Old 10-10-14, 06:04 PM
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If vintage cars are any guide (and I'm not guaranteeing they are), the market is high and still climbing, but the long-term outlook is limited. I think three kinds of people get into vintage machinery (cars, bikes, etc.):

1) high-end collectors who only want the rarest and best and have enough money to outbid anyone else. The bikes they buy will be put on display and kept as "investments". Artifacts like these typically change hands privately and quietly.

2) aficionados who appreciate both the aesthetics and period technology of fine machines. These folks will tinker with the bikes themselves, restore them, and actually ride them at least occasionally. No doubt many folks who post in the C&V forum are in this category. Some of these folks will spend serious money, but there is a general price sensitivity here that is completely absent in the first category.

3) people for whom C&V machinery is simply better-than-average used equipment. These people know that $50-$400 for a bike that had a for-figure price tag 15-40 years ago is a good deal. They prefer bikes that were little used and stored in a friendly environment so that little investment or effort needs to be made. They confidently know they bought essentially the same utility, recreational, and commuting value available in shiny, new form at the LBS for a fraction of the price. A lot of C&V folks here are in this category as well, including me.

To go back to the car analogy. I've read numerous times that if you bought a Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing new in the mid 1950s and held on to it, it has appreciated enough to outperform the stock market. The same is true for certain rare American muscle cars of the 1960s, most vintage Ferraris that have 12-cylinder engines in the front, etc. The point is that the investment-grade machinery is rare, in excellent condition, and highly desired. I don't see that market phenomenon happening with vintage bicycles. Another phenomenon in the antique car world is that really old cars are of relatively little interest. A lot of the market is driven by collectors who can finally acquire the car they dreamed of as teenagers or actually owned back in the day. Up until the 1980s or 1990s there was strong demand for Model T and Model A Fords which were manufactured in the millions. These cars, even in excellent condition, do not experience much demand today because the interest population has aged out of the market. Also, they are not much fun to operate in the real world; I've driven brass-era (pre-1916) vehicles on public roadways and it is highly stressful because they are difficult to operate, slow, and have nearly non-existent brakes. Sure, I'd be interested in a nice Schwinn Paramount or a vintage European road bike with period Campy components, but I have zero interest in an old Penny Farthing bicycle.

The bike population may age-out a little differently as those of us who are getting older decide those recumbents are looking really good. I still ride a a 1970s road bike occasionally, and my early 1990s MTB more often, but my go-to-ride is now a recumbent.

FWIW, mid 50s, grew up delivering newspapers by bike, graduated to ten speeds and did some long-distance touring in my youth.
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