Familiarity, Interest and Availability

Vintage road bicycles are very collectable, for many reasons.  For something to achieve collectable value, and I don’t mean just monetary value, certain criteria need to be met.  These criteria, at a minimum, are:  Familiarity, Interest and Availability

I cannot help but believe, that there are other defining characteristics of collectability, but these three will do, for our purposes.

Familiarity:  If you don’t know what "It" is, chances are pretty good that you will not see "It" as a collectable item.  For example, I come upon many people, who can’t tell the difference between a racing bicycle and a mountain bike, even though they know, absolutely, what a bicycle is.  For them, collecting vintage racing bicycles is out of the question.  They are just not interested enough to get to know the differences, even though they are quite familiar with bicycles, in general.  However…

Interest:  If this same person does develop an interest in the racing bicycle, then he or she, just might want one.  This suggests another critical factor, that needs to be included in the equation, before someone will assign collectable value to something.  And, interest is a very personal characteristic of collectability.  Interest can be assigned for any number of reasons.

Consider the collectable value of two very different bicycles, both made by the same manufacturer -  the Canadian Cycle and Motor Company, better known as CCM.  The first bicycle to consider is a sixties something CCM Grand Prix, a more or less bottom of the line, entry level model.  The CCM Grand Prix possesses virtually none, of the primary features, that would automatically render it collectable.  Compare the Grand Prix, to its more sophisticated sibling, the top of the line CCM Tour du Canada.  Which one of these would have collectable value?  The answer, for me, is both.  The Grand Prix, because it is Canadian made, and the Tour du Canada, because it is Canadian made and top of the line.  My interest in each, though not necessarily equal, is none-the-less, sufficient to warrant keeping both.

We all know what dirt is.  Few people, however, would be interested enough in dirt, to actually bother to go the trouble of collecting it.  Unless, of course, they were collecting samples from countries they had personally visited.  Suddenly, interest is added to familiarity and the item, dirt in this case, becomes collectable.  But consider this…

Though dirt has collectable value, to the person collecting it, they first had to ensure availability.  And, availability is the next characteristic, that helps to define what is, and what is not, collectable.

Availability:  Though I am not much into cars anymore, I would absolutely love to have a collection of vintage Corvettes.  These beautiful old sports cars and I, shared a very one sided love affair, when I was a young man, growing up in the sixties and seventies.  I know all about them.  Why do I know so much about Corvettes?  Because I was interested enough, in the cars, to learn a good deal about them.  But, do Corvettes meet the third criteria for collectability - availability?

Since the early fifties, a lot of Corvettes have been made.  They sit fully restored, on showroom floors or waiting, as forgotten projects, in special and secret hiding places.  There are quite a few vintage Corvettes available, at any given moment, but not available to me!  I just can’t afford to purchase one Corvette, let alone purchase, store and maintain a collection of them.  The point - vintage Corvettes are available, as items for a collection, just not available to most of us.

There is not a true "Ten Speed" pictured in the bicycles, to the right.  There are two bikes with five gear choices, one with twelve and one with eighteen, but all would be considered part of the "Ten Speed" category.

Before going further the term "Ten Speed" needs to be defined.  This was the generic name, coined by users, when these wonderful old bicycles were introduced.  Bicycles, with ten gear choices, were very sophisticated, when compared to the single speed roadsters, and even the internally geared three speeds, of the day.  Most people simply referred to any road bicycle as a "Ten Speed", because the first truly popular vintage road bicycles had ten gears.  For the purposes of MY "TEN SPEEDS", the term "Ten Speed" refers to all vintage road bicycles, regardless of how many actual gears are available.

Today, the "Ten Speed" vintage road bicycle is available, to just about anyone who can come up with a hundred dollars or, if you know a little bit about what you are doing,  much less.  In North America, during the late sixties and early seventies (Bicycle Boom Days), millions upon millions were sold, to young men and women, who aspired to ride fast.  The "Ten Speed" was the bike to own, back then, and is becoming fondly remembered, and sought after, today.

