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Become an Antique Bicycle Dealer

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Antique bicycles are becoming quite popular, and pricey! If you particularly enjoy old bicycles, there's a market for your services. And bikes don't have to be all that old or special. As you probably know, cruisers (fat tire, single-speed bikes) from the 1950's and 1960's have become valuable. But as you may not know, stingrays from the mid '60's are also quite valuable now. Topping the list are the Schwinn Krate series. These were five-speed bicycles with a twenty-inch rear wheel, a suspended fork, and a 16" front wheel. We played demolition derby on them when I was a teenager. To us, at the time, they were practically valueless. Now they can be worth thousands.

Other bikes which are very collectible are bikes which were rare in their time, or very old ones. Penny-farthings, the high-wheelers, are always worth over a thousand clams if they are more or less complete. Road racing bikes of the 1950's from Europe are gathering value. Moulton made a commuting bike with sixteen-inch wheels and rubber suspension in the 1960's. I think it was called the "Moulton MK III." There's at least a Moulton MK VII now, but it is not in the same class. It is a much better and lighter weight machine, and therefore just not collectible - yet.

So your job is to gather these bikes and sell them. The most common form of the antique game is to let people know that you are interested in certain bikes, and buy them when you can. Try to get them for a tenth of what you think they'll sell for, because it is a tricky game. You've got to find customers who will actually pay what you want. Selling antique bikes will be easier than collecting them. You can set up shop at antique flea markets, consign them to antique dealers or bike shops, or take them to shows. I was recently at a collectable tractor and engine show, and saw antique bikes there. Surprising in a way, but practical - the collectors of certain old things often like other old things to round out the antique ambiance of their homes.

Parts can be a problem or a profit. If you are known for collecting a certain type of bike, then you'll know which parts are in short supply. If you can get them, you can sell them!

Variations of the antique bicycle business include general antiques, and replicas. You might not want to limit yourself just to bicycles. You may also want to collect automotive or household materials from bygone eras. Replicas can bring good money, too. For instance, at least one manufacturer turns out a replica penny-farthing which looks quite right, other than the reflectors in the pedals. The company must sell lots of them, because you see them all around.

Another possibility you might consider is charging admission to see and maybe ride your bicycle collection, if it is extensive enough to we worth seeing. I don't advise letting people ride cantankerous bikes like penny-farthings, though!

If you happen to be where plays or movies are produced, there may be some good money in renting your bikes to the production companies.

 

Yet another field would be bicycle-related collectibles. Rather than just bicycles, you can buy and sell posters, magazines, curios - anything related to bikes. General antique dealers will tell you that there are serious collectors for almost anything, and they'll pay as much as it takes to round out their collections.

There are books which offer pricing guidelines for antique dealers which are available at most bookstores as well as in the library. The prices are based on actual sales at auction houses or retail antique stores. There may be something for antique dealers specializing in bicycles, although I am not aware of it. So, that gives you yet another possibility, publishing a newsletter or annual book about the collectible bicycle market. The way this would be done, since you cannot be expected to know the entire market, is to have a number of amateur correspondents who will keep you informed of prices within their locality, and the kind of antique bikes they deal with.

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