BOX 787 DAVIS, CALIFORNIA 95617
email us at: Oldbicycle@aol.com
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IGNORANCE IS BLISS... BUT KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!
Welcome to Classic Bicycle Heaven! This website is dedicated to identification, cataloging and restoration advice on bicycle history, especially Classic American bicycles 1920 thru 1965. Be it Schwinn, Shelby, Columbia, Evans, Evinrude, Elgin, J.C. Higgins, Western Flyer, Hawthorne, Hiawatha, Roadmaster, Pierce, Iver Johnson, Indian, Rollfast, Firestone, B.F.Goodrich, Good Year, Bowden, Manton & Smith, Mead, Ranger, Ingo-Bike, Murray, Mercury, Huffman, Huffy, Dayton, Colson, Monark, Silver King, Rocket, Stelber, Ross, Harley Davidson, Whizzer, Dynacycle, Wasp, Pow-wow, Travis, Marman, Jack & Heintz, Sherrell, or what have you, (if you don't see the name of your bicycle here...just ask us) National Bicycle History Archive of America (NBHAA) can identify virtually any American-built bicycle or motorized bicycle from this period.
The Archive contains over 80,000 original catalogs, photos and advertisements ranging from the 1860s thru 1960s. Hundreds of books ranging from one of the first English language bicycle books in the 1860s to more modern works such as Pryor Dodge's THE BICYCLE are included. Countless head badges, games, clocks Neon signs, pins, original drawings, blueprints and other bicycle memorabilia are part of The Archive.
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.
We have accurately identified over one MILLION vintage bicycles and we are the largest source of information on American-made classic bicycles on earth! NBHAA can assist private collectors with information and advice on history and restorations. We are available with movies, videos, slide shows, speaking engagements, and have access to the curator's collection of over 1,000 bicycles. NBHAA is not affiliated nor connected in any way with a defunct museum. Nor are we part of a club or group. Although we do have specific fees for certain services such as detailed research and copies, we have never and do not ask for "memberships" of any kind. Anyone who says so or thinks so is mistaken. Furthermore, we are not represented by nor connected with any other persons or organizations. Although we do not sell bicycles or parts, we can assist you in locating those who do.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us directly via E-mail or snail mail. Remember, ALL identification requests and inquiries must be accompanied by a photo (and self-addressed stamped envelope for snail mail). We regret that due to the volume of inquiries we receive, we cannot respond to snail mail as rapidly as e-mail (we have a substantial backlog of the latter). All photo submissions become property of NBHAA and we regret we can no longer return photos due to the volume of mail.
Thus, submitted for your approval are NBHAA Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). We will be continually adding to this section over time, so stay tuned for more info and expansions. Check back often.
NBHAA FAQs* (*Frequently Asked Questions)
It is said that President Harry Truman was once trying to mount a horse when the horse caught one of its own hind legs in a stirrup. Supposedly, President Truman looked at the horse and said, "Well? If YOU'RE gonna get on–I'll just stay off!" We think of this story when people write in asking for us to tell them what they have... and then proceed to tell US what they figure they have via DIY (and they are usually WRONG) and how much it is REALLY worth! One fellow with a rusty carcass wrote in and asked for an identification and appraisal... but then proceeded to quote a year for it that was 20 years off (insisting HE was right because he "saw a 'pittchure' on the internet that looked 'just like it'). Then quoted a price of several thousand dollars–supposedly that a shop had begged him to take (why didn't he take it instead of bothering us with his absurd arguing?) for the incomplete rust bucket (and a common one at that)!
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.
People... 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.
copyright © Leon Dixon and NBHAA 1997, 1999, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013. All rights reserved
Q: What is NBHAA?
A: National Bicycle History Archive of America is a historical archive–a library containing over 80,000 catalogues, books, photos and other related items pertaining to bicycles. We began collecting these items in the early 1950s–many were ancient even then. Our earliest items begin in the 1860s and range through the 1980s. We also have rare original vintage bicycle movies (actual 16mm FILMS) ranging from the 1930s through the 1980s. The world's only bicycle movie archive. The Archive also has access to your curator's collection of over 1,000 classic bicycles, so we know what we are talking about. NBHAA is an archive, but not a museum.
Q: How can I get identification of my bicycle or part?
