Vintage Goodies and Randonneur Specialty Items!
Mike Kone’s Price Guide to Vintage Lightweights
Working Draft as of October 28, 2008
© 2008 by Michael Kone and Rene Herse Bicycles Inc. No portion of this document may be copied or reproduced without express written (or email) consent of the author.
All material expressed here is opinion, and should considered along with other information and data to make informed buying and selling decisions. The author(s) is not responsible for decisions or purchases (or sales) made on this information. In other words, use the information at your own risk!
If there is one notable feature to the overall vintage lightweight racing bicycle market it is the variability of prices. Often, that is the result of a lack of market information. If somebody were to contact a few people who deal in vintage lightweights, or spend time studying on-line auctions, then they would have a reasonable amount of market knowledge. Instead, if a seller doesn’t do the “research”, they may sell a bicycle for much less than its true market value. Similarly, a one-time buyer might enter the market to make one purchase and they may not be educated about current market pricing. Such buyers are often seen paying seemingly high prices at on-line auction for relatively common items.
Unfortunately, buyers and sellers often misinterpret information or extrapolate values in an unreasonable way. For example, a nice original condition late 1960’s Colnago in original paint with Campagnolo no-name calipers will be worth quite a bit. A Colnago of a similar vintage but that has been repainted with braze-ons added and later version Campagnolo brakes may be worth just a fraction. Valuations of vintage bicycles are often highly dependent on condition and details being absolutely correct. There are buyers out there that are willing and able to spend tremendous amounts on a bicycle because to them, bicycles are inexpensive relative to automobiles vacation homes. But the bike must be perfect; if a few items are not right, it isn’t that the bike looses 20% of its value, it may instead be worth only 20% of the perfect example.
Prices also vary considerably even when buyers and sellers are well versed in the field. That is because the market is so thin. With relatively few buyers and sellers, a market transaction depends upon the perfect alignment of a perhaps reluctant seller and a cautious buyer. This is more pronounced when the item is extremely rare. Now that many vintage bicycles are sold in an auction environment, this is even more pronounced. It there are two potential buyers that are very excited about a bicycle, the sale can be a multiple of what it would be if only one potential buyer placed a high valuation on the item.
Another important point to remember is that there are two ways to look at a bike. The first is to look at it in its entirety and consider its overall appeal. The second way is to look at it as the sum of its parts. Imagine a 1969 Bottechia with Universal brakes and a smattering of Campy. In good condition it may be worth $400 - $500 dollars. Now suppose that on that bike is an early 60's Brooks B17 Swallow saddle in virtually N.O.S. condition. Such a saddle alone could be worth $600. Typically, bicycles sell for a good bit less than their “part out value”. An exception might be a bicycle in which every detail with respect to condition and originality is absolutely correct. It is possible that some well-to-do buyers will pay a premium for a machine where all the hard-to-find bits are already present. But in general, this is more an exception than a rule.
Despite all the difficulty in assigning values, I’ve made some “educated guesses” as to what some of the selected bicycles are worth. And remember, with the recent economic turmoil, nothing is certain, least of all bicycle prices. Don't place too much weight on these "guesses", and please don't plan to send your kids to college based on mortgaging your bicycle collection when the time comes. Happy hunting and happy collecting!
Mike Kone – Boulder CO, USA October 2008
The following prices, unless otherwise specified, are for bicycles in very clean original condition. Figure perhaps a bicycle with about 4,000 miles in well cared for condition. In general, for older bikes, more liberties with respect to condition can be expected for the given price.
Quality generally ranges from reasonable to downright scary. Importantly, these were among the few bikes to enter the U.S. before the early 70's bike boom that were of any quality. Look for examples with nice chrome. Atala bikes were the official make of AYH (American Youth Hostels). Perhaps that should give a clue to their quality.
Atala had some nice track bikes - all chrome with nice painted panels which had an attractive translucent quality. Because these bikes were both mid-level and very common, their value is based mostly on their parts. N.R. bikes (except Universal brakes) are valued at $550. With N.R. brakes, $650.
Atala track bikes, as described above, are attractive and in the current “track is hot market” are valued at $800 with a full Nuovo Record group.
As a word of caution, don't be fooled by seemingly ornate lugs with boxy cut outs on Atalas that have basic parts and rather heavy, crude frames. Such bikes are actually not high quality and years ago, in Italy, they were everywhere.
Bikeology sold a lot of these! Many others sold them as well. We’ve seen them from the pre-war era with Reynolds tubing and gorgeous derailleurs that are extremely nice.
