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SCROLL DOWN TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE AND OTHERS TO CLICK AND GO TO NEW DESTINATIONS ON THE SITE SUCH AS GTCC AND HOW THE HOBBY BEGAN!
IGNORANCE IS BLISS... BUT KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!
Also included are over 300 original old vintage bicycle movies (NOT videos- but REAL 16mm FILMS) dating back to the 1930s and mountains of related historical memorabilia. The Archive materials represent a lifetime of collecting painstakingly accumulated over a period of nearly fifty years. The contents of The Archive were not recently obtained. Aside from limited displays at major museums and industry events, these items have never been on full display to the public. But you will begin to see many of them by merely visiting this site.
Another Einstein wrote in asking for info on his "CWC Chicago Welding Bicycle" and–of course–no photos. Then got mad when we corrected him by stating the bicycle was probably made by CLEVELAND WELDING COMPANY, not "Chicago Welding Company." Why THAT ticked him off we have no idea (it resulted in a deranged potty-mouth email–which is always the sign of great intellect and true brilliance). Yeah. He went straight to the Feces File.
Our latest genius wrote and wanted to argue about Silver King hextube Serial and Model number... figuring he knew more than we, via garbage he picked up either in a web forum, a DIY site or one of the awful mistake-laden "books" lurking about. His statement? "Well, everybody KNOWS that hextube years are the same as the model number!" Which is an idiot thing to say, because it is NOT true and it does not matter where you read it or heard it. NOT TRUE. He was also arguing that 1949 hextubes did not exist. Again... straight to the Feces File. We are not here to argue with know-nothing-know-it-alls and this is not a blog or forum or a place for wild guessing.
Since starting the first newsletter for Classic Bicycle collectors back in the 1970s and right up to present times with NBHAA.com, we can assure you. Over 40 years, we have heard it all. And we get letters nearly every day. Many of them with just plain ridiculous stuff. From the folks who make up "rare Schwinn prototypes" out of Columbia frames with Rollfast tanks, Wald parts, rain gutters, wood, screws and gorilla snot... to the guy who claimed he "helped Mr. J.C. Higgins clean out his J.C. Higgins bicycle plant"... we SEEN it all....HAVE HEARD it all. SO when someone writes in swearing that their 1966 Ross middleweight is a RARE 1934 Elgin worth $10,000... sorry, but we just don't have much patience for such silliness and we are not that gullible. This kind of absurd stuff plays well on DIY web sites and forums and homegrown newsletters and books made out of photocopied pages, but not here with us. Sorry.
People... if you think that ALL of the facts in this hobby are merely derived from opinion and consensus and info in "forums" and DIY web sites, then all is lost! And if you approach us from the standpoint of "don't bother me with the facts–I've already got my mind made up" then it is pointless to ask for information that you'll just reject anyway. This is NOT a DIY "forum." If you already know it all, then why bother? Think about this. If you are unwilling to be taught, it is pointless to ask the teacher to teach.
Of course, there is the old mechanic's joke that says it costs one price if the mechanic does it... but the bill is MORE if you help! Think about that principle and apply it here.
1. Please read the FAQs section FIRST. It contains valuable info to assist you.We have accurately identified over 1 MILLION bicycles for people over many years.
2. THIS IS NOT A FORUM OR BLOG and we do not deal in fairy tales or consensus or guesses or mere opinion here. We are not here to conduct debates. That's DIY stuff and that's not what you're here for. If you were already getting ACCURATE info in DIY forums and blogs, you would not be here asking us for info anyway! When we give you information it is FACT. Do not presume that you can compare facts we say with guesses made in DIY forums and blogs. We are NOT guessing and we won't waste your time or ours with such silliness.
3. WE DON'T DO TEXTING AND IMS. Send a clearly written REAL E-MAIL LETTER–the old fashioned way–with a real salutation and PHOTOS of whatever it is you are asking about. DO NOT send anything without photos. If you are too busy to start with a civilized greeting and send a real email letter WITH photos, then we are too busy to respond to your request.
4. DO NOT send any request that starts out something like "got a old Schwinn–send me everything you have on it and tell me how much it is worth." If you can't even say hello first and then you word your inquiry like a demand, it won't go well for you.
