Campagnolo lower saddle rails.
We've all seen them, and many of our bikes have them - in fact, maybe you once purchased a set to complete a bike. Well, that's where I am now. I need a pair of them to complete a build, at which point I've found that - according to places where you'd expect to find this stuff - they were all sent to Jupiter on a spaceship named Discovery One, and haven't been seen since.
Granted, finding a pair of Campy saddle rails isn't as easy as digging up a Schwinn Varsity, but we're not talking about finding the Holy Grail either. Sometimes that's easier to do. In fact, it is: An eBay search for "Campagnolo rails" brings up a set of what are supposed to be the "rarest" Campagnolo Record seatpost rails ever made - namely, the Brooks narrow set:
Then there is my orphaned Super Champion 700C clincher rim. I've been trying to find it a mate ("That rim, Tarzan; this rim, Jane."), to no avail. Sure there are a lot of Super Champions on eBay, but they're almost always the black sheep of the family: Tubulars or 27"s - and they're always NOS with hopeful opening bids or BIN's. Someone thinks there's money in the NOS rims, for you rarely see a used rim that isn't laced to a hub. Fact is, the Super Champion rim that I'm looking for is out there - it didn't Twitter all its brothers and sisters to meet at the scrap metal shop the moment I needed one - and so are many Mavic Module E and Module 3 rims that bring so much on eBay when they pop up; again, mostly NOS examples. Yet, go to any town with a reasonable number of bike shops, and you'll probably find some old junker languishing about with a mismatched set of "rare" old rims on it. I've seen more dilapidated Mavic MA-2's in this town than I care to realize.
Ditto for the old Rigida AL-series rims, of which I dug up a bunch - locally - last year, for cheap. (No, I don't have any left; built them all). They're not the greatest rim in the world either, but they're reasonably common. Just infiltrate any Critical Mass outing (Spy tip: Do not go dressed as a car) and you'll see what still floats about town - both the best and the worst rims from collectors, riders, and people who don't know in the slightest what they're riding.
Yet, if I want an "ultra rare" Rene Herse crankset, straddle pulley set, or "mega rare" set of Rene Herse downtube decals, I can buy them at this very moment on eBay. Heck, I can even buy Jan Heine's reproduction Herse crankset if I desired. I have yet to Google for "Rene Herse PBP Shampoo" yet. (Insert Rivendell joke here).
Were Schwinn Paramounts made in greater numbers than the Varsity? No, but I can find a better selection of Paramounts on eBay than I can find Varsities.
Once again - in a collector's market involving mass or semi-mass-produced items - the rarity of an item's relative production numbers and its availability to the collectors market are at odds with each other. The greater the mystique and resulting collector demand of a particular item, the more likely it'll be available for sale - primarily because the owner (read = seller) is aware of his or her ability to make a generous profit on the sale.
On the flip side, try to find these (and excuse the examples; not the best I could think of at the moment):
- An identical replacement fork for a specific Schwinn Continental frame size and color. Chrome doesn't count.
- A Peugeot UO-8/AO-8 bottom bracket - complete or just the cups.
- A complete, mid-range, 1980's Suntour group. Sure, you can find Superbe Pro, but how about 'Ole (lower end) or Sprint (poor-man's Superbe Pro)?
- Threaded Shimano Uniglide freehub cogs. Believe me, they're out there at LBS's.
Yet, if I want an obscure set of Campagnolo saddle rails, they're there for the picking. Early "Record" hubs? A frequently offered product. Fratelli-Brivio/Campagnolo 3-piece hubs? The shells are all over eBay. First-generation Super Record rear derailers? I could fill my entire display case with them if I had money to burn.
I'm not trying to preach any morals as much as I'm letting off steam, but it would be beneficial to say that when you're looking for that "not-so-uber-rare-yet-rare-enough-to-be-a-PITA" part, don't be afraid to go digging around in the back room of your LBS if you're lucky enough to find a shop with old, small parts kicking about.
After all, it's worked for me before - how do you think I found the first Super Champion rim?