Opinion: Bicycle fortune

Just got off the phone with my excitable brother, who called in a no small state of agitation over a find he’d made in the attic over Mom’s garage.

Seems our old bicycles were up there, and upon investigation he found that his is worth a lot of money. I don’t know what pleased him most – finding his bike or learning it was valuable. Probably a little of each.

His bike is a Schwinn Fastback – a variant of the Sting-Ray model with a banana seat, ape-hanger handlebars and most importantly, a five-speed transmission controlled by an oh-so-desirable (to a boy in 1968) bar-mounted stick shift. It was an exceptionally cool bike in its day and made my brother the envy of his friends, most of whom were tooling around on hand-me-down three-speeds. When they were all lined up at school, my brother’s bike looked like a Ferrari parked next to a bunch of Amish buggies.

And now it is a collector’s item.

Of course, my brother went immediately to eBay to see how much of a fortune his two-wheeler was going to bring (Answer: Wow), and here is where he encountered a dilemma. Should he fix up the bike, which is nearly complete but a little rough and rusty? Should he sell it as-is? Or should he sell it part-by-part to collectors looking to restore Fastbacks of their own?

Unfortunately, my brother is ill-equipped to handle such questions, as he is sentimental by nature, and as we all know, sentimentality has no place in the cutthroat world of antique toys. And I do mean cutthroat.

Just watch what happens when an old toy shows up on “Antiques Roadshow.” There’s one appraiser who practically sneers when he observes that a toy has been played with. I guess in his world, kids are supposed to keep their toys in the boxes unopened, in pristine condition, awaiting the day when they transmogrify from “playthings” into “collectibles.” What a happy Christmas morning that would be:

“Oh, wow, it’s the new G.I. Joe with the kung-fu grip!”

“Yes. Now, keep it in the box, dear, so it will be worth something someday. Mustn’t play with your investments.”

But back to the bike. The smart course would be to get started tearing that thing down and putting the parts on eBay, where there is bound to be some sucker – I mean, collector – who doesn’t mind paying a wildly inflated price for a chain guard. And another one who’ll do the same for handlebars. And yet another who has been looking for a front fork. And so on.

But if I know my brother, he’ll either stick it in a storage shed with the intention of fixing it up some day, or he will fix it up – making him the sucker on eBay paying the wildly inflated prices for bike parts – and then find himself unable to part with it. Either way, his fortune will remain unclaimed.

Which is okay. He got a lot of fun out of that bike, which is what really matters. And besides, it’ll keep him even with me. My old bike was up in the attic too, remember, and landed on the trash heap because it was worth zip. I know. I checked.

Mike Redmond

Mike Redmond is an author, journalist, humorist and speaker. Write him at mike@mikeredmondonline.com or P.O. Box 44385, Indianapolis, IN 46244. For information on speaking fees and availability, visit www.spotlightwww.com.

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