5. DO NOT send any request that starts out something like "got a old red bike–send me everything you have on it and tell me how much it is worth." If you can't even say hello first and then you word your inquiry like a demand, it won't go well for you. And who on earth that is sane will possibly know what your "red bike" is without even SEEing it?
6. DO NOT send anything that starts out "got a 1936 J.C. Higgins–what's it worth?" There is no such thing as a prewar Higgins (and a lot of the other silly things people insist they have these days like 1934 Silver King Flo-Cycles and nonsense). If you figure you already know all there is to know and have already done your own ID, then there is nothing we need to bother with after that. Either WE do the ID ... or YOU do the ID, but we can't have BOTH. If you have already decided you have a 1936 Higgins (or other such silliness), you'll just pick a fight with us when we tell you what you have never existed.
7. We only do dollar value appraisals as part of an Official NBHAA Detailed Report (see more info elsewhere in this FAQs section). We do not appraise anything that we have not at least seen in a photo. GOTTA SEE IT... and any appraisal has to be part of an Official NBHAA Detailed Report.If you ask for appraisals using other back-door terms like "gimme a ball-park value".... OR "I need a guestimate of how much this bicycle is worth..." YOU ARE STILL ASKING for an appraisal–no matter what words you use to disguise it. You can say you want a glass half-full of water. OR you can say you want a glass half-empty of water. It may sound like something different, but in the end, you still want the same amount of water! And we are happy to do appraisals, but only as part of Official NBHAA Detailed Reports.
8. Please take good, clear photos of ALL numbers and letters on the frame and note their location. We can't read blurry, fuzzy, dark photos. If necessary, wire-brush the numbers or highlight them with white or yellow chalk. And don't assume that you can interpret the numbers and write them down, so you don't need to do photos. What YOU see, is usually not what WE see. We cannot go by your descriptions. Just SHOW us. And we need to know WHERE on the frame you got these digits. This is important.
9. LABEL your photos before you send them. If we get an email with several attachments–none of which are labeled–then WE have to go back and do your work for you and figure out that PDHxxxx98887666 ACTUALLY is a photo of the chain sprocket or tank or rear carrier. If that's what it is... name it so BEFORE sending it so we don't have to waste time opening each photo and re-naming it to make it understandable!
10. We cannot use links or go to visit some other web site to see the photos you want to ask about. And we can't look at photos of some other bicycle that you think is "just like" yours. We have to see YOURS.
11. You are NOT a "customer" until/unless you buy something. And IF you buy does not make you an owner of US, just owner of what you buy. Buying something does not mean you suddenly have rights to make perpetual demands. And...up until the time you DO become a customer, you are just somebody who is looking for a freebie. Don't imagine that we are obligated to do your bidding just because you demand it. Or that we are so honored that you demand that we work for you for free. While we are happy to dispense this free info... but to get it, you will need to follow OUR rules. You can't dictate YOUR rules or DEMAND that we GIVE you info YOUR WAY...and then feign that you are insulted because we gave you rules to follow! This isn't Burger King! And it is not a communist country If you are too proud or too stubborn to follow OUR rules, then you really don't need OUR advice and info. Especially for free. And if all this info is so readily available, then why did you come to us in the first place?
12. You are approaching US asking for information–not the other way around. WE ARE HELPING YOU. Accept your status when you come asking for help or info and do so respectfully and courteously. Courtesy begets courtesy. Rudeness, demands and snide retorts will get you no where except back to your DIY forum or blog, WAGs or even The Feces File..
13. And for the web-crafter geniuses who just can't resist getting in a dig to let us know that the NBHAA web site is not the latest and greatest software and format and that it may not LOOK the way some of you web site professors think is 2013... this site is not here to show off our web skills. And snide remarks WON'T get you a job for a site that already costs us money just to put up and keep going–none of which the nasal critiques from "web masters" do anything at all to pay for!
14. And for the other geniuses who think they can pick "clever" arguments with us because they THINK we are guessing and B.S.-ing just like they do in web site "forums"... what we tell you is FACT. Not opinion and not guessing. We don't do opinions and guessing here. Our information is based on 50 years of experience directly with these bicycles and our over 80,000 original vintage bicycle catalogues, photos and factory records.