A: Contact us WITH CLEAR photos and all frame numbers! AND READ THE FOLLOWING: Since 1977 we have identified well over one MILLION old bicycles for collectors. We can identify almost any bicycle manufactured in North America between 1920 and 1970. We can also assist with bicycles made prior to this AND after this time. However, our era of specialty is between these dates. Also, since we primarily focus on American-made bicycles our involvement with non-domestic (foreign) bicycles is limited. In some cases such as Raleigh and certain other imported makes, we do have a good amount of archival material. In other cases, we can advise you where to get information. How do you get an identification? email us with PHOTOS! We have to SEE what it is you have. Names and descriptions alone are almost useless without photos. See instructions elsewhere in the FAQs section on taking photos. Accompany your photos with a short letter and please use salutations in your letters. The internet has spawned a whole new genre of rudeness. If you write without even saying hello and start right in with something like, "I got a Monark and a Schwinn. Send me everything you got on them–and I need it yesterday!" This is not going to impress us and it won't do anything to get you the real information that you need and can use. Take the time to send a decent note and take some decent photos. THEN we can respond with accurate information about whatever bicycle or part you may have.
Q: What is the best way to contact NBHAA for information?
A: HERE ARE THE GROUND RULES FOR REQUESTING INFORMATION FROM National Bicycle History Archive of America. Because of serious abuse of our free identification service and information by some individuals here is the deal. We are NOT obligated to provide free information just because you demand it. Remember that WE are doing a favor for YOU by answering your questions. You are NOT doing a favor for us by asking them!
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 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 what 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.
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. Up until then, 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. 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 and WAGs.
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!
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.
Q: What is a FECES FILE?
A: The NBHAA Feces File is where letters go when you are forever, permanently banned. Once your emails descend to poo level, they go to our Feces File and our Feces Finder subsequently intercepts poo emails and deletes them unread. And, you become another proud, yet intellectually challenged member of the Feces File.
Q: What is the procedure for getting a bicycle or part identified?
A: • The best/quickest method is contacting NBHAA via e-mail.
• 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).
• 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.
• By all means, do NOT send us to some other web site or 3rd party photo hosting site. Photos must come directly to us. And please–don't rip off photos from DIY web sites and send THOSE to us. We have to see YOUR bicycle–not something YOU think "looks just like" it. If you insist on snail mail (the old fashioned way), please be certain to include a self-addressed, stamped envelope. And expect lengthy delays in response time–be pleasantly surprised if response is sooner.
Q. How do I take photos of my bicycle for identification?
A. We prefer that you take a SET of good, clear color photos. Leave fancy scenery, your car, other bicycles, the family dog, the family and other distracting backgrounds out of the photos- just include the bicycle itself. Take shots from BOTH sides, and 3/4 rear shots in decent light, against a neutral background (even a plain garage door, bed sheet or piece of cardboard will do). If possible, take close-ups of the tank, frame, fenders, seat, lights, paint details, decals, nameplate, unusual features etc. All these will greatly aid in getting proper information to you.
If you are using a digital camera, just transfer the photos into your computer and send them in JPG format. If you use e-mail but do not have a digital camera, scan your photos into JPG format and send them along. No scanner? Try Kinko's or a similar operation. They can usually scan your photos in a matter of minutes and put them on CD. Please have your photos scanned into JPG format. We can read some other formats this may mean complications and take extra time. This is the fastest way for responses. Or you can snail-mail photos to our address. In this case, please include a self-addressed STAMPED envelope (SASE) for a reply. No SASE...usually means no response. Also, do not send photo prints you want to keep. Make duplicates. We regret that due to the volume of mail and photos, we cannot return print photos. All such photo submissions become property of NBHAA and cannot be returned.
Q: Is there a charge for information?
A: PLEASE READ!!!! This depends. A simple ID for a private individual is usually no fee. However, we do have fees for copies/scans of original literature, insurance appraisals, etc. These vary depending upon amount of copying required–and there is a limit. INQUIRE. For instance, requests for unlimited amounts of information cannot be honored. if you think this is unreasonable, so be it, but we can't answer endless series of questions forever without a fee. We wish we could, but we can't. So if you are told there will be a fee for further info and get snotty about it, you'll be adios muchachos! Some eBayers are abusing our free IDs, so please understand that we can't spend hours and hours each day doing nothing but free ID-ing lists of bicycles and questions for eBay sellers who have endless litanies of bikes they are trying to sell on the internet. We're happy to help, but only happy for a limited amount of time. Information for dealers, institutions, museums, auctions, etc. are all by special arrangement and vary. Finally, you can always request an OFFICIAL NBHAA DETAILED REPORT for a standard research fee.
