Classic and Vintage Bicycles: What's it Worth? Appraisals and Inquiries - Some Comments on Valuation and this Forum
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09-19-09, 01:13 PM
I hope this is not out of order and is taken as the advice to new people that it is. I have no qualifications as an appraiser of bikes, except for being a bit of a cyclo-dork, but do know a few things about prices and buying in specialized hobbies and online forums. I'll try to not duplicate anything that's already in the sticky faq.
1 - The most knowledgeable people on here do this as a business. They know very well how and where to find excellent deals on bikes. They do indeed love this stuff, but are pretty hard-nosed about pricing. IMHO, much of the pricing advice is based on that expertise. When I was buying/selling/brokering tube hifi gear and guitar amps, I'd score stuff for prices that no normal person could match. I think the same principle applies here. I can be two blocks away from a yard sale and recognize a guitar case that deserves a closer look. "Singing furniture" and receivers and amps can be diagnosed from two houses away. With less knowledge of where to look, you can expect to pay more than they do for bikes and more than I did for gear.
2 - Someone who is flipping is concerned about sizing issues and availability of a particular model only to the extent that it affects the price and speed of sale. The normal guy who owns a bike or two, who wants one more is all about HIS size and THE model or type of bike he wants. Lately this seems to be recognized more. But there have been unfortunate conversations. "Large frame sizes are worth less than the usual sizes" may be true from a retailer's POV but not to the guy who's over 6'2 and hasn't seen anything that fits.
3 - Advising patience is always in order. The law of eBay and CL and flea markets is that the best deals go to those who wait. If someone here tells you that something isn't a good price, just read it as that, advice to wait for a better deal. You aren't being called a fool for considering it, just that prudence is in order.
None of this is to criticize the guys who take the time to offer their expertise. It's great that these cats help people without consideration of their own financial interests. Thank them and consider the advice seriously and gauge it to your own priorities. One aspect of that is skill. If you can do your own bike work and have the tools, the range of bikes that make sense for you expands. If you go to the shop to get your brakes adjusted this market may not suit you at all. If you can pull and service a bottom bracket you can find deals that others must pass. Nobody here can know exactly what your abilities are, so consider that with the advice.
09-19-09, 01:35 PM
1- I think a lot of the guys here are hobbyists/riders first, before any business considerations. You're correct we may be hard nosed about prices, but I've noticed a lot of valuations involve if the OP is going to actually use the bike or if s/he is just buying it to flip. Two entirely different things, and most appraisers sort that one out.
2- The size issue is what it is. I ride a 62. My bikes tend to be cheaper. When I find small stuff, the response when I put it on CL is overwhelming. The same bike in my size will net nothing. There's a lot of factors at work in this, I think, but it is certainly there. I'd advise even someone tall to pay less for a bike than a comparable small one, and a smaller person to expect to pay more for a small bike than they would a medium sized one.
3- Not true on CL. Anything really good is snapped up fast, at least here. And the really good stuff, well, it doesn't show up much at a cheap price. The problem is someone coming here, lacking basic knowledge on bikes, is likely to be scooped by a more savvy buyer on CL on the best priced stuff. Heck, I know what I'm doing and I rarely look at CL.
Also, those of us with a lot of wrench experience will often tell a poster if the bike looks like it needs a lot of work, and downgrade the price accordingly. A good example is the recent nishiki single speed "conversion". Your point is true, but I see folks here regularly mentioning such issues.
+100 Regardless of what the market value is of a bike you are looking at, it could well be worth quite a bit more to you as the buyer. It may be the perfect fit, or perhaps it is a sentimental favorite. Whatever, buy it, enjoy it, and don't worry about market value.
But if you ask this forum for "what is this worth?", many of us will only give you market value. Only you as the buyer (or even the seller), can determine what it is worth to you.
+1 Size matters to the market. It's just how it is. Small bikes command a premium, large bikes sell at a discount. When I post my estimates, I only post what I think the market value is. I would not tell someone looking for a small bike that it is only worth a medium frame bike size, nor would I tell someone looking at an XL frame bike that it is worth as much as an XS frame bike.
+100 The best deals on C/L last for just a few minutes. I have been the second caller on several smokin' deals lately (neither my size by the way). And the best deals do not last long enough to post a "Is this bike worth it" question. Last winter some of the deals I got on C/L lasted a couple of days, which is pretty surprising. I am hoping this winter will be a repeat!
Where patience is important (and I think this was part of the OPs point) is that finding the bike of your dreams, in your size, and in your town, could be near to impossible (unless you are a really common size, and are interested in a common bike). I look every day, and I find perhaps two to four good deals a month. And that's accepting almost any decent brand, in any size. If I was just looking for bikes my size, I have found a couple in the last 12 months. That's a huge amount of misses for every hit. But when they do show up, you have to move really fast. And if I was looking for a specific rare model, forget it. I would probably have to go the ebay route.