15. IF you are someone who does not want to hear the facts about what you have, then don't waste our mutual time asking, getting an answer and then being pissed because we didn't tell you the thingie you bought for a jillion dollars is a fake or a frankenbike, or isn't worth ten bucks. For instance you have a frankenbike made of parts from several different companies and years all mixed together and it is not worth what you paid for it. Don't get mad at us–get mad at whomever sold it to you.
So remember WHO you are and WHY you are contacting us and the fact that you want something for nothing! You are not doing US a favor... we are doing YOU a favor! IF you can't be courteous and follow our rules... or you send poo emails, you will be banned to the Feces File and that's that.
Sorry we have to do this, but it seems that if we state rules we are called rude. But rudeness directed toward us by those with the audacity of expecting us to jump and do their bidding (all for free) has reached the point where it is over the top.
• Take good, clear photos of the bicycle or part in question and send them with your email in JPG format. If you write without photos, we really can't help you. DO NOT send us links to some other web site or web space where the photos are supposedly located. We won't use the link and your email will simply be erased.
• And remember this: if you write with the DIY attitude that you already know it all because you saw a Xerox or photocopy someplace or a picture on somebody's web site or some newsletter said XYB then you're starting from a bad position. IF you are going to tell US what you have instead of us telling you, then the point of us assisting you is lost.
• When taking photos, leave people and other objects out of the photo and try to shoot against a neutral background such as a wall or garage door.
• Take photos of the WHOLE bicycle as well as any detail areas- and be sure to show the chainguard- if any. Load your photos from your digital camera into your computer. If you scan your photos, do them into JPEG/JPG format and send them as attachments.
• Do not attempt to bury photos in the actual text of your letter since this may not display properly...or at all.
• If you do not have a scanner and you need to scan, use some place like Kinko's Copies (in most areas of North America) and have them do the scans for you.
• Avoid gang scans (bunches of photos all crammed into one scan). Have each photo scanned individually and send each photo individually (our server likes to re-format multiple attachments, which makes it either difficult or impossible to retrieve your pics).
• In other words, don't send piles of photos in one email. Don't expect us to use links to go to some site. Don't send ZIP files. Better to send only one or two PER email and just send more emails.
• No digital camera? No problem. Either scan your print photos or have them put on CD-ROM by your developer. If all else fails, take your regular photo negatives to Kodak or your local photo developer and ask them to put the photos directly onto a CD-ROM computer disc. You can even have Kodak or most overnight photo developer shops do both old-fashioned paper prints AND/OR store your pics on CD-ROM computer disc. Then use the photos on that CD-ROM because they are now digital photos. Put them in your computer and send them. This service does commonly exist and is very reasonable.
1.) Simply email us with good clear photos and request an OFFICIAL NBHAA DETAILED REPORT and...
2.) Pay a standard research fee as per instructions.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The standard research fee will be going up substantially as of July, 2014. For a still higher additional fee we will also be offering a new special two (2)-day turnaround service for EXPEDITED OFFICIAL NBHAA DETAILED REPORTS. Inquire by email.
Each NBHAA Detailed Report is a HAND-GENERATED report written just for you and your exact bicycle. Each OFFICIAL NBHAA DETAILED REPORT includes...
• Detailed ACCURATE analysis of YOUR exact bicycle including who made it
• When it was made
• Where it was made
• Analysis of its current condition
• Report on missing or incorrect parts
• Restoration advice
• Professional value appraisal (suitable for insurance purposes)
• Copy/scan of original catalogue information showing how the bicycle would have looked when new!
No silly frustrating do-it-yourself searching and guessing and swapping stories. No consensus opinions. No trying to figure out which one of the many tales you'll get on the internet or in guess-at-it books works for your bicycle. We do it all for YOU. We use our own knowledge and we also consult original factory and dealer catalogues and factory records. You get access to our many decades of expertise, our voluminous files, and best of all... NO GUESSING! Accurate information you can't get anywhere else. All tailored exclusively to YOUR bicycle.