Q: What is an OFFICIAL NBHAA DETAILED REPORT AND HOW CAN I REQUEST ONE FOR MY BICYCLE?
1.) Simply write with good clear photos and request an OFFICIAL NBHAA DETAILED REPORT and...
2.) Pay a standard research fee as per instructions.
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. 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 things that we have pre-made and just press a button and spit out. So they take time and we advise 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.
Q: How can I get serial number lists of all old bicycles?
A: Again, contact us WITH PHOTOS and ask, but we don't hand out whole lists. Ahhhhh! Serial number freeks! We love ya. But where were you 40 years ago? You could have spent a lifetime gathering this info... but you didn't. Luckily, we did. NOW, after all these years, you want it. AND a lot of you figure there is some way you can just leap-frog right past 40 years of hard work, collecting and studying this stuff and figure it all out for yourselves–overnight. If only it were that easy!
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!
Q: Can I just send you a serial number and get all the information about my bicycle and an ID done??
A: No. Nobody can accurately do that. If they tell you they can without even seeing the bicycle, the chances are most likely they are feeding you bullcookies. This is another rampant myth. If you think you are smarter than us on this topic, just remember that there were MILLIONS of serial numbers... and a LOT of those serial numbers were re-used. And there are other problems. None of this is any more predictable without visuals than it would be to predict the next LOTTO. Some people have spread crazy stories on the net that all you need to do is dump a number on us and we can tell you anything. Welll, it may SEEM that way, but believe us–it just SEEMS that way! It's a fairy tale.
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.
People have grown accustomed to the speed of the internet and like to get snap, quick answers or do-it-yourself info for everything. So they just wanna ask a question about a serial number and expect to get a whole encyclopedia back. But this is just not possible for old bicycles. Quick and easy answers and do-it-yourself info are all too often incorrect or misunderstood. Even with serial numbers provided (and they seldom are) there is no real evidence of overall condition, completeness, originality, etc. Value is based on a number of aspects, including overall condition, rarity, completeness, originality. Although there are certain "ballpark" figures for certain bicycles, all too often a ballpark answer turns out to be wrong for all parties. Is the headlight missing? Is the headlight installed original? Is the seat correct? In one instance, a widely touted "mint" Schwinn Aerocycle turned out to be a cobbled middleweight frame from the 1960s with large Wald universal fenders. The tank was fiberglass (far larger than original) with a flashlight embedded in the end. A "1941 J.C.Higgins"(there is no such thing) turned out to be a 1957 with parts mixed from several years and makers. A "1932 Shelby Flyer Whizzer in original paint" turned out to be a 1952 (missing lots of parts) with a 1947 engine (missing lots of parts) with 1970s imported wheels- and a home-grown paint job in colors no Shelby ever knew. Even photos might have confused most observers. But in the absence of an actual inspection, photos are a must. Quick answers without inspection are probably what you want to hear most...but sadly, that's usually all they are. Sunshine guesses.
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!
Q: I have this bicycle that is ALL ORIGINAL and nothing has been changed on it except... and....and....and... and...
A: This is another set of famous last words: ALL ORIGINAL. The most overused phrase in the hobby. And usually a rampant myth. If you are writing to us, we appreciate that you have have an original item, but our experience is that 98% of these claims are usually false. Why not let US tell you what is original and what has been changed? It is fine if you know for sure that something has not been changed or that something has been changed. But otherwise, that's why you are contacting us...right? "All original" is a very bad and usually inaccurate phrase and we wish people would just stop saying it unless they are 1,000% certain. Otherwise all it does is set up an argument where we tell you what you have is not all original and then you get ticked! Nobody wins.
Q: Is a bicycle valuable because it is rare or what makes it worth the most money?
A: What makes a vintage bicycle valuable? One word: DEMAND. We like to think that the rare and interesting stuff is the most valuable, but that is often not the case. Sometimes a buyer will pay huge money for something that is...er...SHINY. Makes no difference if it is accurate or not... or rare. Makes no difference if somebody made it out of parts of 20 different bicycles from 10 different years and 15 different manufacturers... SHINY counts! A head-scratcher, but unfortunately, reality. Some of the stuff that sells today for big money is embarrassing to look at, but SOMEBODY out there likes 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!).
