BONHAMS’ BEST SELL­ERS

With de­mand and prices for clas­sics on the in­crease, auc­tion houses are grow­ing. We have a word with the big­gest – Bonhams

Classic Bike (UK) - - CONTENTS - WORDS: GEZ KANE. PHO­TOS: SI­MON LEE

Ex­clu­sive walk through the great­est bikes that’ve gone un­der their fa­mous ham­mer

With news break­ing of auc­tion house Bonhams be­ing sold to pri­vate eq­uity firm Epiris, now seems as good a time as any to take a look back at how the firm has be­come the big­gest name in the UK’S clas­sic bike auc­tion mar­ket. The new owner is com­mit­ted to main­tain­ing Bonhams’ high stan­dards and re­port­edly has sig­nif­i­cant plans to in­vest fur­ther in the busi­ness. That sounds like good news for Bonhams.

In the here and now, though, what’s in­volved in sell­ing a bike at auc­tion with the big­gest player in the busi­ness? James Stensel, Bonhams’ UK head

of mo­tor­cy­cles talks us through the whole pro­ce­dure.

“It’s a sim­ple process,” he ex­plains. “When you make an en­quiry with us, the first thing is to or­gan­ise a val­u­a­tion. Ei­ther one of the head of­fice team or one of our area spe­cial­ists will come to visit you, ex­am­ine the bike (or bikes), give you as much ad­vice as you need and help you to fill in the con­sign­ment pa­per­work if you de­cide to go ahead with sell­ing your bike with us. If you have a big col­lec­tion, one of our mo­tor­cy­cle team will usu­ally come out.

We dis­cuss val­u­a­tion, re­serves and es­ti­mates with the ven­dor and make sure both sides are happy be­fore go­ing any fur­ther. Any bike with an es­ti­mate be­low £2000 has to be of­fered with­out re­serve, and re­serve prices can­not be any higher than the low es­ti­mate. It’s im­por­tant to bear in mind, though, that the es­ti­mate fig­ure is not an es­ti­mate of value. The mar­ket de­cides that on the day of the sale.”

Once a ven­dor com­mits to a sale, they can ei­ther ar­range trans­port for the bike (or bikes) to the sale venue them­selves, or Bonhams can put them in touch with their rec­om­mended trans­port con­trac­tors. “We can also ar­range in­sur­ance for you, if you don’t have your own,” James con­tin­ues. “The pre­mium is cal­cu­lated as 1.5% of the mid-es­ti­mate fig­ure (half­way be­tween the low and high es­ti­mate).”

Af­ter that, it’s just a ques­tion of wait­ing for sale day and, while a sale on the day can’t be guar­an­teed, James is quick to point out that Bonhams have one of the best sell-through rates in the busi­ness. “Over 90% of all the bikes we con­sign, sell,” he con­firms with a smile.

That sounds im­pres­sive, but there’s a rea­son why. “Peo­ple – buy­ers and sell­ers – trust us,” says James. “We spend a huge amount of time re­search­ing lots and un­der­tak­ing due dili­gence on them. We aim to en­sure ev­ery lot is what it pur­ports to be. As an ex­am­ple, we 1953 IN­DIAN CHIEF:

One of very few Chiefs to leave the fac­tory in the fi­nal year of the model’s pro­duc­tion, this is an ear­lier restora­tion of the fi­nal in­car­na­tion of the leg­endary ‘Big Chief’. It has been kept on dis­play by the cur­rent ven­dor since 1999 and will re­quire some recom­mis­sion­ing. Es­ti­mate: $26,000-30,000 (£19,950-23,180)

‘WE RUN EV­ERY VIN­CENT THAT WE CON­SIGN PAST THE OWN­ERS CLUB EX­PERTS’

run ev­ery Vin­cent we con­sign past the own­ers club ex­perts, check­ing num­bers and records. And we’re signed up to the Royal In­sti­tute of Char­tered Sur­vey­ors (RICS) and Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Valuers and Auc­tion­eers (NAVA) codes of con­duct. And we are the only auc­tion house I know that uses trust ac­counts, which keep buy­ers’ and sell­ers’ money sep­a­rate from the busi­ness ac­count. If some­thing were to go wrong with Bonhams, clients’ money is safe.

“We have ex­cel­lent in­ter­na­tional reach and our so­cial me­dia mar­ket­ing is sec­ond to none. We can reach 5.5 mil­lion po­ten­tial bid­ders. And then, of course, there’s our sales record. We pub­lish auc­tion re­sults im­me­di­ately af­ter ev­ery sale, so any­one can see what we’ve achieved for our clients. And our fees are rea­son­able, too.”

Ah, the fees. Just what does it cost to sell a bike at a Bonhams sale? “For sell­ers, our fees, in­clud­ing VAT, are 12% of the ham­mer price,” James re­veals. “Cat­a­logue en­try fees range from £36 (in­clud­ing VAT) for a quar­ter­page to £288 for a dou­ble-page spread. We’re happy to ne­go­ti­ate pref­er­en­tial rates for col­lec­tions, too.”

That sounds pretty good. But there’s an­other good rea­son to deal with Bonhams. They’re nice peo­ple and they’re all pas­sion­ate about bikes – just like you and I. James is into his off-road­ers, In­ter­na­tional Head of Mo­tor­cy­cles Ben Walker likes veteran and vin­tage iron, Andy Bar­rett is steeped in Ve­lo­cettes and Bill To loves his Ja­panese clas­sics. Put sim­ply, they love all bikes.

And they’re rather good at sell­ing them.

Lots of time is taken re­search­ing lots CB’S Gez (left) gets the low­down in Bonhams’ archive fa­cil­ity

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