COPAKE, N.Y. — “It was a great sale,” commented auctioneer Michael Fallon of Copake Auction’s 25th annual antique and classical bicycle auction conducted on April 12. “The first 16 lots brought in over $130,000,” he said, “ and prices were good from the first lot to the last.”
The event started off with a swap meet conducted at Copake Auction the day prior to the sale, with large crowds of collectors and bicycle enthusiasts in attendance. “People came for both the swap and the auction from all over the country as well a quite a few international attendees. We had a bunch of guys come over from England, there were some people from Milan, Germany, Australia, Belgium, France and we even had some people come over from a museum in the Czech Republic. This year we had six museums that were serious bidders,” said Fallon, and they were bidding serious prices for this stuff.
Bidders were also registered from around the world on the Internet and by telephone, although the vast majority of the items, especially the top lots, sold to in-house buyers. “These guys tend to be gear heads — they need to be here,” said the auctioneer.
The auction included a huge portion of the Metz Bicycle Museum, a privately owned museum in Freehold, N.J., that housed the collection of the late David Metz.
“David was just a great guy and he is considered to be the godfather of the whole bicycle auction scene,” said Fallon. The auctioneer related that in 1989 Metz was attending a Copake auction that included several vintage bikes. “I asked David if he would come to an all-bicycle auction and he said, ‘Absolutely,’ and he helped me put a sale together. He was also the first guy to give me a really expensive bike to sell at my auction and it did better than both he and I thought it would,” said Fallon.
Merchandise deaccessioned from several other museums also featured in the auction, including the Pedaling History Museum from Buffalo, a small museum from Arizona and a couple of privately owned museums. “There were about six museums overall,” he said.
Fallon commented that the full house of buyers in attendance has “been consistent over the years; it is a very focused crowd.”
The first lot of the auction would set the tone for the day with a St Nicholas transition high wheel bike, circa 1876, attracting a lot of attention. Made in Chicago, the bike was a 50-inch model with wooden spoked wheels. In excellent restored condition, the bike ($5,5/7,500) sold after a bout of serious bidding to a buyer in the room for $16,380.
A wooden framed Comet ladies bicycle, circa 1898, was offered a couple lots later and it, too, had collectors in a lather. The bike retained the original tires and wooden chain guard and hickory handlebars. Bidding opened in the room at the low estimate of $4,000, with at least seven people in the gallery chasing the bike, along with a couple of phone bidders. “They got completely left behind at around $11,000,” said Fallon, as the competition narrowed to two collectors, with the bike selling to an automobile museum in Wisconsin for $23,400.
The top lot of the auction was a rare high wheel example with leading and trailing dual steering. Fallon thought the bike to be unique and possibly made by a college for deaf and mute students. “Metz never told anyone where he got the bike, but it is the only one that is known.” Estimated at $10/15,000, the bike took off as bidders competed for the lot. A final price of $42,120 was realized, selling to a museum. It is the highest price ever achieved for a bicycle at Copake Auction.
Another of the auction favorites was the “Zimmy,” also from the Metz Museum. “David had been advertising for one of these bikes, which was made in the same town he lived in, for over 20 years,” said Fallon. “One day a dealer walked in with it and wanted to sell it for $200, so we bought it and sold it to David for $300. It was the pride and joy of his collection. Estimated at $8/10,000, the bike sold to a museum for $15,200,” said the auctioneer. “It is the only known bike by him — he had a bicycle company so you would think that there are others out there, but that is the only one that has ever surfaced.”
The Ward quadracycle, circa 1850, was a rare example attributed to J. Ward, coachmaker, Leicester Square, London. Also from the Metz collection, the rare bike exceeded estimate, finishing at $28,080.
A circa 1885 Rudge Kangaroo high wheel safety bike retaining the rear step, brakes and proper pedals tripled estimate, selling at $32,760 to a collector in China. “This might be shades of things to come,” surmised Fallon. “China has more bicycles than any country on earth.”
The auctioneer noted, “We got some astounding prices for things that you wouldn’t know about, accessories like wrenches and catalogs.” Late in the sale a high wheel wrench from the Overman Wheel Company was offered. It carried an estimate of $25, yet when bidding subsided, the lot had climbed to $1,111. “It didn’t matter — we did well to the last lot. It was one of those types of sales — two to three guys bidding on every one of the items,” said Fallon.
Catalogs also brought hefty prices, with a lot of two Iver Johnson bicycle catalogs from 1896 and 1899 soaring past the $40/60 estimate to sell for $1,053. “All of the catalogs brought substantial prices, this is a new hot area of collecting,” said Fallon
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
For additional information, www.copakeauction.com or 518-329-1142.