike, but she may be deceived by someone who says "Oh, look, the frame number doesn't match the engine number so it's worth a lot less." Even more so for, say, a Gold Star where the numbers don't bear any relationship to each other at all, and she doesn't know you have a certificate filed away from the Owners Club saying it left the factory with those numbers.

Again, the question is, what reasonable steps should we take now to maximize the inheritance for our families later?
 

Bazlerker

Well Known and Active Forum Website User
VOC Member
I have a very good, very trustworthy friend as my executor... A fellow Vincent owner...
 

coomo

Active Forum Website User
VOC Member
Who cares about inheritance? Unless your family members share the same passion, They are just going to cash everything in.Id rather leave it too someone who appreciates it than leaving it to be sold so some speculator can profit, and the money spent on holidays.Arrange for a fellow enthusiast to benefit.
Again, that ugly word money surfaces again.Ive bought large collections of lots of stuff over the years.It can be heartbreaking to see someones passions, reduced to numbers in front of a collection of salivating vultures.
 

david bowen

Well Known and Active Forum Website User
Non-VOC Member
I have a friend with a collection of excellent bikes he asked a museum if he could leave them to them, the answer and how much money to keep them maintained
 

Magnetoman

Well Known and Active Forum Website User
VOC Member
Who cares about inheritance?
Well, me, for one. I'd like my family to inherit as much as possible from my many years of work.
Id rather leave it too someone who appreciates it than leaving it to be sold so some speculator can profit, and the money spent on holidays. Arrange for a fellow enthusiast to benefit.
This has nothing to do with speculation, it has to do with arranging things so one's family members receive the maximum benefit rather than auctioneers, people who might try to benefit from a widow's ignorance, etc. And, it's not like the bikes disappear. They are still there for fellow enthusiasts to benefit from. They just would have to buy them at a fair price from the widow.
Again, that ugly word money surfaces again.
Well, money isn't necessarily all that ugly of a word, is it? If my wife gets more money than she otherwise would because I planned things properly, I'd like to think that's a good thing.

I bought a BSA M21 nearly 40 years ago. I didn't do it as a speculative investment, which is a good thing because I doubt if it has appreciated a whole lot since then. However, no doubt there is some super-M21 enthusiast who would love that bike. So, would it be better for me to leave it in my will to such an enthusiast, or for it to be sold for as much as possible and for the proceeds to go to my family? My answer to that is, the latter. But, again, I don't see how this question has anything to do with either enthusiasts or speculators.
 

Albervin

Well Known and Active Forum Website User
VOC Member
Magnetoman. I find Coomo's answer totally inappropriate as the need to supply a widow with a maximum return outweighs all other considerations. I would suggest a contact and discussion with a major auction house. It is amazing what can be "discussed" when a collection is offered. There should be no need for a reserve if the auction house offers a guarantee. This is where the auction house promises to buy the item should it fail to sell. Standard practice for high end art and collectibles. These people will also offer a no cost appraisal which, while non binding, is FREE. Motorcycles offered for sale in marque magazines are also an option. Marque specialists in the UK and here in Australia offer appraisals at minimum cost and are usually fairly accurate unless dealing with one off (unique) items, e.g. a bike owned by George Brough or Steve McQueen! Having said that, I have sold (subject to finalisation) a Vincent for an Australian record price without advertising it at all.
 

youngjohn

Well Known and Active Forum Website User
Non-VOC Member
Easy. Write an accurate, fair description of your bikes/major parts along with an idea of value (review this periodically), take some decent photos and when you pop your clogs your nearest and dearest can stick them on ebay using the guide price as a reserve/starting price. People knock ebay all the time, but it consistently generates good prices if the stuff is right and descriptions/photos are well done.
 

Magnetoman

Well Known and Active Forum Website User
VOC Member
Magnetoman. I find Coomo's answer totally inappropriate as the need to supply a widow with a maximum return outweighs all other considerations.
I have to admit that I still don't quite understand that reply. Like many of you I've squandered a lot of family money on motorcycles over the years, which has been largely for my own enjoyment (they get secondary enjoyment at best, though knowing I enjoy it). So, the idea that I should somehow continue to haunt my family after I'm gone by denying them of any of these resources just doesn't make any sense at all to me.
I would suggest a contact and discussion with a major auction house. It is amazing what can be "discussed" when a collection is offered...
This is an excellent suggestion. Thanks very much. If the restored bikes are as good as I expect them to be there should be enough value in them to make this interesting to an auction house.
 

Magnetoman

Well Known and Active Forum Website User
VOC Member
Easy. Write an accurate, fair description of your bikes/major parts ... your nearest and dearest can stick them on ebay using the guide price as a reserve/starting price.
Your plan certainly has merit. The major flaw in it is it requires me to have done the necessary work ahead of time. It's the kind of task that I know I should do, but would be very easy to never quite get around to actually doing.

Beyond me being the unreliable cog in this plan, I'm reminded of what a friend who owns a motorcycle shop/salvage yard told me years ago when I mentioned a computerized inventory system for his business. He said something like "What would I enter, Unidentified Part #1, Rusty Part #2, ...?" Remember, once I/we are gone, that inventory sheet created for our now-widow says there is a "Amal GP carburetor, ~$1k" in the garage, but -- assuming she knows what a carburetor looks like -- it doesn't say where it is nor how to identify it rather than the boxes filled with Monobloc, Concentric, Mikuni, etc. bodies, all of which pretty much look like a GP to the uninitiated. So, that list that was intended to help instead torments her because she knows there's a $1k needle in that haystack, but she doesn't know where it is. Also, even with photographs, a BSA M21 frame looks essentially identical to a Triumph 6T frame. And, while we would look at a garage full of unidentified motorcycle parts as a thrilling discovery to be mined, I suspect our widows would look at it as a depressing pile of crap to be dealt with.

I'm a fan of eBay myself, having bought a lot (no, a LOT) of items over the past 15 years. However, I've never sold a thing (which provides insight into the problem my future-widow will face...). I've been told by various people who do sell a lot on eBay, including my friend mentioned above, that the fees charged take quite a chunk out of profits. Also, my friend's shop is piled high with an "inventory" of empty cardboard boxes for shipping things out. I don't know about your future-widow, but mine wouldn't have the interest in dealing with all the listing, packing, shipping, etc. required to empty my garage.

But, none of the above is meant as criticism of your suggestions. They are good ones. It's just the devil is in the details, and it's making sure as many of those details are thought about and dealt with ahead of time that will make or break a plan. A flawed plan that is implemented very often is better than a perfect plan that isn't, and I have a feeling the final answer to this will be a plan that has somewhat fewer flaws than other plans.
 
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