These Official NBHAA Detailed Reports are not generic boilerplate things that we have pre-made and just press a button and spit out. So they take time and we advise minimum turnaround time at 4 to 6 weeks. We can and have rushed reports faster, but from now on, faster will require double fees. No exceptions. If you are in a hurry or are the type who goes berserk after a couple of weeks because you did not get report back then don't order one. If you can't follow directions and can't read and make up your own deadlines... don't order one. If you expect all this for free... don't order one. If you want to argue endlessly because your buddy saw some absurd posting on the internet... don't order one. Unlike do-it-yourself web sites and forums where anybody can make up and stay anything they want, we don't do guesses. We provide only factual information based on factory records, our own lifetime knowledge and the original catalogues.
Now...since someone is now selling "serial number books" on the internet, the hobby has gone batwhizz! Now EVERYBODY is a serial number expert. Problem is... this "book" is actually a photocopy of an old Western Flyer dealer manual with the cover deleted and a few guesswork pages stuffed in. And while it purports to list numbers for Monark, Huffman, Murray and CWC, etc. what nobody tells you is that the numbers included are for WESTERN AUTO/WESTERN FLYER ONLY. Western Flyer numbers from one company do not necessarily translate to other products that same bicycle vendor made under other brand names. In SOME cases, SOME of the numbers work for other brands made by the manufacturers listed. But in many or most cases–NO cigar! This hobby is famous for the blind leading the blind and guesses based on "if that's this... then this must be that too!" Guesses on top of guesses. Time after time we have people come to us after some einstein out there sees what they THINK is a serial number that LOOKS like something that falls in some printed list they've seen. And that's all it takes to start making the jump to wrong conclusions–all based on "SEE? It's right here in this book! SEE?" No... we don't see.
AND...anybody who tells you they can positively, accurately date your bicycle just off of a name and serial number is just pulling your chain and doing WAGS. Serial numbers AND MODEL NUMBERS were often reused and they do not always follow a systematic progression. We originally began assembling bicycle serial number records in the 1970s- so we're not just jumping in to this thing 40 years later–today–later trying to guess and figure this all out! We have pretty much complete serial number records for the following:
• Murray Ohio Mfg. Company (not "Murray OF Ohio" as some misinformed people in the hobby have taken to calling it in recent years. By the way–WHEN did this silliness start and who started it???)
• Shelby Cycle Company
• Elgin/J.C. Higgins/Sears
• Schwinn (and not the same limited old tired stuff you find online over and over again, but far more detailed original factory records)
• Monark-Silver King Inc.
• Cleveland Welding Company/AMF
• Western Flyer
• B.F. Goodrich
• Good Year
And we also have partial records for Colson, Snyder, Rollfast, Hawthorne, Hiawatha, Mead Cycle, Bowden (NOTE THAT WE HAVE THE COMPLETE ORGINAL SHIPPING LIST FROM THE FACTORY), Sherrell, Stelber, Hiawatha, Iver Johnson, Pierce, Good Year, and many more. And–of course–we have the original catalogues for just about ALL vintage bicycles. We DON'T GUESS. If you want professional, accurate information, instead of amateur guessing, here is where you get it.
But the biggest mistake that people make is they listen to DIY'ers and presume they can diagnose their own serial numbers in a snap. And they are usually wrong. This just is NOT a DIY proposition. It requires a lot of study and at least some expertise. And it is extremely rare that a model number or a serial number was used for one year and one year only. And forget "using the Schwinn format" or going by the name that is on the bicycle.
Here is a typical question we get: "I have a Western Flyer serial number 222xxx555. Who made it and when was it made?" WELL? Who knows? There were at least two dozen different companies that made bicycles and trikes badged "Western Flyer." That amounts to MILLIONS of serial numbers if you count all of the models over many decades of production. Any ID on that basis alone is sheer nonsense. This is just one reason why we have to SEE what you may have. At least THEN we know where to start looking. Anyone too lazy to take simple photos, but then expects us to sit and dig through millions of serial numbers is mistaken. And if that is offensive, so be it. You have our blessing to join the WAGS and guess your way to an answer.