Q: Where can I go on NBHAA's site to do my own research and look into your files?
A: Many people have gotten accustomed to "do-it-yourself" (DIY) web sites where it becomes a community swap meet of guessing and telling tall tales. "Vintar Peequar sez they were only made for 2 months and only in blue"... he knows so because Pozo Seeko told him he saw a Xerox once! But Arkwar Farquar sez...oh no! They also made PINK Rollfast Phantoms on the 4th of July in a snowstorm when the power at the factory went out and they had to use J.C. Higgins parts to do it!"
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.
Q: Does NBHAA assist or collaborate with institutions or museums?
A: We are happy to assist organizations, museums, institutions. However, direct arrangements are necessary, so be sure to drop us an e-mail as early as possible. We try to accommodate as reasonably and quickly as possible, however, such assistance or collaboration must be scheduled in advance, so don't wait until the last possible moment.
Q: What is a "frankenbike" or "bouillabaisse bike"? (Or a "Johnny Cash bike"... or a "schlockobogus bike")
A: Welll? Easy... and not so easy. A "frankenbike" or "bouillabaisse bike" is the kind of thing you see that often turns up on auction sites, in car auctions, swap meets, etc. These schlockobogus bikes are usually made up out of anything the seller could throw together including foreign and domestic, vintage and modern and parts from various different bicycle companies that never went together in the first place. Imagine, if you will, a Cadillac with Volkswagen parts mixed with Chevy and Ford and Toyota parts and you get the idea. Often all finished off with a rattle-can paint job-or sometimes lots of Bondo and a "professional" paint job in a bizarre color swimming in a sea of clearcoat. These "bouillabaisse bikes" are also known as "Johnny Cash bikes" because they are often for sale and usually remind any knowledgeable collector of Johnny's song that referred to a "it's a 1949-52-61-47-33-59 and... I got it all a piece at a time!" Add to that, it's a Rollfast-Schwinn-Monark-J.C.Higgins-Colson-Firestone-Good Year-Elgin-Dayton... and I got it all a piece at a time too!"
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.
Q: I have an old red bicycle. I don't have any photos. It's a (Schwinn, Elgin, Shelby) How much is it worth and what year is it?
A: Without actually seeing a bicycle, no one can tell you precisely how much it is worth or even what it actually is! If they do, they are likely just telling you what they think you want to hear- and everybody likes to hear that they've just bought something for five bucks that is worth a million!
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."
Q. What is the CLASSIC ERA for bicycles?
A. Roughly 1920 to 1965. "Classic bicycle" does not mean just ANY old bicycle. And like in automobiles, you know very well that SOME people will refer to a 1934 Packard dual-cowl phaeton as a classic. Others will refer to a 1979 Volkswagen beetle as "a classic"... er... but we HOPE you know which is which.
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.
Q. Does NBHAA charge memberships or fees?
A. Simple identifications or restoration advice are free to individual collectors. NBHAA has never charged memberships, although we do have fees for Xerox copies, certain research and official insurance evaluations. We do not have memberships–and never, ever have offered them to anyone.
Q. Is NBHAA open to the public for visits?
A. Sorry. Unfortunately, NBHAA is not open to the public. We do not have space, budget, staff, nor a proper building capable of accommodating The Archive while also handling the public. We have witnessed far too many historical endeavours close their doors after attempting to serve two masters. There are expenses, insurance, building requirements, security, all of which would take away from the present goals of NBHAA. At present, we can, however still provide you with the most accurate information anywhere via e-mail. However, a very few individual collectors and members of the press who have seen SOME of The Archive (there are also those who haven't, but who claim they have!). Additionally, video crews and magazines have been in to see some of The Archive. The most recent video is being aired on The Outdoor Network on a show entitled Bicycle Journal.
We do plan sometime in the future to have more individual access to NBHAA via the net. At present, a large database is being built that will eclipse anything the bicycle industry and collector hobby has ever known. We do not have a timetable for this development, since it is a labor of love, but expect to see continual expansions and changes in NBHAA's web site. Stay tuned.
