A unique offering by Mecum Auctions will take place in Las Vegas on Jan. 27, 2018, at the South Point Hotel & Casino. The iconic Excelsior-Henderson motorcycle brand and all its intellectual property will be auctioned at the 27th annual Mecum Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction, which will span Jan. 23-27 and present 1,750 motorcycles for auction. Included in the purchase will be the ownership of the Excelsior-Henderson brand name, all federally registered trademarks, web domains and includes the previous motorcycle frame and engine designs, as well as the expired patents that can only be effectively exploited by the owner of Excelsior-Henderson.
Excelsior-Henderson was historically one of the “Big 3” among motorcycle manufacturers and saw its greatest successes under the ownership and direction of Ignaz Schwinn, whose mighty two-wheeled empire in Chicago earned most of its profit from bicycles. From 1911-21, Henderson’s were the only 4-cylinder motorcycles produced in the U.S., and by the late 1920s, it was Excelsior-Henderson and Indian that dominated the 45 cubic-inch market with the Super X and Scout models. Their big models—the Henderson Four, as well as the Indian Chief and Four—were admired the world over, and were in many ways the most attractive and technically interesting motorcycles built in the U.S. Nevertheless, Schwinn correctly foresaw a major downturn in motorcycle sales for 1930, and decided to pull the plug on his big bikes and focus on the ones without motors, which were likely to continue selling when jobs were scarce. And he was right; Schwinn bicycles thrived through the 1960s and ‘70s, but the company never again produced motorcycles. But the Excelsior-Henderson name has quietly survived, waiting for the right combination of capital and inspiration to roar back to life.
The vintage Excelsior and Henderson motorcycles still in existence today are highly collectible and celebrated examples that are among the best early motorcycles ever created. At last year’s Mecum Las Vegas auction, examples bearing both names landed among top sales. A 1912 Henderson Four took top sales honors at $490,000, followed by a 1913 Henderson Four that brought $150,000. A 1928 Excelsior Big Bertha also fell into the top sales hammering for $117,500. It is clear that the interest in the brand and the endearing respect for its creations has not waned in the past century.