We don't simply hand out lists. And we don't do WAGs here. We don't make up history here. And we don't state something as a fact just because "a buddy told us so." Or because we read it in a chat room or "forum." We only provide factual historical information here. No guessing. It has taken over 40 years and a lot of very hard work to assemble the listings we have. But we CAN tell you–ACCURATELY–when and who made your American-made bicycle–particularly if it is from the classic era. What's the classic era? Read your NBHAA.com FAQs!
While we do have the largest and most comprehensive listings of serial numbers for most of the bicycle companies, but we still require photos. Anyone who doesn't is just giving you a presumptive guess. And nobody can look at even a Schwinn serial number and tell you which exact model it was-except in the case of SOME made-for-motors frames. THAT is impossible. And even then there are no universal responses that are accurate without SEEING it. We won't pump sunshine your way, just the facts. Period.
Although age for many collector bicycles can be provided with serial numbers, this too is a tricky business, not always for amateurs and do-it-yourselfers. For instance some numbers were re-used, or placed in different locations; or combined with new model numbers (in cases other than Schwinn). Some bicycles used model numbers as well as serial numbers, others (like Schwinn) did not. For the majority of old bicycles, alas there are no complete serial number records, including for Schwinns prior to 1948 (due to a fire at Schwinn–this part of the story is repeated a jillion times on the internet). Some bicycle retailers (such as Western Auto and Sears) used as many as a dozen different bicycle manufacturers to make their bicycles, so one needs to know both the year AND the actual manufacturer. This is not for amateurs and WAGs.
NBHAA does have a huge quantity of serial number information for most bicycle manufacturers from the classic era. This, we can supplement with first-hand knowledge of dating we alone have developed since the 1950s. We do not, however, make WAG guesses or search through thousands (or even millions) of numbers without first actually seeing what you have as a bicycle. Gotta SEE it!
In the case of auctions, bicycles that draw the most money may have the shiny factor as well as flowery authoritarian-sounding (if often bogus) descriptions. eBay is bullcookies paradise for bogus descriptions ("It's a 1918 balloon tire Huffy 10-speed made on Mars and it was authentically restored with accurate parts from Russia and it was signed by the hot-rod painter who dipped it in 47 hand-rubbed coats of CLEAR! And it's the only one made!!!") There is a segment of buyer out there who seems to actually LIKE this kinda stuff and will offer up huge cash for the privilege. So be it.
Our problem comes when we get the letter from one of these folks who says something like, "So what do you think of my rare original 1922 Schwinn Elgin Spaceliner prototype I just bought? It was professionally restored with 57 coats of pearl pink nail polish paint under 200 coats of clear–and it's ALL ORIGINAL right down to the streamers on the purple handlegrips that say Western Flyer on them! I got it for a bargain...only $10,000. Is it true that Schwinn and Elgin teamed up to make these underwater in a special submarine on Jupiter and only two were made?" Now how on earth do we respond to that?
There is also the brand issue. For some reason, Schwinn seems to get the most recognition. This brand has been a marketer's dream in that the name has its own magic factor. People actually believe the company did things they never did and was bigger than it ever was. Incredibly, for some bizarre reason ask some person what kind of bicycle they had as a kid and almost invariably 80% of them will SWEAR they had a Schwinn (people... they NEVER made THAT many Schwinns–at least not on THIS planet!). Bottom line? Vintage Schwinn (mainly the Chicago-made stuff) is in demand.
And there are lots of fakes–and people go on buying them. Like the museum that bought a fake "Gene Autry Whizzer" (come on, folks–you don't REALLY believe there ever WAS such a thing do you?). Lately there seems to be a glut of fake Harley-Davidson bicycles making the rounds. They turn up at car auctions. People send us photos of Huffys with Harley-Davidson logos all over them. The fakes range from never-were balloon tire thingies to tandems to what have you. All as fake as they can be and one wonders what Harley-Davidson thinks of all these multiplying fakes. Someone has even faked the old REAL Harley chain sprocket and there are jillions of these things turning up all over- often being claimed to be rare barn finds. There are probably more fakes around today than Harley ever marketed in the first place!