Q. Is it better to restore a bicycle or keep it original and won't my bike be worth more restored?
A. This depends upon many factors. Best thing to do? LEAVE IT ALONE if you plan to sell it for profit. Even what you may think of as "cleaning" may actually ruin some important graphic or component. If you plan to keep it, then get busy researching and gathering parts. Do your homework and don't be in a huge hurry! Quite often, so-called cleanings or restorations may actually REDUCE the value rather than increase it! And for heaven's sake, don't even dream of doing a rattle can paint job or switching parts from other bicycles. Our general rule is don't restore ANYTHING until you intimately know the history and can do a top-notch job with CORRECT parts, correct paint patterns and good graphics. Your curator was quoted in TRADITIONAL HOME magazine a number of years ago as saying he'd rather have the original dirt and rust than someone's "restoration". This is still true today. "Rattle can resto" can do a lot of damage and very little (if any) good where value is concerned. Also, if your restoration is one that screams, "I've been restored" then it probably is not helping the value of your bicycle much.
Also, the terms, "professionally restored" and "trophy winner" will not always increase your value. A so-called "pro restoration" can mean many things. What did the restorer begin with and did he have precise details and parts to complete an accurate restoration? Or was it simply "restored" by a professional painter? And if so, did he know the right colors and graphics? Forty coats of clear, blazing chrome and incorrect colors and graphics do NOT constitute a true restoration. They scream KUSTOM!!!! Of course, winning a trophy simply means somebody, somewhere liked the bicycle. With many such judgings increasingly being conducted by either rank amateurs, guessing "experts" or "people's choice" the authenticity issue is a huge one. A good example. A 26-inch Hopalong Cassidy bicycle was judged at a large bicycle event. Judges, envisioning themselves as experts, erroneously believed that the cap guns and holsters were missing from the Hoppy and deducted points. Sadly, the Hoppy was dropped from the trophy it rightly deserved. Why? Because it is widely believed (due to numerous erroneous articles and statements in the hobby) that ALL Hoppys came with cap pistols. No cigar! 26-inch Hoppy bicycles did NOT come equipped with cap guns and holsters.
Of course, to some, restoration is all subjective and relative. There are even supposed "experts" who go around saying things like "...wellllll the factory just used anything they had laying around- so ya coulda had anything on there..." These kinds of statements are used most often to cover the fact that someone just doesn't know the facts. Thus, it is far easier to muddy the waters and imply any part could have been used for a restoration when one does not know any better. Oddly enough, people making such statements will likely be the first to criticize a bicycle they have not "restored" as being "wrong" when in fact this ought to be the ultimate irony in the "factory used anything" type of logic! Others may claim that it is "impossible" to restore a bicycle authentically...or that nobody knows what's authentic...or that parts cannot ever be found...all senseless arguments, most often put forth the cover the source's lack of knowledge and expertise.
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.
Back in the 1970s, we wrote an article on classic bicycle restoration. In that article, we stated that Webster's Dictionary defines restoration as a "return to original condition." Thus, blindingly bright blue chrome and paint jobs swimming in clear coats and non-original colors fall more under the realm of customizing rather than restoration.
Q. But I saw it in a book, magazine, newsletter, a web site or an auction...so it's gotta be correct...right?
A. Unfortunately, sadly, not always true. Read our GTCC section if you really want to know the score. Especially when it comes to the classic bicycle hobby wherein people can just write whatever "histories" they like and publish them as fact. Some people don't like to hear (or read) this and even get angry (a sure sign that they don't WANT to know any better).
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!
Here are a couple of good examples of gross misinformation. Take the case of the Sherrell Classic bicycle. A relatively new bicycle, this oughta be a snap to get the facts and history accurate...right? Wrong. Virtually every article, auction catalogue listing, photo caption, etc. we have seen about the relatively new Sherrell bicycle in recent years has been incorrect (go back and check for yourself). Why? One museum published the wrong date several times and it became cast in stone. Spokespersons for such outfits made things worse by repeating the incorrect date...or making up others. Publications did the same, picking up on the lead of the famous museum. Even the venerable, prestigious Smithsonian bought into the hysteria and boldly published (despite our direct advice to the contrary) a date of "1979" in their September, 1996 issue of SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE. AND THIS article made it on the internet! (To this date, the SMITHSONIAN has defiantly refused to correct their silly error, oddly stating it unimportant and "purist" to do so...that we'd have to "agree to disagree"). And you thought the almighty Smithsonian–the god of antiquities–knew it all? Go check it out for yourself... the absurd article is still online.
