Published: May 4, 2016
Review By Andrea Valluzzo,
Photos Courtesy Copake Auction
COPAKE, N.Y. — A rite of spring here as much as daffodils are, Copake Auction celebrated its 25th annual antique and classic bicycle auction April 15–16 with a well-attended swap meet and a 10-mile bicycle ride through scenic Columbia County on Friday as the prelude to Saturday’s main event — the auctioning of more than 600 lots of choice bicycles and related accessories and ephemera.
It may seem odd to say about an auction that is single-minded in its devotion to all things bicycle-related, but the auction is more than just about bicycles. Longtime collector and buyer/seller Bob Jameson said it best when he stood up in the packed auction gallery Saturday morning and said something to the effect of, “This is not all about the bicycles, it’s about the people,” according to auctioneer/owner Mike Fallon, who wholeheartedly agreed with this sentiment.
“This was my favorite auction in 37 years of auctioning. The local restaurants and motels in Copake and the surrounding area were filled; it’s really a fun event for our little town and all our customers had a great time,” Fallon said, noting he walked into Four Brothers, a local pizza parlor, that weekend, and saw staff pushing tables together to form a 30-foot-long table so a large group of bicycle enthusiasts could sit together.
“These were guys from England, Florida and Washington State. They were just so happy to be here. The camaraderie is the best part of the event,” he said.
The genesis of these bicycle auction weekends go back to a consignment of high wheels, which Fallon decided to offer at the end of a general antiques sale. After they sold, he asked anyone in the audience interested in bicycles to stay another five minutes, whereupon he quizzed them to see if there was interest in bicycle-only auctions and if anyone would help him. Yes on both counts. The first person to speak up was David Kmetz, whose bicycle museum in Freehold, N.J., was well known and whose bicycle collection sold at Copake after his death in 2013. “He was the first person to let me sell some of his expensive bikes. I could always talk to him when I had a question and he became like a father figure in the bicycle world.”
When the first bicycle auction was held, and the doors opened up preview day, two guys walked in, Fallon remembers, noting it was a cold April day. This year, more than 100 people came to preview and, assisted with perfect spring weather this time, the swap meet was so crowded they could not squeeze in one more car. Noting that dealers sold very well, Fallon quipped, “It was a win-win-win situation.” Bicycle historian Carey Williams added to the event with a talk on Friday titled “America’s First Bicycles: The Velocipede Era” and in keeping with Copake’s tradition at the start of each sale, selling items donated to benefit St Jude Children’s Hospital, this year’s sale raised $960, adding to the grand total to date of more than $40,000.
Commemorating the anniversary auction, Copake designed 125 T-shirts, which sold out quickly, and put out a bounty of complimentary pizzas and subs from the local deli along with a cake depicting a high wheel. Both the cake and shirt were designed by Mike’s daughter-in-law Jacqueline Fallon, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.
High wheels also figured prominently into the auction as evinced by two of the sale’s top five lots being high wheels, including the top-grossing lot: a rare circa 1889 King 50-inch high wheel (ordinary) safety bicycle, King Wheel Company 51 Barclay Street, New York City, 1886–1890, at $18,720, and a circa 1888 Singer Extraordinary 48-inch example that fetched $17,550.
Overall, the auction sold 632 lots, averaging 100 lots per hour and absentee and online bidding were at a high, with 2,102 left bids. Internet bidding is usually 50 percent of Copake’s general antiques items but historically has been lower for the bicycle auctions. In this case though, and probably owing to Evan Fallon’s detailed photography of each lot, online bidders are confident, and were major players in the auction, especially European buyers. A bidder from France won the rare, circa 1869 Calvin Witty New York City boneshaker at $14,040, while an Australian buyer bought the second generation Bowden Spacelander, which tripled its high estimate to bring $11,115.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
For additional information, www.copakeauction.com or 518-329-1142.
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