For the Record

With a little luck, a world record will be set in Las Vegas this weekend. There’s an 1894 Roper Steam Motorcycle that will cross the auction block at the Rio sometime Saturday afternoon, and the folks at Auctions America fully expect it to sell for more money than any other bike in auction history. The record is $520,000 for a 1915 Cyclone Board Track Racer OHC back in 2008.

Edward Cepuran, Auction America’s chief financial officer, thinks it’ll happen. Even in Las Vegas. Even now when half a million bucks would buy about four median-priced local homes. Just because your disposable income has vanished doesn’t mean there aren’t people out there with bulging wallets looking for solid investments. And high-end, antique motorcycles have become just that.

“People are looking for tangible products, something that has finite availability,” Cepuran says. “Some of the numbers we see are just staggering.”

If you’re looking to shore up your portfolio with this particular motorcycle, understand that it isn’t much of a looker; it’s basically an old bicycle with small furnace mounted between the wheels. It’ll also fall short as a commuter, unless you don’t mind waiting for your water to boil before riding jauntily off to work each morning.

Where it does shine is in the category of finite availability. Sylvester Roper only built two of his eponymous bikes, and the other one is in the Smithsonian. Bring your checkbook.