In the early 70's they had a few different models - some pretty crude, some rather pleasant. The fancy models had an interesting smoke paint finish that was a Swiss version of a really nice fade. Masi did nice fades in the 60’s, but Allegro was truly exceptional with their finishes.
While some models are nice, there is not a lot of demand for them so value is again parts based. For very clean smoke examples value may be a bit higher. Of the top models with full Reynolds 531, for N.R. examples figure $700. If an attractive smoke finish bike perhaps $800.
An “early modern” attempt at aluminum. Reliability should be considered. Alan frames were also sold under the Guerciotti name. Alan also distinguished itself through their successful cyclo-cross frames using the same construction.
The original early Alan frames were very attractive and very light. They featured some interesting engraving on the lugs. Unlike much of today's modern aluminum, these have a soft ride which many riders enjoy. It was common to deck out an Alan with special trick lightweight components of the day. For a nice N.R. Alan road model figure perhaps $700. A S.R. equipped bike is probably more appealing and appropriate, with a value of $800 if post-78 parts and approaching $1,000 for pre-78 Super Record. Note that a number of companies (such as Guerciotti) rebranded Alan frames with their own label.
This brand represented an attempt by a large diversified European company to create a prestigious marque in the bicycle world. They were fairly successful. There were some glitches, such as a full size range of bikes all sporting the same length top tube. That, apparently, was eventually taken care of.
The top end bike was the Ultima which was a dark purple or lavender color. Early models had full Campy Titanium Super Record including Ti pedals and bottom bracket. Use of Fiamme Ergal rims and Unicanitior saddles made these bikes stand-outs among production bikes. Early Ultima examples with the goodies in place are worth about $1,200. Since the early S.R. is what makes these so special, later models are worth less, perhaps $ 900.
The next model was the Superleicht - These were typically a cream color. Red examples were sold initially as framesets. These bikes which were slightly less finished than the Ultima are worth about $750. There were many other Austro-Daimler models - many featured Reynolds tubing and assorted European components. These non-Campy models are much less valuable, perhaps only a few hundred dollars to the right buyer. They often make great riders and are wonderful for the budget minded enthusiast.
One non-Campy model that was a standout had a funky dark non-painted finish (see the Sheldon Brown version of this guide for more info). It was full Reynolds 531 but had a second tier parts kit that was still quite nice. Figure a value of around $600 for one in guideline condition.
If my memory is correct, these came onto the market in the early-to-mid 1980's. They are a very competent Italian frame. They were probably built by contract with one of the better makers. In terms of construction, a Basso will compare quite well with a Colnago or Rossin of the period, although Basso seems to have less value. We've also heard that they are prone to corrosion issues. Most likely this is the result of improper care during the chroming process. We've known top-notch riders who've loved their Basso frames. So while Basso is out of the top tier, a nice corrosion-free example from the 1980's is really a very nice classic Italian race machine. Figure a nice super record example in guideline condition will be valued at around $ 900.
Visit the Sheldon Brown version of this guide for info on E.G. Bates. This company was completely distinct from the Horace Bates make. Examples we’ve seen have ornate lugs and fine workmanship. Examples will most likely be 1950’s bikes with parts that pre-date the Campagnolo group era. Values will depend most on originality and the parts kit. The frames themselves probably don’t have a deep following. For frame-only with original transfers in guideline condition with ornate lugs a value around $700 would probably be reasonable.
This is one of the major British builders. The top models feature a reverse-rake fork (called Diadrant) and oversize (in the middle) Reynolds "Cantiflex" tubing. These are in a class with the British greats such as Hetchins, Ephgraves, and the Flying Gates.
There are people who are skeptical of the Bates designs. While the fork doesn’t seem to make much sense, the flaring of the center sections of the maintubes does. While bending forces on frames are indeed located at tube junctions (at the lugs), torsional rigidity is quite dependent on the diameter of the tube along its length (thanks to Hillary Stone for reminding me of this a few years back).
The result of the Bates designs is that they are very highly regarded for their fine ride characteristics. Most “classic” Bates frames that are likely to turn up will be from the 1940’s through the 1960’s. A frame-only in guideline condition is should have a value of around $750.
In recent times, Ron Cooper under the guidance of Ray Etherton constructed wonderful fresh production Bates frames. The top examples of these have very ornate hand cut lugs that embody countless hours of handwork. As I understand, Cooper is no longer constructing these frames. A value for one of these should be around $900. At this price, these frames represent an amazing value and should really be worth much more.
