The highly anticipated first of three auctions of vintage bicycles and memorabilia from a recently closed New York-based museum earlier this month brought in a jaw-dropping half-million dollars, about 150% of what the auctioneers predicted.
The highest bid item sold at the auction turned out to be the 1892 Geared Front Drive Telegram, at right. Manufactured by Sercombe-Bolte Mfg. Co. of Milwaukee, it’s the only known example of the bike which has a 30-inch wheel in front and a 24-incher in the rear.
The Bicycle Museum of America in New Bremen, Ohio, paid more than $23,000 for it, according to the Wall Street Journal. Total sales for the day amounted to some $488,000.
The bicycles and memorabilia that went up for auction on Dec. 1 came from the Pedaling History Bicycle Museum in Orchard Park, New York.
Carl and Clarice Burgwardt opened the 7,000-square-foot museum in 1991 after collecting vintage bicycles beginning in the 1970s. Carl Burgwardt died from prostate cancer in May 2012, and Clarice opted to sell the collection.
Copake Auction company in Copake, NY, is handling the auctions; another is planned on April 20, 2013, and a third is tentatively scheduled for October 2013.
Directions to the auction are posted online, and Copake always prepares a catalog of the items for sale prior to the auction.
A copy of the Dec. 1 auction catalog is available online and makes for interesting browsing. Photos are listed of each item, as well as the condition, the estimated price, and the final bid.
The first item, for instance, is this Pierce Cycles poster from 1898. The catalog describes it in “superb condition” and lists it at $3,000 to $5,000. The winning bid was $8,000.
A restored 1887 vintage G & J American Safety bicycle was estimated at $12,000 to $14,000; it went for $21,000.
Even items like an English Doulton Lambeth pitcher and tumbler set from 1957 with a bicycle scene went for $300, more than double the estimated bid.
Another interesting bicycle that went for a high bid was this 1898 Old Hickory wooden frame women’s safety bicycle with pneumatic tires, right. “Supposedly the first American ladies safety” bicycle, it went for $12,500.
Many of the bicycles were less than 100 years old. A 1955 Schwinn Black Phantom sold for $3,500, and a space age-looking fiberglass Bowden Spacelander bicycle from 1960 went for $12,000.
In addition to all the bicycles, there were plenty of vintage bicycle lights as well as posters, medals, trophies, scooters, bike saddles, bells, head badge collections, beer steins and more.
Preceding the auction, there was a lot of talk that it was a shame to split up the collection that the Burgwardts had amassed. At least the Telegram bike has found a good home where it can still be enjoyed by vintage bike enthusiasts at the Bicycle Museum of America.
The New Bremen, Ohio-based museum displays about 350 bikes at any one time out of its collection of about 1,000. Many of the bikes are from the Schwinn family collection formerly displayed at the Navy Pier in Chicago.
If you’re interested in vintage bikes, this year’s Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure (GOBA) is certainly geared to you. The week-long mass bicycle tour is scheduled to make a two-night stop in New Bremen.