Published: June 12, 2007
On April 21, Mike and Seth Fallon of Copake Auction conducted their 16th annual antique bicycle auction, which started the day before at 6am with a swap meet in the sheep meadow behind the auction building. Seth Fallon noted vendor attendance was down due to the threat of inclement weather but the action was great and many bicycles were spotted leaving the field. “Seems like light weights are hot at the swap meet, but good early items sell well also,” he said.
The auction, attracting bidders from six countries and throughout the United States, started promptly with the Fallons beginning, as always, by auctioning items donated by their customers to benefit St Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Top lot was a very rare and desirable collection of Ben Bowden archives, creator of the Bowden “Space Lander.” Anything connected with Bowden is highly sought after, and the collection realized $495 from a prominent Chicago collector.
The top lot of the auction came from a young man from New Hampshire. He called Mike Fallon just weeks before the auction and described what sounded like a Carroll chainless, telling Fallon it had descended in his family and had once belonged to “Diamond Jim” Brady.
“I was really excited and did my best to get the bicycle. The owner had researched the machine for two years, and for a new collector he knew a lot about his bicycle. The bicycle had really unusual features including mother of pearl handgrips, nickel plating and most unusual of all, some parts that I thought were bronze were actually gold plated,” he said.
The Carroll sold to a Pennsylvania museum on the phone against a representative in the audience for the Velo Museum in the Netherlands for $31,900. “I truly believe that auction is the best method for rare items like the Carroll bicycle. The owner was very apprehensive about “giving it away,” and I assured him that such a desirable bicycle would draw much interest,” Fallon added.
Fallon likes to start the sale strong with high value items; and another early standout was a Gormully & Jeffrey adult “Two Track” tricycle found in a bicycle shop cellar in New Bedford, Mass., that brought $25,800 to a Delaware wheelman against stiff competition from a Michigan collector. The next lot consigned from a Midwest collection was an 1884 “Star” safety high wheel made in Smithville, N.J., and sold in as found condition for $3,850.
High wheel bicycles do well at auction, especially ones that are complete and ready to ride. Highlights included an 1887 Columbia 56-inch expert at $6,490, an 1888 Victor 52-inch at $6,050 and a Hillman Herbert & Cooper for $8,525.
Hard tire safeties are among the rarest of early bicycles having been made in the short period between high wheels and the invention of the pneumatic tire. Examples included an 1891 “Common Sense” made in Philadelphia at $4,510, a scarce junior size bicycle for $2,900 and an 1889 woman’s Columbia model in original condition that took $7,150 from a wheelman in Florida.
“Pneumatic safety” bicycles included a 1918 Indian (female) at $600, a 1900 Pierce at $2,860 and a 1923 Mead Ranger for $2,300.
Prewar balloon bicycles have cooled down, but rare examples in original unrestored condition still draw attention. The top balloon lot was a Roadmaster Supreme boy’s bicycle manufactured by The Cleveland Welding Co. in Ohio, and designed by Finnish designer Onnie Mankki. It fetched $14,300 from a Chicago collector.
Other balloon highlights included a 1940 Dayton Twin Flex that sold for $2,475 to a California collector and a 1934 Elgin Falcon at $2,860.
Collectibles included an 1890s silver plate picture frame at $660, a doorknob with a LAW logo at $935, an unusual box form electric bicycle lamp that sold to the Velo Museum for $770 and an 1890s litho poster depicting the Crescent Factory at $1,650.
“This sale is our favorite event of the year †it’s like a reunion. It’s gone on so long now that we have all watched each other’s children and ourselves grow older, and many friendships are renewed each April.”
For information, 518-329-1142 or www.copakeauction.com .
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