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A rare Crocker “Big Tank” will go for big money at Bonhams Collector’s Motorcycles Sale

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If the beginning of 2019 is any indication of the auction pricing trends for unique Crocker motorcycles, the seller of this 1940 “Big Tank” may be able to retire in comfort. After years passed with none of the iconic bikes being exchanged, even through elite collectors’ private hands, Crockers have exploded onto the auction market in the last 10 years, and at no time has that been more apparent than this year with at least five of the low-production bikes sold at auction. The Mecum Las Vegas auction in January sold two units, a 1937 “Small Tank” for $423,500 including buyer’s premium, and a 1939 “Big Tank” for $704,000. Mecum’s Indy Auction saw a 1940 “Big Tank” go for  $550,000, and then the Mecum Monterey Auction in August went Vegas one better, selling a 1937 “Small Tank” for $715,000 and another 1936 “Small Tank” for an astronomical $825,000.

Compare those results to just a few years ago—Mecum sold a 1938 “Small Tank” for $338,000 at Monterey in 2016 and got $350,000 in 2015 for a 1942 “Big Tank”—and it’s clear that the vintage Crocker values have gone through the roof.

1940 Crocker engine1940 Crocker V Twin

On October 5th, the sixth Crocker offered at action this year will be featured as part of the Bonhams Collector’s Motorcycles Sale at the Barber Motorsports Museum in Birmingham, Alabama. The bike is said to have been owned by Elmo Looper, a former Crocker employee who bought all the spare parts and tooling from Al Crocker after the factory closed in 1947. Pre-auction estimates are between $495,000 and $595,000, but those predictions are similar to what Mecum forecast in January and August. Those estimates proved to be woefully low come bidding time.

Also available for bid at Barber Motorsports Museum during this sale is an 884 cc 1910 Flying Merkel V-Twin from Miami Cycle in Middletown, Ohio. Merkels were offered in both single and two-cylinder engine configurations and the V-Twins are highly regarded among collectors. This unit looks almost identical the 1910 Flying Merkel that sold for over $86,000 at the R&M Las Vegas Auction in January of 2012. The highest-selling Flying Merkel ever at auction was over $423,000 (Mecum, Las Vegas March 2015), however, it was a rare 1911 997cc board track racer. The highest auction price for a Merkel in this configuration was $175,500 for a 1914 model at the Mecum Monterey auction in August 2015. The pre-sale estimate for this bike is $100,000 – $150,000.

1910 Flying Merkel Bonhams auction

Additional motorcycles of note to be gaveled at this same auction include:

1955 Vincent Black Prince project bike

1970 BSA B44 Victor

1955 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow Series D

1951 Norton International Model 30

1952 Vincent Comet

Additional information on the auction and other bikes to be offered can be found on the Bonhams website.