Mid-October found me in a rare state of bikelessness. I had decided over the summer that the old SP needed a cash injection to remain roadworthy and, after adding up the cost of repairs and upgrades, reached the conclusion that to set it straight would require more time and money than I would ever get out of it in riding pleasure. A friend in Ohio who had owned an early SP before and needed to find another agreed to shower love, affection, and dollars on it; so, off it went to live in Ohio.
When I sold it, I had a couple of bikes in mind for replacement, but neither withstood scrutiny and, besides, they weren't Italian. So, off I went to the Internet in a quest for an Italian V-Twin for a reasonable sum. For some reason, when you have something filling the bay in the garage and no money in your hand, there is always a bike popping up that you can't live without. Find that garage empty and a few dollars burning a hole in your pocket and, suddenly, there is nothing out there. Mr. Murphy, I presume, which found me looking at bikes on eBay -- something I never thought I would do.
My wife collects quilts, Santa Claus figures, and Teddy Bears and had occasionally dabbled in the world of on-line auctions, but I had steadfastly resisted the distant nature of the venue. When I buy something, much of the fun is finding it, meeting someone new, and the art of one-on-one negotiation. But after a few days of viewing, I found some pretty neat stuff and actually gathered the courage to bid on some motorcycles sight unseen.
My first attempt was on a 1986 Cagiva Allazzura that needed the carbs cleaned and a battery. In other words: a bike that did not run -- and, again, sight unseen. The pictures showed it to be in rather good condition otherwise, but as this skeptic has written before, pictures may tell a thousand words, but most of them are lies. Starting off under a grand, I figured if I could win it for under $1200 I could live with myself if it turned out to be a large, two-wheeled dud. I bailed out on the bidding with a day to go at $1425 and, to my shock, watched the bike wring almost $1700 out of the winning bidder.
Attempt two was on a 1979 Yamaha SR500. I had always admired these lithe nimble thumpers and found one on eBay not 70 miles from my home, minimizing the omnipresent transportation issue. With four days to go, it was sitting around $500 and it actually looked like a pretty clean piece. What is there to go wrong with a single-cylinder, kick-start motorcycle? I e-mailed the seller and got a few answers to some critical questions and, satisfied that I wasn't going to end up with a single lung flower pot, threw my hat into the ring. With two days to go, my high bid of $950 was rendered inadequate and the bike ended up bringing almost $1600. I was speechless.
I bid on several Moto Guzzis; but, similarly, the auctions got out of hand. As I write this, there is an 850T on the east coast that hasn't run since the year 2000 that is fetching over $1700 and there is still a day to go. I didn't get that for the last two 850Ts I sold and they both looked and ran very well. It seems to me that eBay is a seller's paradise.
In a perfect market, many buyers compete for many goods. The laws of supply and demand and Adam Smith's invisible hand ensure that goods change hands at efficient prices. The best examples of this are the stock and commodity markets. If you have ever visited the New York Stock Exchange or the Chicago Board of Trade, you were no doubt fascinated by the urgency and intensity of both buyers and sellers as items are exchanged for efficient prices. It works, that is why they have become the institutions that they are today.
And, with eBay enjoying the level of popularity it does, there are lots of buyers and quite an efficient market. But to my dismay, good deals are few and far between.
So, it is back to word of mouth through my network of motorcycle crazies and the MGNOC website and classifieds for my search. I'll leave eBay to my wife's quest for the perfect Santa Claus figure.