Published: April 30, 2019
Review and Onsite Photos by Madelia Hickman Ring
“Copake has single-handedly kept the hobby alive for 28 years, with gusto.” -Keith Pariani, collector, Deland, Fla.
COPAKE, N.Y. – For three days every spring, the eyes of bicycling enthusiasts and collectors around the world turn towards the hamlet of Copake, a short distance from the tristate border of New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. What began nearly 30 years ago with a small collection of antique bicycles in one of the firm’s regular antiques auctions has become a sale exclusively dedicated to antique bicycles and memorabilia. Since the sale’s inception, Copake Auctions has sold more than two dozen important bicycle collections from around the United States to collectors nationally and internationally. That was no different April 11-13, when Copake conducted their 28th annual sale of bicycle and automobilia, a sale of 929 lots. After the sale, Seth Fallon said the firm had 175 buyers in the room from 25 states, with 50 buyers bidding by phone and 200 bidders registered online.
Over the years, the event has grown beyond the sale and now involves the local community, who welcome the event that brings an international clientele to an otherwise quiet rural corner in Columbia County. Events during the weekend now include a two-day swap meet in the field behind the auction house, an afternoon lecture on bicycles and trains in the 1930s and a ten-mile bicycle ride in the area around Copake on the eve of the auction. This year, 105 vendors braved inclement weather, the largest number to take to the field in the history of the swap meet.
As it has been doing for the past 25 years, the sale also began with approximately a dozen donated items – t-shirts, chocolates, artwork, patches and novelty items – being auctioned to raise money for St Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Since then, the firm has raised more than $40,000 for the charity, and the capacity crowd that had gathered got into the spirit, raising about $3,000 before the first of more than 900 lots crossed the block.
Copake Auction has developed a devoted following for bicycle memorabilia, which Seth Fallon described as “family.” Fallon’s presale interview with Antiques and The Arts Weekly was politely interrupted by Keith Pariani, a collector from Deland, Fla., who wanted to go on record by saying, “Copake has single-handedly kept the hobby alive for 28 years, with gusto.” When asked who comprises this family, Fallon went on to explain that while there are relatively few people who deal exclusively in antique bicycles and biking memorabilia, many collectors are bicycle retailers who have a passion for all things on two – or more – wheels. When it comes to who collects what, Fallon explained that people like to collect what they grew up with, meaning that as generations pass on, there is increased focus from collectors of more recent vintages.
Leading the sale was a 1935 Dayton Safety streamliner bicycle, which had been estimated at $3/5,000. So tempting was the estimate that Seth Fallon was able to open the bidding at $7,000. After some heated competition, a museum in Ohio rode off with it for $9,440.
The top price of the sale was shared with an 1889 Columbia hard-tire safety bicycle that had been estimated at $8/10,000 and brought $9,440. It had its original tires, paint and plating and a private collector bidding in the room.
The sale was front-loaded with the higher-valued items, with the third highest price achieved in the sale going to the second lot to be offered, a replica rotary tandem bicycle designed by Mel Short. Estimated at $2,5/3,500, it made nearly three times that, closing at $7,080.
The hobby and field of collecting bicycling memorabilia has its roots with the League of American Wheelmen, a national organization begun in 1880. The group was instrumental in the Good Roads movement and promoted cycling for fun, fitness and transportation. In more recent years, and after being reorganized in the 1960s, the organization is also dedicated to preserving bicycles from the Golden Age of bicycling. Nearly ten percent of Copake’s sale came from the Woodworth collection, which had been assembled by a member/collector in the Midwest. The Woodworth provenance drove many of the prices, including $2,714 for an unassembled high-wheel bike ($200/300), $709 for a pair of early pedals ($50/75), $383 for an album of assorted bicycle postcards ($50/75) and $442 for a lot of 31 assorted pinbacks and tokens ($50/100).
Most of the lots were offered without reserve, but some of the higher estimated lots had reserves that failed to find buyers during the auction. These included a 1936 Elgin Bluebird balloon tire bicycle priced at $10/12,000) and a rare 1908 Iver Johnson Cushion Frame bicycle with an estimate of $9,5/10,500. During the sale, the auctioneer announced the firm would be entertaining offers on those lots.
In past years, the supply of material was sufficient to fill a sale restricted entirely to bicycles and bicycle memorabilia, but, as they have had to do in recent years, Copake has expanded the sale to include automobilia as well. Leading the field of four-wheeled lots was a 1960s Jeep pedal car that measured 43 inches in length. It made more than ten times its estimate ($75/125), fetching $1,003. That was the same price paid for a figural automobile clock that had been estimated at $300/500.
Copake Auction, Inc, is at 266 East Main Street. For additional information, 518-329-1142 or www.copakeauction.com.
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