Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Why Your Old Bike Isn't More Valuable (Yet)

Just came across this interesting essay that talks about the time between when an object is new, and when it becomes valuable as "vintage" or "antique." I have happily exploited "The Trough" in old bike value, and in fact, the distinct lack of collector value of most of my bikes is the main reason this is called the "Old" Bike Blog, and not the "Vintage" or "Classic" or "Antique" Bike Blog. What I find interesting, of course, is that the use value of an old bike never declines (unless through mechanical problems), it's just that the perception of that value changes over time.


  1. What I find interesting is when I'm perusing Craigslist for some cheap junk I can fix up or take apart for parts I come across the term vintage an inordinate amount of times. Usually it is when referring to crappy ten speed from the 80s which are way overpriced. While I know when the term is overused, I am less clear on when the term is being correctly applied. When do you or your readers, Thom, feel it is the correct to apply the term vintage to a bicycle?

  2. That's a great question, Ian, and one I hope readers will chime in on. The word "vintage" is thrown around pretty fast and loose for the simple reason that people seem to understand that it has a bit more cache than simply "old." My OED says, "denoting something from the past of high quality." That's why sellers on CL will say their bike is "vintage" in order to squeeze another $100 (or more) from it. Of course, as I mention in the post, the concept of "value" can be pretty fluid. What's of value to me, may not be to you.

    One point about the "trough" idea that's a bit flawed is that it doesn't fully account for the folks who slap a "vintage" label on something and try to sell it on eBay or CL for waaay more than it's worth. The fact that some sucker always seems willing to buy it artificially drives up the monetary value. That's one big problem with the "democratization" of online selling--there's always going to be some jerk who jacks up the prices, and someone who hasn't done their homework who's willing to pay them. The more this happens, the higher prices will go. I also see this all the time on CL--$200 for a 1970s Schwinn that's been rusting in someone's garage for twenty years. In fact, there's a guy in my area right now who has a half-dozen 1970s and 1980s ten-speeds in okay condition, trying to sell for $250 and $300 per bike--probably more than they were worth when new, and not quite to the "vintage" status yet, as far as I'm concerned!

    I try to use "old" whenever possible instead of "vintage", but sometimes I slip up, too. Since our world is becoming increasingly keyword-searchable, the term *can* be useful when searching CL and other sites, even though it has really lost all meaning.

  3. I'm kinda' glad our roadsters aren't highly desireable. Means less expensive parts and bikes. I once bought a little blue 3 speed women's bike from a thrift store for 8 dollars. Everything worked, and the tires weren't even dry-rotted.

  4. +1 with the comments of cycling chicken

  5. Labels, I bought a Sears 1964 Puch made in Austria lady's 3 speed 42 inch wheelbase, black and moderately rusty. It needed about 10 hours of polishing and was ready to ride. $42.50 on ebay and picked it up. It is a beauty and I love it and is the best dollar for dollar deal and I have 10 or 12 bikes lately. Raleigh goes for at least 3 times as much and is same quality. However I bought a Montg. Wards 76 10 speed and it was made of water pipe it seems. Diacompe brakes however were almost perfect and saddle OK pedals removed and frame donated to scrap collector. Weird set up with the freewheel in the bottom bracket. i.e. rear wheel fixed but with 5 cogs. saved the frt. and back even though not overly true. I must start selling some unused parts after they hit vintaage value? Thanks Ed with a basemt. full and more fun than stock market any day. Yes I ride them all too! fixie lately but Raleigh Twenty in snow/winter it is closer to the ground.