Auction houses followed the crowd and published the same erroneous dates (check the date in the past Schwinn Chicago Auction catalogue for instance–again–despite our advice to the contrary). There can be no "matter of opinion" about actual dates when things were made. The publishing of a date of model or date of manufacture should never be left to a mere "opinion" or creative fancy- especially when coming from amateurs. But publishing houses and magazine editors today seem to have no problem playing fast and loose with history- especially when they can fall back on the excuse that they are providing "entertainment." Their replay will often be, "...Yes, but we sold a LOT of those issues...!" That's all that matters, huh?
The original literature for the Sherrell bicycle (and yes, we have it) flatly states, "INTRODUCED IN 1987."And we personally know this to be true, especially since we knew the fellow who made the bicycles. So how do all of the auctions and publications and museums come by the earlier date? How do dates for Sherrells suddenly get published as 1979? HOW? People–even those who ought to know better–BELIEVE IT. Of course, everyone feels covered since somewhere in these books and magazines and catalogues, there is some kind of small-print caveat that they are not responsible for accuracy, or some similar statement. But people who read books don't read the fine print and they're not "in" on the secret joke!
Also, recently with books, publications and articles on the hobby being released in ever-increasing volume and frequency, misinformation is being spread at an alarming rate. We have to decide, are we talking history? Or are we talking customizing? Are we talking mere entertainment disguised as history? One book pictures a Schwinn Aerocycle sitting in majestic shininess... except that the front fender oddly appears flared on BOTH ends...and the braces are most definitely NOT Schwinn...and it has numerous other problems. A knowledgeable Schwinn collector should know that prewar Schwinns with FLAT braces only have ONE rivet at the axle eyelet, not two as found on other bicycles. It was a Schwinn hallmark. Yet, there it is in full blazing color in a hardbound serious-looking book from a major publisher! Check the braces on this one...shown in books and museums. There are numerous other problems with this bicycle we can't even begin to address here. And the concoctions are not limited to the Aerocycle and DX. The Elgin Blackhawk pictured? Wrong headlight, wrong horn and wrong placement for both. Horn belongs on a special bracket attached to the truss rods and should be either an Elgin or EA, not Delta. Headlight should be mounted above the horn. Speedo cable is installed backwards and the screech-owl siren belongs on an Elgin Falcon, not on a Blackhawk. The Whizzer pictured? A Pacemaker, except with a girl's J.C. Higgins front sprocket chainwheel, and engine with parts from different years and versions, and a very missing piston. All in living color, all repeatedly published in books, magazine articles and shown in museums.
All of us should try to use care in stating dates and histories...and regardless of whether you are a collector, editor, writer, auction house, or museum. If you don't know- simply say so. Once misinformation hits print...right or wrong...it's gospel.
Q: Are there any plans to make NBHAA into a digital library that can be accessed online?
A: This is a wonderful idea and we know that several organizations out there (Microsoft, Google, YaHoo and others) are supposedly working on a huge project to make a large digital library. We certainly would love to get involved in that project. But so far we have not been able to contact anyone who can connect us so that we can be a part of this effort. For instance have nearly every bicycle catalogue produced by Pope/Columbia, Monark-Silver King, Inc, Murray, Shelby, Cleveland Welding, Sears, Montgomery Ward, Whizzer, Mead Ranger and so many more. But almost no one has ever seen this stuff! If you have GOOD contact information, please let us know. It would be a shame to have our huge bicycle library remain forever on paper- and perhaps lost or scattered to the winds when we are gone.
Q: "My bicycle is JUST LIKE this picture I saw on the internet... or in a book...or in an auction- EXCEPT MINE DOESN'T HAVE... and it may be missing .... And it's a different color... and...and...and... But it's the SAME thing! How much is it worth?... and I already know when it was made, because it's JUST LIKE..."
A: Same thing- only different? Jusssst like it- only different, huh? We get a jillion of these letters and they all start out pretty much the same way. The writer is often too busy to send photos (too much time, too much work) but saw something on a DIY web site or in a book. The writer is usually in a big hurry and wants to know everything RIGHT NOW! They'll even try to get us to look at the DIY web site or auction site or copy the pic from the site and send it to us. The picture is usually something that kinda-sorta looks like a bicycle or part the person has. So the writer figures, HEY! VOILA! THIS IS IT! THIS IS WHAT I HAVE!! Then the writer wants us to fill in the blanks in a WAG scenario. First, we can't go by what other people identify. Second, we can't help you without photos of YOUR bicycle- not something you saw somewhere else. We need to see YOUR bicycle or part. Photos of something that kinda-sorta looks like what you have won't work. "Looks just like" from your eyes is not the same as from our eyes. Finally, when we DO get photos of YOUR bicycle and ID it for you, don't pretend you knew it all along or post the information in an ad without mentioning where you got it. Eh?