There is also the gender issue. It turns out that classic-era boys and girls WERE different (and no sooner than we published this notation YEARS AGO and business about WW2 scrap drives, it turned up parroted all over the hobby as if others thought of it all by themselves)! Anyway, boys generally took terrible care of their bicycles, tinkering, smashing, removing parts, customizing, rough handling. Furthermore, some classic-era boys (especially prewar ones) abruptly went off to war and left their bicycles as unused hunks of metal- candidates for the wartime scrap drives. Girls, on the other hand, generally took good care of their bicycles, rode them sensibly (even used them for work during the war as adults) and seldom even considered changing anything beyond adding a basket. As a consequence, there are fairly plentiful supplies of vintage girls' bicycles in nice condition...BUT just the opposite for boys! Factor into this mix the fact that those boys are now men and doing most of the collecting, spending the most money. So? You end up with higher value on shiny old boys' bicycles (sorry ladies!).
Witnessing all this craziness, it looks like anybody can just jump in and fingerpaint too. Looks like fun! Like the guy who used to go around to bicycle meets and tell the story of how he "helped Mr. J.C. Higgins clean out his J.C. Higgins bicycle plant after Sears screwed him" (so help us, and people would sometimes gather around 10 deep just to listen to this gas bag! And in case you don't know, there never was such a bicycle plant or a Mr. J.C. Higgins who owned it. Even if these stories were true–the fellow telling them was about 20 years too young to have ever been there when he claimed.). But who needs real knowledge when you can just make up and say anything and sound cool? Then mix this all up with a bunch of other folks who are ALSO doing wild guesses and making up stories and voila! Sure. THAT's the way to LEARN!
So people think they can do their own research and get quickie answers–often for very difficult issues. Quickie answers are not necessarily ACCURATE answers. They may make you feel better, but quickie responses seldom tell you what you really need to know. NBHAA is not a do-it-yourself web site, but rather is a real archive. We are concerned with accuracy and facts. We do not use "consensus," blogs, chats, gossip, fuzzy Xeroxes, other people's opinions or wild guessing to arrive at our responses. Such methods may be democratic and invite a lot of interaction on a web site, but such stuff is why you are STILL looking for answers in the first place...right? And such stuff is why it became necessary to have our GTCC section.
Ever see a car that was designed by a committee or group of people rather than one knowledgeable designer who KNEW what he was doing? Same thing. Our files are not on the internet and are not open to the public. That would take a huge, HUGE server and lots more expense. We just cannot possibly put over 80,000 items in digital format on the web- plus all of our lifetime of expertise. We can't possibly teach you everything we know about classic bicycles by a mere web site! Sometimes, you just have to rely on a real human being who has first-hand knowledge- as incredible as that may seem to some Internet users today. We prefer to give you accurate information and that means you can't DIY here.
Sadly, most "bouillabaisse bikes" are presented by the sellers as "original". Believe it or not, increasingly, "bouillabaisse bikes" are showing up in prestigeous auctions and museums! There is a "prototype Schwinn" (one of the wonderful words that fake-makers have glommed onto and use regularly) out there that somebody actually made and SOLD to a big museum. Problem is, the only thing Schwinn on the whole bicycle are the reproduction fake decals and a girl's front sprocket. WHAT is the rest? Hmmm. Let's see. WOOD from that looks like it came from a packing crate; a Columbia Therm-O-Matic boy's frame (Ignaz would be turning in his grave on this one); Wald universal-fit aftermarket fenders; a Snyder/Rollfast/Hawthorne middleweight tank with truck clearance light lenses glued into the front; and other silly stuff. Heaven only knows what this museum paid for this steaming pile... but there you are. AND there are many more fakes and frankenbikes out there... some always upcoming in prestigeous auctions. Often the auctions and museums will feature such bicycles in nice glossy catalogues with elaborate and authoritarian-sounding descriptions. So... caveat emptor and read our NBHAA GTCC.
