Three Ways to Locate Your Motorcycle Barn Find
Danny Reyes, Shipping Specialist, rider advocate and Angels fan. [email protected]
It’s every vintage motorcycle enthusiast’s dream: opening an old shed or garage and finding a perfectly preserved classic motorcycle, long forgotten or tucked away by its owner for safe-keeping. As vintage motorcycles command record prices at auctions and more riders gravitate toward the design style of decades past, the allure of the ever-elusive “barn find” is greater than ever. A quick search online will lead you to countless forums where passionate rummagers share their latest motorcycle finds–the good, the bad and, well, the just plain strange.
When you hear the words “barn find,” what comes to mind is likely something out of Indiana Jones or National Treasure. And it’s true that some finds are indeed worthy of the record books. Take, for instance, the French entrepreneur who dreamed of opening a classic car museum in the 1950s—until, that is, his finances didn’t pan out. What did he do with the 200-odd cars he had already collected to put in the museum that never was? After selling 50, he kept the remaining 150 in shacks and garages scattered around his family’s home. When someone found his stash decades later, it was a literal and figurative gold mine. A Ferrari 250GT SWB California Spider hidden under piles of old magazines sold at auction for more than $16.3M. In all, the sale broke 10 price records and included many other ultra-rare classic cars.
And you’ve likely heard similar stories about the greatest vintage motorcycle “barn finds.” (Check out this American Pickers video, where the pickers find, among other rides, a 1972 cherry red Triumph in good running condition.)
It’s no secret that vintage motorcycles are a coveted ride. Fully restored vintage and classic bikes can fetch top dollar, driving some people to scour the four corners of the Earth in hopes of finding old and forgotten treasures tucked away in storage somewhere. For others, it might be more about the thrill of the hunt—which, given the rarity of finding a vintage bike in mint condition, is a mindset that will set you up for a lot less frustration. But no matter your reason for hunting down that ever-elusive “barn find,” use these tips to make sure no stone is left unturned.
One of the easiest ways to stumble across “barn finds” is to do what you got a motorcycle for in the first place: ride. Hit the open road and keep your eyes open; you never know what you may find. Motorcycles with “For Sale” signs. Signs for farm auctions. Even an open garage filled with some old bikes in a residential area. For the serious barnstormer, these are all opportunities worth investigating.
As you’re riding, don’t forget to explore areas outside of your typical route. As many deal hunters will tell you, it’s often down quiet country roads or off the beaten path where you spot the best finds.
What happens if you do, in fact, strike gold as you ride along those country roads? Make sure to take photos of what you find, which can act as a reference if you need to do some research to negotiate a possible purchase price.
Using the “get out and ride” strategy won’t deliver a “barn find” every time. But if you keep your eyes open and aren’t afraid to pull over when you spot a lead, you’ll almost always come back with a story—or, at very least, a great ride.
Barnfinds.com outlines two rules for motorcycle barn finding (which, if you think about it, is really just one rule): talk about old motorcycles with everyone and anyone you come across. Any person you meet could be a potential lead. This may sound more like a business networking pitch than a “barn find” strategy, but the beauty of the “barn find” is that you never know when or where they’ll come up. Mark Bryan, whose profession is to scour the globe for vintage motorcycles for H&H Classic Auctions, echoes this advice. He says part of his luck is “being in the right place at the right time.” But there’s also another part of the equation, he says: “Getting out to as many bike nights and weekends as my family will allow.”
In the world of “barn finds,” one man’s trash literally is another man’s treasure, and you’ll never know who might have an old motorcycle stored away somewhere until you ask. Talk to the person who comes to repair something at your home. Chat about your new hobby with your coworkers at the office. Beyond local riders and riding groups, connect with shop owners and other people who know your area well. The more people they know, the more likely they are to connect you with a solid lead on your next “barn find.”
If you’re reading this blog, you already know that the Internet can drastically open the range of your search from the comfort of home. There are a number places to start: Craigslist, The Greensheet, Facebook marketplace, eBay and a growing number of resell apps like LetGo and OfferUp. There’s also NextDoor, which gives you the bonus of scouring listings from people you know—and posting a message telling people in your neighborhood about your hunt for motorcycle “barn finds.”
But don’t let the wide scope of the World Wide Web trick you into overlooking the power of good old-fashioned newspapers. Some people do still read newspapers, and placing a classified ad in print and also online makes sure your bases are covered. The website 50states.com has links to more than 3,300 local newspapers in the U.S. (If you want to expand your search internationally, start by seeking out foreign auctions and global websites like barnfinds.com, which has an international user base.)
What happens if you uncover your first “barn find” in another state? Motorcycle Shippers is here to get your motorcycle from Point A to Point B safely, in less time and with less hassle. And whether or not you need to ship your “barn find,” share a photo and your story with our rider community on social media.