I don't have a lot of money, but I know a lot of people. On the other hand: I don't really care about money. And money doesn't really care about me. But with a lot of people you can apparently make money. Friend Jan – he is Slovakian and works from London – is a real estate agent who gets his income from his network. So it is possible.
He does not broker pimped farms in Drenthe or the Dordogne for baby boomers from the Randstad
Jan makes worldwide classic motorcycles (and some cars). The last time I saw him, he was traveling the world building the 'stuff' for a Slovakian motorcycle museum in the making. That museum will soon have about 20D m² of floor space. To fill such a space, you don't go to the regional messenger to see if there is still a Honda CB200 with work to be found.
The approach is that you first go hunting to buy some complete collections and then find some cherries on the cake.
Setting up such a museum is simply a lot of work for Jan. He is usually in the piece trade. Usually he doesn't even sell, but works according to search and commission. Apparently that's a healthy business model. In his trade he is 'high in the tree'. What goes under the hammer as absolute masterpieces at international auction houses is usually below par for its clients.
Those clients are big capitalists and investors
And the chance that one of those buyers will spend a weekend on his newly acquired Vincent Black Shadow or MV four-cylinder is small. Such a person M/F often does not even see his/her purchase. Jan gets the full 100% confidence. At least: sort of. Because it is not uncommon for the buyer V/M to have his/her purchase checked after payment by a few international experts of that type of engine. And at the slightest thing, an expensive can of lawyers is opened to cancel the sale, take a lot of money off the price or think of other problems.
Of course Jan has also engaged such a network of experts for his purchase
For example, he knew that the Really Early CB750 F's had some unHonda worthy ridges in the tank bottom. This was due to a mistake in the early molding for those tanks. 'Sandcast' carters are common fare in Jan's field. But the correct incorrect ribbing in the tank bottom made Jan's eventual find worth $15.000 more to his client. Of course there is the difference between 'being worth' and 'being worth'. But oh well, if the money is splashing against the baseboards… There was a tank like this – to be restored – for sale on eBay recently for $4.000. By the way, according to Jan, eBay also says 'nothing worth having'.
Know people, have patience
When it comes to brokering classic motorcycles (and cars) in the absolute top segment, it's all about your network. To know it and be on good terms with the owners, owners who even possibly become sellers one day. Like our mutual acquaintance Jean Claude. I've known that one for a long time. But Jan has known him for about twenty years now. And now the men have become so friendly that Jan has the first choice if Jean Claude decides to thin out his collection.
Will that happen soon? Jean Claude is now 86 and recently bought a Hispano Suiza. Not a car or motorcycle of that brand, but a Hispano HA 1112 M-1-L, a fighter plane from the Second World War based on the Messerschmitt 109. That was an impulse purchase. Because he actually collects classic motorcycles, classic cars and seaplanes.
Jan and I have both sworn we won't tell anyone which northern French village Jean Claude lives in. Because once it was an official museum. But then came that horror year that his collection attracted no fewer than six visitors. And that didn't appeal to Jean Claude… All those people! My Lief and I were at the official closure of the museum. That was about thirty years ago. It was a party!
Read more columns.
Read more stories about classic engines.