Price guides exist, but A.) guides are usually wildly skewed as far as realistic prices and B.) guides very often incorrectly identify years and C.) guides do not take into account varying conditions of a bicycle, nor how much to deduct if various parts are missing. For instance, on some bicycles, the tank or the headlight alone might be worth more than the entire bicycle itself! D.) ANY printed matter regarding pricing of old things ALWAYS has a limited time when it is of any use (IF it was correct in the first place). Price guides are never reliable for more than a limited period of time. AND, E.) In THIS hobby... and on the internet, nearly everybody considers themself an "expert."
We coined and published a classic bicycle definition first in a 1978 newsletter, Classic Bicycle & Whizzer News (CBWN)... and again published and copyrighted another definition in November, 1979 issue of Bicycle Dealer Showcase (BDS) magazine. CBWN was the first and ONLY newsletter in the hobby starting in 1977–such as it was in those times. BDS was read by over 20,000 bicycle dealers and industry people. We also taught CLASSIC BICYCLE seminars in bicycle industry trade shows like the BDS EXPO (predecessor to today's INTERBIKE) in the 1970s. So we were first–it was our idea. And no matter who says what today–NOBODY back in those times disputed our definition or had one of their own!
This definition included the time period of 1920 to roughly 1965 and included singletube, balloon and middleweight bicycles. It was followed (or in some cases overlapped) by the "musclebike" period which includes Krates and the like. The classic era was preceded by the antique era which covers 1919 and earlier, although we do feel that some bicycles such as the Charlie Chaplin bicycle and others from the antique era qualify as classics.
Since we introduced and published the first definition of "CLASSIC BICYCLE" any number of people and books and articles have come forward YEARS–EVEN DECADES LATER–attempting to put their own spin on the definition. Or to modify the term to suit their own misguided needs and ideas. But the first is the first... and the reason the term exists as it is presently understood in general is because of our original concept and definition. PERIOD.
The word, "purist" may even be raised as if it is a naughty, vile, evil term. Without descending into a debate over semantics and insults, suffice to say that restoration–true restoration–is exactly what a purist would and should do! As a consequence, anyone who undertakes a restoration, then, by definition IS a purist! Otherwise, if you are not performing a restoration, you are doing a customizing job. Why people are suddenly ashamed to admit that they did a custom job instead of a real restoration is a mystery. THIS is why you have so many Pontiac LeMans cars showing up at vintage car auctions with "GTO" names and parts on them! This is why so many 6-cylinder 1970s Barracudas and Challengers show up at classic car auctions dressed up as "HEMI-CUDAS" or "HEMI-CHALLENGERS"... these are customized fakes- regardless of the cute "resto" names on them. Why can't we just admit–hey, it's a FAKE CUSTOM somebody MADE up? As in it is NOT restored...it is CUSTOMIZED! If your bicycle didn't come from the original factory with an iridescent purple paint job and a thousand lights and blinding chrome–its a CUSTOM! If your Schwinn has a Shelby sprocket and a Roadmaster seat–it's a CUSTOM. It is NOT restored... it is customized! Go ahead–you CAN say it!!!
Restoration is restoration. Customizing is customizing. They are NOT the same. PERIOD. End of story. Schwinns did not come with Rollfast chainguards. Colsons did not come with ROADMASTER parts on them (unless you read bogus Smithsonian Magazine stories or L.A. Times articles). Bicycles from the 30s did not come with imported wheels from the 70s or hubs from the 90s. Original paint jobs were not swimming under a sea of clearcoat. THIS is customizing, folks. Call it what it is.
Bottom line: the classic bicycle info out there is rife with errors, many of the errors quite serious... and many of them are in books and newsletters. And auctions say whatever they want or what the owner wants. Yet the errors are firmly believed by most collectors. We have been tempted to write a correction book on the existing articles and books covering classic bicycles so far in existence. We probably won't try to publish a correction guide on paper since it would be voluminous. However, watch the GUIDE TO CORRECTING THE CLASSICS (GTCC) section on this site which includes corrections of erroneous books, articles, etc. GTCC is a guide to correct errors in the books and articles and auction catalogues which have been distributed over the past few years and which are presently available. Watch for new additions to that section very soon!