09-19-09, 10:35 PM
One aspect of that is skill. If you can do your own bike work and have the tools, the range of bikes that make sense for you expands. If you go to the shop to get your brakes adjusted this market may not suit you at all. If you can pull and service a bottom bracket you can find deals that others must pass. Nobody here can know exactly what your abilities are, so consider that with the advice.
The last statement is the best part of this post. It's difficult to know the capabilities of an individual. I usually add a standard statement like, "if the bike is ready to ride, that is, needs no repairs". However that statement has its own limitations because it assumes the buyer knows how to evaluate a bike and, let's face it, the best of us has picked up a bike only to find a problem we did not anticipate.
With regard to estimates from those that are in the business, if you are including those who flip for fun as "in the business" then I'd agree. If you are referring only to those who work in shops, based on the estimates I've seen on this forum, I don't see any advantage to working in a shop.
09-20-09, 01:59 AM
Hey guys, just to clarify, when I say patience is required to get the good deals, it doesn't mean waiting to call or visit when a bargain comes along. Especially on CL. But it does mean saying "pass" a lot, and maybe shopping for weeks instead of days or months instead of weeks.
We do have a number of posts with estimates and advice qualified with the distinction between a rider and a flipper. That's important for the guy who just wants a bike. I've been going through some of this lately with my bro in St Louis who's looking for a bike now. He's got mechanical skills but no bike specific tools and doesn't want to wait for some super deal either. It's been a reminder of how normal people are with bikes.
09-20-09, 05:35 AM
1. Very, very few here flip solely as buisness, but many of us have a 'bikes pay for bikes' philosophy' which, if followed, seems like a buisnesss. You dont need to be and expert.....just savey, eventualy your 'free' bikes begin to accumulate and your pile of cash beging to grow.
2. Differences in pricing is something those of use who've flipped a few bikes have realized over time and corroborated with others. Very simply, anything bigger than a 60 is tough to sell and anything smaller than a 21 is easier to sell. While tall men would like to ride and find a properly fit bike its the samller women who are jumping on the small road bikes. Only 1 color, Celeste, gets a price adjsutment, maybe $25-50 for an entry to mid level bike and upto $100 or so for a mid to high end bike.
3. Patience to certain point, or restarint. Knowing what not to buy is key. Lugged, chromoly, all alloy isnt always a good deal at $50. Knowing what to buy is key as well, getting in the car with cash in hand, quickly, and not posting here for advice is very prudent in alot of situations.
4. Buying based on ones ability falls into 'patience' as well. For instance, if you have no mchanical abilty, you want one of my CL bikes, 100% refurbished, all bearings repacked, wheels dished, fork and dropout alignments checked etc. Your going to pay top dollar, my bikes are the most expensive on CL, comparitively, but they're also the best. And they dont come onto the market very often, I've only bought 8 bikes since the beginning of June. Conversly, if you have crazy mad bike mechanical skills you can buy bikes with 'issues' at a significant savings. Buyers like myself, and a handfull of guys here, I literally mean a handfull, have the ability to spot a diamond in the rough and bring it to market.
Buy within your means, both from a mechanical and financial perspective.
09-20-09, 08:50 PM
Yep to all. I just look at the bike and try to be the uncompelled buyer. I'm not that good at that, as far as a bike expert would be, but I do know my market.
I like miamijim's "list" of what it takes after the purchase to make it right. That's a reality check for anyone, and shouldn't be overlooked, because it's almost always true. More often than not, a buyer is surprised by the things the bike needs, not the things it doesn't.
+100 If you do not have the tools, skills, and time to rebuild a bike, you are much better off financially buying a ready to ride restored bike from a local quality flipper, than to pick up a "great project deal" and taking the bike to your favorite bike shop. A thorough rebuild by a quality shop around here will cost $250 or more. Most vintage bikes are not worth that much.
Projects only make sense financially when you can do the work. Even a free bike can cost more once the rebuild is done by a shop, than a fully rebuilt bike from a flipper. The reasons? 1. Flippers do a better job managing parts cost through donor bikes, their personal parts stash, etc. and 2. Flippers do not recover full retail shop labor rates on their work. Not usual for a flipper to make about minimum wage on his/her time. I am not bashing bike shops. They have a lot of overhead and costs to cover, and cannot afford to do rebuilds for less.
09-21-09, 02:29 PM
I was obviously very tired when I wrote post #6. I think most of my typos have been edited...
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