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The history of antique bicycles truly begins in 1866 when pedals were added to a hobby horse in France. The idea took off and for a few years, riding the heavy, uncomfortable, difficult-to-ride machines was all the rage. Interest tapered off, however, until the next great innovation in cycling, the high-wheeler, ordinary, or penny farthing. These lightweight, fast machines with spoked wheels were thrilling and dangerous to ride, and young men took to them in droves.

Safety Sparks a Bike Boom

In 1885, a newfangled bike with a chain or shaft drive and front and rear wheels that were of similar size appeared and sparked a new cycling boom. Safety bicycles make riding a bike safe, fun, and comfortable, and bikes from the first 30 years of cycling are highly collectible and valuable.

Vintage vs Classic vs Antique Bicycles

The terms vintage, classic, or antique are often used interchangeably. To be specific, each of these terms describes a completely different type of bicycle. Vintage bicycles are anything older than 30 years. Antique bicycles come from the very early years of bicycling, for example, 1875 – 1895. These are the ordinaries and early safety bicycles. Because they are well over 100 years old, antique bicycles are quite rare and extremely valuable. Classic bikes can be as new as five years old, but they need to have some defining characteristics that change the way bicycles are looked at or made. For example, the very first mountain bike, or the first bike with a carbon fiber frame are considered to be classic bikes.

Antique Bicycles Museums

Some of the best sources of information about antique bicycles are the numerous bicycle museums around the world. Some of the biggest are the Bicycle Museum of America, the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame, and the National Cycle Collection in the UK. Some bicycle museums exist only on the internet and provide a wealth of information and photographs. Numerous small sites have been started by enthusiasts of a particular genre, era, or maker. Many bicycle museums have their publications, and their websites often contain a lot of information and photographs about antique bikes in general. For more information about antique bicycles, visit American Vintage Bicycles.

Buying Antique Bicycles

If you are interested in buying antique bicycles, it helps to have deep pockets.

Bicycles made before 1895 are quite rare, simply because of their age. Not many turn up in barns and sheds anymore, and when they come up for sale or auction, there are many buyers eager to snap them up, often for very high prices. Even new replicas of high-wheeler bikes start at around $1000 so it’s easy to understand why original antique bicycles can fetch $20,000 or more.

Antique safety bicycles are also worth a lot of money because of their age and their importance in the history of cycling. The arrival of the safety bicycle heralded a bike boom that saw women taking up the sport in large numbers for the first time. A Columbia safety built between 1870 and 1900 is worth around $5000 in less than perfect but better than average condition.

Antique adult tricycles and quadracycles are also highly collectible and desirable. As an example, expect to pay around $10,000 for a Columbia tricycle.

Books About Antique Bicycles

More information about antique bicycles can be found in several informative books. Take a look:

Antique Bicycles
Antique Bicycles
Antique Bicycles

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