To all new members - please read:
Those of you who have asked about vintage bike value here might have been greeted by some rather surprising, and perhaps - at first glance - trite and perhaps rude replies. For this reason, I have written the following guide to explain why value postings are shunned in our community.
Before anything else though - if you want to get an idea of value of your bicycle or components and do not care to read any more of this discussion, please visit:
eBay.com (search "completed auctions"),
Your local Craigslist.org "bikes" section.
Now that that's over with...read along:
Unlike the popular American idea of collectibles as being potential gold mines - as popularized by shows such as the Antiques Roadshow, and yes, eBay as well - value isn't everything, and in the case of our vintage two-wheeled steeds, value is the cost we must pay to acquire something that has a very different meaning to us then the dollar bills it took to purchase it.
We're not looking to be the one fellow with the most expensive vintage bike, and we do not fawn over how much we squandered to build our fancy steed (if anything, we'll be discussing our thriftiness). For us, vintage bikes are their timeless beauty, craftsmanship, the pleasure of riding them - and the former two if the machine has been relegated to wall-art. For this reason, we simply find it out of the spirit for a relatively new member to come here requesting the value of their machine for purposes of unearthing a hidden gold-mine that one can retire off of.
That is not what our bicycles are about, even though pop-culture has conditioned people into believing that this very surface perception of collectibles is the de-facto norm. That is not so, particularly with the collectors here at C&V. Value is not the reason we are part of this community.
This said, please do not be surprised if your direct request for value here on this forum is met with chants of "$3.50 or whatever the market will bear." We are basically stating that the finer points of the bicycle itself - not its value - is our concern, and that the market - i.e., eBay or your local Craigslist - is where you will find value. With rational, thoughtful (as opposed to valuing, say, a low-end Peugeot based on a completely unrelated, desirable Peugeot) eBay searches, you should be able to determine a very good approximation of the value of your machine. Please keep the condition of the bike in mind when doing your comparisons.
A thought about what might be valuable and what isn't:
Although there is always the possibility that one might stumble upon a gem of an older vintage lightweight roadbike, a beautifully kept, all original ballooner; or a genuine early 3-speed (more on that below), a number of "vintage-looking" bicycles out there are not relatively valuable. Amongst the most common of these were made in large numbers and sold to the masses, examples being Columbia, Huffy (with a very few exceptions), Murray, Kent, and virtually all department store names. None of these machines are particularly valuable from a standpoint of collectible desirability.
That said, you might be one of the lucky ones who has found a beautiful Schwinn Paramount, Colnago or other brand of desirable machine. These bikes do have a higher value, and by virtue of that, it is easy to find records of recent sales (and also auctions that failed to sell) on eBay, which should be good guides to value.
One last thought:
Do not rely on your local bike shop to give you an accurate idea of value. Most (not all) bike shops are trained to have knowledge about the new bikes they wish to sell you, and salesmen - or even the owner - are very rarely historians on the subject. Same reason that you don't go to a Ford dealership to find out how much your '56 Crown Victoria is worth.
For that reason, be most wary of any appraisal that indicates that your machine is completely and utterly worthless ("buy a new bike!"), or that it is worth an extremely large sum of money (an happy customer is a good potential new-bike buyer). Either extreme is unlikely for the very fact that it is an extreme. Always make it a point to double-check any such appraisal with a search of similar prices online. Remember, one can throw a random three-digit value in the air with ease - checking value against actual sales takes time.
Now that the lecture is over - start posting and enjoy the beauty of vintage pedal power.