The latest to pop up for sale is a supposedly "NEW OLD STOCK 1955 model in "mint condition." Geeeeeeeeez! (do you people REALLY believe this stuff?? Somebody actually bid big money on this whatchamacallit!) When you write to these sellers and inform them that they are NOT selling a mint original from the 1950s, they usually either ignore you OR just get mad. They may even send you a poo email back.
Anyway, the Western Flyer repop project ran over several years with numerous models. The run was apparently successful and made good money for all... so there were more and more and more "replica" Western Flyers. They must have made tons of these "limited production" bicycles since there is usually one listed on eBay for sale every month–OFTEN claimed to be new old stock or "original 1950s" in mint condition. By the way, the FIRST series of Western Flyer replicas were originally based on resurrected tooling used to make Columbia's own so-called "re-issue" of their bicycle from 1952 (of which we own serial #0002). (IN CASE you really ARE an expert or serious collector and you're keeping score here, Westfield Mfg.Co. who originally made Columbias in 1952 was NOT a major supplier to Western Auto that year and for most of this period!) The very last series of the Western Flyer so-called "replicas" (again) were actually not replicas of anything but at least feigned some lines out of the old Western Flyer Super...while combining that with a wanna-be Schwinn-looking spring fork, universal repop aftermarket chrome fenders and a Columbia rear carrier (they got a LOT of mileage out of that one!). These were made in Florida so we are told. AND WE DARE YOU TO FIND THIS EXACT BICYCLE IN A 1955 WESTERN AUTO CATALOGUE!!! Of course, the piece de resistance is that awful truck cab clearance light that they mounted on the front fender for heaven knows why. People... PLEASE think before you presume you found a "mint original in the box" (especially when the mint 1950s original comes with computer bar codes on the box and other stuff from the 21st century). Whatever it is most likely is just another repop... no matter what the description claims.
It is obvious that whomever is writing and promoting these "histories" has no idea of what the term "beach cruiser" means! A BEACH CRUISER was not just some generic term that fell out of the sky and meant "OLD SCHWINN"... this is ridiculous. And the term "cruiser" which in reality is a slang term for "balloon tire bicycle" does NOT mean "BEACH CRUISER"... which refers to a bicycle used for cruising the paths along beaches. There would be no need to have TWO terms if they both meant the same thing! The people who dreamed these TWO TERMS up had a very good reason for doing TWO TERMS.
Even though SOME classic bicycles were eventually used in their later years AS beach cruisers...beach cruisers were NOT classic bicycles. Calling a CLASSIC BICYCLE a "beach cruiser" is like calling a sirloin steak with sauteed mushrooms a...cow.
By the way, SOME BEACH CRUISERS were also called "Conch Cruisers" in Key West, Florida back when the terms were created. Beach/Conch Cruisers were NOT the same as a Classic Bicycle or "Cruiser"... TWO DIFFERENT THINGS... TWO DIFFERENT PURPOSES... TWO DIFFERENT USES... TWO DIFFERENT ERAS. The beach cruiser phenomenon/fad started in the 1970s in Southern California and in Key West, Florida as a reaction to having ten-speed bicycles force-fed to the American public! Some beach cruisers were merely old leftover balloon tire bicycles. Others were purpose-built brand new bicycles that merely looked and functioned like old balloon tire American-made bicycles. None of this had anything to do with Schwinn or anything that happened in the 1930s. In fact, the REAL story was quite the contrary. If you want to know more, go to our new section, "HOW IT BEGAN" (scroll and click below) and take a read.
For some folks–old bicycles aren't really a passion. For them it just all boils down to dollars and cents. Nothing emotional involved here. Not long ago we had some chap on eBay start to give us a long rundown on how the bicycle he found was worth more in parts than to sell it whole–even though it was a beautiful original. He had dollar figures (some pretty outrageous) for each and every part on the bicycle...and yes–OMG!–then proceeded to piranha what was once a rare and beautiful original survivor. Gone forever now. The almighty dollar. Some folks say the hobby needs piranhas... others find the notion nauseating. But it is what it is. Like Gordon Gecko said, corporations are always worth more in break-up value than as corporations. He said he wrecked corporations "because they are wreckable." Whichever way you see it, bicycle piranhas are probably here to stay.