A historic 1894 Roper Steam Motorcycle is expected to establish a new world record for a motorcycle sold at auction when it crosses the podium at Auctions America by RM’s debut Las Vegas sale, January 12 – 14, 2012. The multi-day auction will feature more than 400 collector motorcycles.
The second of just two steam-powered motorcycles built by Sylvester Roper of Roxbury, Massachusetts, arguably one of America’s first auto manufacturers, the 117-year-old motorcycle is regarded as one of the world’s oldest, predating early examples produced by Orient, Indian and Harley-Davidson.
“We’re delighted to have been selected to present this historic and pioneering motorcycle at our inaugural Las Vegas sale in January. A significant piece of Americana, it is arguably one of the world’s most important motorcycles,” says Glenn Bator, Head of Auctions America by RM’s Vintage Motorcycle Division.
Based on the frame of a Columbia bicycle, its revolutionary design features a compact rectangular boiler, burner and grate, and a small steam engine on the right side. A water tank was located directly over the boiler, from which a smoke vent exited at a rakish angle. All controls were located on the handlebars. In keeping with the true definition of a motorcycle, the Roper was completed without pedals.
In addition to its pioneering design, the Roper Steam Motorcycle boasts a remarkable provenance from 1894, including a known, unbroken history from new. Regularly used by Roper, it averaged a record speed of 40 miles per hour on the Dorchester Road in Boston for a measured mile in May 1896.
Following Roper’s passing in 1896, this historic motorcycle was sold by one of his heirs to a Long Island museum and after moving through a series of other museums, including America’s Circus City Museum and Bellm’s Cars of Yesterday, formed part of two prominent private collections. The current owner acquired the historic motorcycle in 1996 and has seldom lent it for display, with its most recent showing at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in Pickerington, Ohio, where it helped to celebrate the induction of Sylvester Hayward Roper, America’s first motorcyclist. Today, presented in its original stove black livery, Auctions America’s upcoming Las Vegas sale represents the first time it has been offered at a public sale.
While the pre-sale estimate is “available upon request,” it is expected to exceed the current world record for a motorcycle sold at auction, held by a 1915 Cyclone Board Track Racer OHC that sold for $520,000 USD in 2008.
“With the only other Roper motorcycle ever built on long-term display at the Smithsonian Institution, the upcoming sale of this example presents an exclusive, once-in-a-lifetime ownership opportunity for serious collectors. We anticipate strong interest in its sale,” Bator adds.
The famous Roper leads a roster of an expected 400 collector motorcycles slated for Auctions America’s multi-day, dedicated motorcycle sale in Las Vegas. Additional notable entries include:
- An original-paint 1902 ‘The Whitley of Coventry’, the only known example to exist
- 1911 Wagner Single, one of a select series of motorcycles from the Jerry DeMille Collection
- Fully-restored 1917 Henderson Four-Cylinder Board Track Racer
- Award-winning 1936 Harley-Davidson LE Knucklehead, the first year of the knucklehead and an AMCA 99-point Junior First Prize winner
Auctions America by RM’s debut Las Vegas Premier Motorcycle Auction will be held January 12 – 14, 2012 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino, 3700 W. Flamingo Road, Las Vegas, Nevada. In addition to the auction, the event will incorporate a motorcycle seminar on Saturday, January 14, featuring noted industry experts including Buzz Walneck, founder of Walneck’s Classic Cycle Trader; Doug Mitchell, noted motorcycle author; Mark Hoyer, editor of Cycle World magazine and respected collector, Joe Bortz.
For full event details on Auctions America by RM’s Las Vegas Premier Motorcycle Auction, or to view a frequently updated list of entries, visit www.auctionsamerica.com or call 877-906-2437 (+1 269 927 9797).
[Source: Auction America; photo credit: Paul Eddy]