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How To Tell If Your Harley-Davidson is an Anniversary Edition or a fake

How To Tell If Your Harley-Davidson is an Anniversary Edition, Screamin’ Eagle Edition, CVO Edition, or a Fake

So you’re looking to buy yourself a sweet Harley-Davidson, and the seller has told you that it’s worth a lot because it’s an Anniversary Edition or some other special edition like a Screamin’ Eagle or even a CVO. How can you tell that the Harley-Davidson you’re looking at really is a special edition, and not just a fake?

Anyone can take a base level Harley-Davidson, put a couple $20 plastic badges on it, and tell you that it’s worth a couple thousand more than it should be. Jump in the Motorcycle Towing Toronto truck with me as I walk point out what to look for to make sure you don’t get ripped off.

watch this video

Click the unmute button in the bottom left corner for audio.

Watch this video!

How to identify a Harley-Davidson Anniversary Edition?

1) Badges and trim pieces

Harley-Davidson isn’t a shy or quiet kind of company. If your Harley-Davidson is an Anniversary Edition, Special Edition, Screamin’ Eagle Edition, or CVO Edition, you’ll know it. You should be able to see at a quick glance some trim, a badge, or even just an inscription on the paint of the gas tank letting you know that this motorcycle is something special.

You can tell there’s something about this Street Rod’s paint job that makes it not like the others. Have a look by the bottom corner of the flames. Next to that tiny little Harley-Davidson logo is a production number, letting you know that this is #X out of #Y units ever made with this paint job.

In the case of the 2003 Harley Davidson Sportster 1200 Custom in the video above, there’s evidence that it’s a 100th Anniversary Edition. Check out the gas tank, the derby cover, the battery box, the air box cover, and more.

2) The paint itself will be different from the base models

Harley-Davidson makes sure their special products stand aside on the show room floor as much as they do out on the road. Their special edition models usually come with a slightly different paint job, not available on the other model trims.

It’s good to know that there may be more than one special paint job for a specific Harley-Davidson model in a given year. The year 2003 was Harley-Davidson’s 100th Anniversary, and the Anniversary Edition Sportsters came in two color options. Both two tone with a striping in between the colors. The 2003 Sportster 1200 Custom Anniversary Edition in the video was silver with navy, and the 2003 Sportster Hugger XL883 Anniversary Edition was primarily navy with some silver or grey.

3) Just call up the dealer

The thing with trim pieces, badges, fenders and gas tanks, is that all of those can be bought and sold, or stolen, and put on a base model Harley-Davidson by a greasy seller. If you’re reading this far, you probably want to make sure that what you’re looking at really is an Anniversary Edition, Special Edition, Screamin’ Eagle, or CVO. So why not go one more step to really know for sure? After all, greed often drives sellers to lie about their vehicles in order to try get more money from buyers.

A lot of people out there will try to spend $50 on badges in order to try to sell their Harley-Davidson motorcycle for $500 or even $1,500 more than they might otherwise get for it, by pretending the bike is something it’s not. In order to really know for sure what you’re getting, there’s one thing you have to do: call the dealership.

(1) is the location of the VIN # on your Harley-Davidson motorcycle. You’ll need to give this number to your local Harley-Davidson dealership so that they can confirm that your motorcycle was originally a special edition, and not a normal trim that someone just stuck some parts on to make it look like a special edition.

Up close the VIN # should look like this. Harley-Davidson motorcycles beginning with VIN #s beginning with 1HD were built for domestic (USA) use. If your Harley-Davidson’s VIN # begins with 5HD it was meant for international use / export.

Many Harley-Davidson riders seem to want nothing to do with their local Harley-Davidson dealership. They even go so far as to call them the “stealership” – original, right? The truth is that whether or not your local Harley-Davidson dealership is good or bad, they’re still a valuable resource to you, and you don’t have to give them a penny for them to help you.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Get the VIN# of the motorcycle you’re looking at. You’ll find the VIN # on the frame’s down tube behind the front headlight by the right fork. The VIN # is like a finger print for your motorcycle. Every vehicle on the road has a unique VIN #, and you can use it to identify what kind of Harley-Davidson you have if you aren’t sure.
  2. Call up your local Harley-Davidson dealership and ask to speak to either the Parts or Service Department.
  3. Give them your VIN # and ask them whether or not the model in question is an anniversary edition.

There’s no charge for doing this, and most dealerships will be happy to be welcoming a new customer to the Harley-Davidson family. If you’re looking after hours, you can also check out this article on running a motorcycle vin check online.

That’s it!

Now you know beyond a shadow of a doubt whether or not your Harley-Davidson really is an Anniversary Edition, Special Edition, Screamin’ Eagle Edition, or even a CVO Edition. You know how to tell if it’s the way it left from factory, or if a shady private seller or greasy motorcycle dealer is trying to fool you. It’s a scary world out there, buyer beware! If you have any questions about a motorcycle you’re trying to buy, even if it isn’t a Harley-Davidson, please leave a comment down below!

Recommended reading and viewing

Now that you’ve brought your Sportster home, you might also want to check out:

QUESTION FOR THE COMMENTS SECTION: Have you ever had someone lie to you about a motorcycle they were trying to sell you? What happened?

About Adrian from YouMotorcycle

I started riding motorcycles in 2007, founded YouMotorcycle in 2009, and was working in the motorcycle industry by 2011. I've worked for some of the biggest companies in motorcycling, before going full-time self-employed in the motorcycle business in 2019. I love sharing his knowledge and passion of motorcycling with other riders to help you as best I can.


  1. You skipped the engine block there. Pretty tricky to pull off a fake with that missing piece.
    (Caught a glimpse of the emblem on yours though)

  2. Just gotta mention, the anniversary ain’t just for the Sportster’s 100 years, man. It’s for Harley-Davidson’s 100 years. Harley kicked off in 1903 in Milwaukee. The badge on the tank shouts out those years. So, eyeing a 2007 Sportster won’t snag you an anniversary edition. They rolled these out in 2003 for heaps of different models, not just the Sportster.

  3. Dude, for an Anniversary edition, you’d think it gotta have more kickass bars, rims, tag, and a coil relocate or somethin’ else. C’mon Harley, step it up!

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