Q: "I'd send you photos of my bicycle but I took it all apart and sandblasted it. Now I wanna know everything you can tell me about it and how it's supposed to look. But I never took any photos before I stripped it."
A: AND...we get a jillion of these letters too...and they also start out pretty much the same way. Again, the writer is often too busy to send photos (too much time, too much work). People... do your research FIRST. THEN you do your disassembly and paint stripping, etc. It's too late to look for bits of original paint or graphics once they've been sandblasted to oblivion! Second, we can't help you without photos of YOUR bicycle- not something you saw somewhere else. We need to see YOUR bicycle or part. Photos of something that kinda-sorta looks like what you have won't work. And if you've already done the dreaded disasembly, you can STILL take photos of the parts- preferably BEFORE stripping off the paint and graphics. Like any serious restoration, do your research FIRST. THEN ya do your restoration.
Q: I saw this cool New Old Stock mint condition 1950s Western Flyer for sale in an online auction and the price seems so reasonable. How much is it worth?
A: Not a lot, but that won't deter huge bidding. Today there is hardly a week that goes by that someone doesn't write us about their "1950s Western Flyer" that turns out to be one of the 1980s-1990s repoppadoo bicycles that look NOTHING like any original Western Flyer of the 1950s. But buyers and sellers will swear these things are from the 1950s! Look at eBay and you would think the only Western Flyers ever made were these so-called "limited production replicas." People... they made a gaggle of 'em! They're NOT rare. They're NOT old- at least not as old as people may think.
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.
Q: I read this cool new book on old (whatever brand it is) bicycles and it says it took the hard work of several contributors to make it. And there is no other info available. Wouldn't this be the most accurate and complete source on the planet?
A: Nope. We've sunk to communal books now. Just because a bunch of folks all sit down together and guess at the history of a bicycle or company... OR just because whatever THEY come up with together is what THEY think is all that exists, it doesn't make what they say true or accurate. Buy the books, but never believe that a bunch of folks guessing and speculating collaboratively means anything more than that. Just saying it took 20 guys 20 years to come up with some Xerox copies means what? It means, congratulations... but it doesn't mean anything more. And just because a bunch of folks collectively can only come up with so much original literature, THAT does NOT mean this is all that exists! Open your eyes–and minds. You people don't really believe this stuff do ya? We have yet to see one of these books that is absolutely accurate–including ones that just photocopy catalogues and ads, which amazingly they often STILL misidentify anyway as to years and facts! (How do you do that?) And we have yet to see one that indicates there is a larger or more complete library than NBHAA. And no... none of these books has used us as a "source"...
Q: I read this cool history of the BEACH CRUISER. What is a BEACH CRUISER?
A: PLEASE NOTE... there are crazy "histories" now turning up on the internet mistakenly claiming that the beach cruiser phenomenon somehow started in the 1930s with a Schwinn B10E. This is absurd. Shame on you, Wikipedia and DIY web sites for allowing such silliness to be posted as if it is fact. People who read this info DON'T read the fine print that tells you these "facts" and "histories" are written anonymously by John Q. Public who can make up and say whatever and may have ZERO to do with REAL facts and history. These "histories" have their terminologies all mixed up and apparently are written by people TODAY who were never around when this stuff happened and now want to somehow credit Schwinn Bicycle Company for INVENTING THE BEACH CRUISER!! OMG!!! NOBODY BACK IN THE 1930s WAS TALKING ABOUT BEACH CRUISERS. This is pure nonsense dreamed up by someone TODAY. People, WHO dreams up these "histories"??? All you have to do is LOOK at the actual history, not make up fanciful stories. JUST LOOK AT THE FACTS. READ the original trade magazines. READ the original newspapers of the time (which, by the way, included interviews with Leon Dixon)...FOLLOW what actually happened. We know–we lived through it. We actually were there! No need to CREATE a whole new story.
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.
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Date of last update to this page: 29 March 2013
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