Cooking With Steam – Roper Steam Motorcycle Expected To Bring Huge Money at Auction

All the Brough Superiors, Popes and Harleys can stand aside, there’s a new Sheriff on the auction block.

An 1894 Roper steam-powered motorcycle is expected to bring in a new world record at auction in a couple of months, and the hype has already begun. The Roper Steam Motorcycle is expected to establish a new world record for a motorcycle sold at auction when it graces the podium at an Auctions America  sale in Last Vegas set for January 12 – 14, 2012.

If you can’t afford the half-million dollars this bike is expected to fetch, the multi-day auction also feature a list of 400 collector motorcycles.

The second of just two steam-powered motorcycles built by Sylvester Roper of Roxbury, Massachusetts, the 117-year-old motorcycle is said to be 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,” said Glenn Bator of RM’s Vintage Motorcycle Division.

The bike was based on the frame of a Columbia bicycle, and its revolutionary design features a compact rectangular boiler, burner and grate, and a small steam engine on the right side. A water tank located directly over the boiler provided the go and smoke exited from a vent styled at a rakish angle. The controls were located on the handlebars.

In addition to a pioneering – if impractical –  design, the Roper Steam Motorcycle has a documented provenance from 1894, including a known, unbroken history from the time it was new. Regularly ridden by Roper, the bike averaged a record speed of 40 miles per hour on the Dorchester Road in Boston for a measured mile in May 1896.

After Roper’s death in 1896, this bike was sold by one of his heirs to a Long Island museum and then spent time in 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 most recently showed it at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in Pickerington, Ohio.

“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 said.

Auctions America by RM’s debut Las Vegas Premier Motorcycle Auction will be held January 12 – 14, 2012 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, 3700 W. Flamingo Road, Las Vegas, Nevada. In addition to the auction, the event will incorporate an exclusive 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, please visit  or call Toll Free 1 269 927 9797.


Insuring your collectible or vintage motorcycle

As for insurance? You should be able to get Agreed Value coverage on a 1959 BSA valued at $15,000 for somewhere around $25 a month, and that gives you the whole shooting match of coverage. You can spend a lot less, but if you plan to ride the bikes in your collection, the above pricing is a reasonable approximation of what you can expect to pay.

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