Many of the people, who buy vintage road bicycles from me, are my age, or a tad younger.  Baby Boomers!  Lots and lots of Baby Boomers, who grew up with "Ten Speed" bicycles.  Lots and lots of older riders, who now want to recapture those Good Old Days.  Nostalgia is nurtured with Interest, which is seasoned with Familiarity and finally, mixed together with Availability.  Vintage bicycles are incredibly collectable!

Now, as the collectable value of the "Ten Speed" bicycle grows, two things are all but bound to happen.

Let’s begin by assuming that familiarity is part of the equation, for all involved.  In other words, almost everyone knows what a bicycle is.  Most people, be they young or old, are equally familiar with the term, "Ten Speed".  However, most people, today have no interest, what-so-ever, in the "Ten Speed" bicycle!  They see these old bikes as outdated, and even stupid, in today's mountain bike world.

But somebody, somewhere decided that he, or she, was interested in the vintage "Ten Speed" bicycle.  His, or her, interest might have caused a friend, or an acquaintance, to also become interested.  This continued, at a relaxed pace, until the Internet and Ebay got involved.  Suddenly,  availability was thrown into the mix.  Before the presence of Ebay, you would have to do as I do, and actually go out to actively search for vintage road bicycles.  Today, you can flip on a computer, click on Ebay and be presented with a huge choice of available vintage road bicycles.  Thus, the third part of what makes the vintage bicycle collectable became part of the mix - availability.

With the three components of collectability in place, the collecting of vintage bicycles grew.  More and more people, wanted a vintage road bicycle and for a host of different reasons.  And, more and more vintage bicycles sold.  Prices began to climb.

Sooner or later, people who had little or no interest in the vintage "Ten Speed" bicycle, became aware of the hidden value.  These people started pulling their old, and unwanted but now perceived to be valuable, bicycles out of long term storage.  These unwanted bicycles were offered up for sale.  More availability...

More and more bicycles will be retrieved (by people like you and me, for example), from their hidden places, to be offered for sale on Ebay, Craigslist or similar venues.  There are only so many vintage road bicycles out there, and the numbers will never increase (actually, the numbers is decreasing, at a fairly rapid rate simply because most people throw them away, unaware of the vintage bicycle’s value).  However; it will appear that the numbers are increasing, simply because it is now worth someone’s time to drag that old bike out of the shed, with hopes of getting a lot of money for it.  This is not an increase in vintage road bicycles!  It is only an increase in availability!

As these surfacing bicycles get snatched up (and that is the only way to describe it), people, like me, will pour time and money, into full restorations, or simple refurbishments, adding even more value to an item that is absolutely subjected to the law of supply and demand.  Prices will, or should I say continue to, soar.

Even though more vintage road bicycles appear to be available, and even though this will not make sense, expect the availability factory to diminish.  I can no longer afford to purchase a vintage Cinelli or Colnago.

Four years ago, from the time of this writing, I passed on a very nice Colnago "Super", wearing a full Campagnolo Super Record grouppo that sold for $305.00 USD.  Today, that same bicycle will go for over a thousand dollars, and the buyer will consider himself fortunate, to have got such a good deal.  He will, in turn, add value to the bicycle with refurbishment efforts, and the price will rise again.  Speculators will get involved, buying only with the intention of re-selling for a profit, and prices will soar.  This is not a prediction – it is happening right now!

In 2006, I passed on an eighties something Peugeot.  The $20.00 asking price, was out of the question, at the time.  In 2008, I went back to the owner and bought the bicycle for the asking price.  I considered myself lucky that it was still available.  The value of these old Peugeots had soared!  Today, I grab every old Peugeot, that I come across, and that is about a half dozen, or more, each year.

Three or four years ago, one would be lucky to see 5000 items listed in Ebay's "Road Bikes and Parts" category.  Today, that figure constantly exceeds 10,000 items per day and jumps to almost 20,000 daily listings, at certain times of the year.  This simple comparison, is the best example that I can offer, to indicate that interest in the vintage road bicycle is growing, and growing a fairly rapid rate.

The point is, now is the best time to find a vintage road bicycle, for a good price.  And, finding one will not be all that difficult, as I do hope you will see.  Let's learn how to find a vintage bicycle today and then go get it, tomorrow.