Indian Motorcycle 'Motocycle' factory leather riding jacket, $90.

The Indian Motorcycle Company was making bikes at their Springfield, Massachusetts factory way back in 1901, a full two years before Harley got into the business! So although Indian's followers aren't as numerous as those of Harley, you can bet they're as fanatical as the best of them!

Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, Indian and Harley were cutthroat competitors, being each one's only real competition in the world of American motorcycles. After the Second World War, Indian went on to manufacture things like aircraft engines, bicycles, boat motors and air conditioners, but the company eventually went defunct in 1953. In most cases, this would be the end of things. The problem is all those Indian fanatics out there. During its lifetime, the Indian company had many thousands of dedicated customers who were very disappointed to see the company go under. The years since Indian's demise saw an incredible surge in the bikes' popularity, and their flagship model, the Chief, nowadays routinely brings from $15,000 to over $30,000 on eBay.

The incredible popularity of Indian motorcycles may have been the force that drove another company back in 1999 to purchase the famous Indian trademark and begin manufacturing new versions of Indian motorcycles. Unfortunately, as the new owners neared completion of their new engine design, they also went bankrupt after a major deal fell through. But there's hope that Indian motorcycles will once again resume production, because on July 20, 2006, a newly formed Indian Motorcycle Company announced that it will start making the bikes at its new home in Kings Mountain, North Carolina. The goal was to have a new Chief by mid-2007, and having an accessory line for the Indian Motorcycles that were built from 1999 to 2003.

This particular entry is very important because its lesson goes far beyond the leather jackets. Yard sales, thrift shops and flea markets are rife with generic leather jackets, nearly all of which are trash from places like China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and other countries where the average worker is paid almost nothing to stitch together materials of equal value. So, when you see a few dollars' worth of leather that was assembled with a dollar's worth of labor, you have to wonder where the value is. Value doesn't just happen by chance; it's put there by quality materials and quality labor, neither of which comes cheap. One of the most important and lucrative skills you can develop in this business is the ability to spot value.

Keep in mind that there will always be exceptions to this rule - there'll always be those shoddily-made goods that, for some reason, bring inordinately high prices on eBay, often because of some unusual collector or fad interest. Don't let these red herrings throw you off track, because they're the exception to the rule. For every one of these aberrations, you'll find countless examples of real value items that will pan out for you on eBay.

The first thing I noticed about this jacket was the fact that the leather is a very soft leather, in completely natural, un-dyed state. This may not seem too important, but if you've ever heard that old saying about how 'paint covers a whole myriad of sins,' you can see how it holds true here. Dying leather can eradicate imperfections that would be visible in the un-dyed state. Compare this with a dyed jacket, and you can see how in some applications you can get away with using just about any quality of leather. But in this jacket's case, they had to start with high grade leather, because there's no way to cover up any flaws. Just something to think about.

The next thing I noticed was the quality of the stitching and the hardware used on this Indian Jacket. All the seams are clean, the stitching is clean and straight and the hardware is high quality stuff. It's obvious that its maker wasn't looking for ways to cut corners in its construction.

Another indicator that told me this was probably a pricey jacket was the Indian Motorcycles logo on the label inside the jacket. Licensed motorcycle jackets that sport a manufacturer's brand name on the inside tag nearly always cost more - and bring more on eBay - than jackets that sport just a brand name. Again, this isn't always the case, but it's a good rule of thumb.

Before I gave the seller the $90 he was wanted for this jacket, he told me something very important: he bought it during a tour of the Indian motorcycle factory, specifically because it wasn't available anywhere else. This makes sense because in my later research I discovered that Indian's website lists several different styles of jackets, ranging from $400 to $600 in price, but all are black and none of them have the same graphics as this jacket. An interesting thing about this jacket is the word "MOTOCYCLE," spelled without the "R," which is how the word was spelled way back when Indian was a young company.

As it turned out, all it took to blow this one up to its $500 closing price were a few Indian motorcycle fanatics who were looking for a tan Indian riding jacket that can't be found anywhere else. Note that this jacket is even in worn condition, which I stated in the auction, but which bidders apparently didn't seem to mind. I guess they figure they'll be wearing it on their bike anyway, so what the heck.

Before we close here, there's a final observation you should make about this jacket. Notice how the sleeves appear too long. One sure way to tell an actual motorcycle riding jacket from a regular leather jacket is the length of the sleeves, which will always appear too long on the riding jacket. When a motorcycle rider is on his bike, with his arms stretched out on the handlebars, the sleeves will ride up on his arms, causing them to be the correct length. A jacket not intended for riding, on the other hand, would be too short in riding position.

This Indian 'Motocycle' motorcycle riding jacket sold on eBay for $500 even.

Photo of Indian motorcycle "motocycle" leather riding jacket