One could write a book about Bianchi. This company defines the notion of racing heritage. There are lots of Bianchi models, many are dazzling, many are mediocre. Remember that Bianchi makes bicycles for both racers and those seeking a means of basic transportation. Early top-end Bianchi bikes using the complicated but nonetheless fabled Campy Cambio Corsa shifter (move the lever, slide the wheel, shift, etc) system with original paint should be worth around $3500 if they are sporting their original parts. In the early 1950’s, the Campagnolo Paris Robiax shifter evolved from the Cambio Corsa model. This shifter used a single lever instead of the two required to use the Cambio Corsa. As the production run of this model was short, it can be argued that bikes featuring it are worth somewhat more than their Cambio Corsa brethren.
In the early 1950’s, Campagnolo saw the “writing on the wall” and gave up on their relatively antiquated shifting system. They went to the parallelogram design which went into regular production as the Gran Sport in 1951. The design went through many iterations during 1951 and 1952 and then Campagnolo in 1953 came out with a more finalized version that remained in production nearly unchanged into the 1960’s.
A Bianchi from around 1953 through the late 1950’s with steel cranks, Campagnolo Gran Sport derailleurs, Bianchi labeled hubs, and Bianchi labeled cranks in original paint should have a value around $2,200. Similar examples but from the late 1950’s with first generation Campagnolo cranks, pedals, and seatpost will be worth closer to $2,700.
While production Bianchi frames from the 1950’s typically display average workmanship, many of the 1960’s top examples are beautifully made. While the lugs are rather thick, they have uniformly crisp brazing. Some examples were built for 700c tubulars, while others were came through apparently made for 27” clinchers. The top 1960’s examples will typically have full Campagnolo parts kits with Universal 61 brakes. For these bikes in guideline condition, a value around $1,750 is likely. Note that many of these early Bianchi bikes used a proprietary integral headset which means replacement may be difficult.
In the l970’s, Bianchi bikes became more typical, and this trend continued into the 1980’s. In the late 1970’s there were Bianchi bikes in the classic Celeste color that were actually second-tier machines. These can be identified by their Campagnolo Nuovo Record deraillieurs in conjunction with second-tier parts such as cranks. These bikes rode quite well, but are not nearly as valuable as the top level machines. For one of these machines, a value of around $450 is reasonable. For full Nuovo Record top tier machines, a value around $800 is fair. Super Record bikes from the 1980’s are quite “hot” right now. For nice examples, prices around $1,100 are fair. For special edition bicycles with pantagrahped components are price closer to $1,500 is reasonable.
Do not be fooled by the many low-end Bianchi bicycles from the 1950’s through 1960’s that are made of heavy seamed tubing and mostly lower grade components. These feature frames that are very crude and these bikes really are “pretenders”. They are fun to look at, and for around town use they will be quite functional. But their value as a performance tool is limited. The fixie conversion crowd may find appeal with these, so values in the $150 to $300 range are likely, but those seeking performance should look elsewhere.
Bianchi produced a Centenario bike in the early 80's using early C-Record components. They even had (at least some did) large flange C-Record hubs. These bikes are now serious collectors items as early C-record components are now highly collectible. To pay $3,000 in the current market would probably be reasonable.
An Italian company that moved to Mexico. Some of the Italian examples are exquisite. Such an N.R. bike should be worth perhaps $1,000 to those who appreciate fine workmanship. Later Mexican production yielded nice but not terribly special bikes. For N.R. examples figure perhaps $700. Apparently, though, there are some durability questions regarding some of the Mexican Benotto machines (overheating issues when built and subsequent tube failure) so buyers should search the Classic Rendezvous Archives for information on this problem.
Pretty much the same quality level and pricing issues as Atala (about $700 for a Nuovo Record equipped bike from the 1970’s). One exception is interesting early-to-mid 80's Super Record bikes that were based on European team bikes. These are interesting and given the recent surge of interest for Super Record bikes of this period, a value of $1,050 seems fair for prime examples.
There are many relatively early Bottechia bikes in the U.S. One model in particular has Universal brakes, Nervar crank, and Record deraillers Such a bike is worth perhap $450.
One of the most obscure names in the vintage bike world. Nobody even knows the first name of Bianco. The best information is that Bianco was a star builder who had his own shop in France that turned out frames without labels that Pro team riders purchased and then had finished in their team colors. He was apparently the builder to the stars. In addition to making race frames, he gained some fame by teaching an individual named Alex Singer how to build frames. There appears to have been involvement from Bianco on the very earliest Singer frames. Subsequently, it seems that there were at least a few touring and other non-race frames that emerged from Bianco’s hands. Value is hard to determine (and this author has conflict-of-interest issues here). A guess would be that a Bianco frame should be worth around $800.
One of the giants of the British cycling industry, but don't have visions of a small one-man-shop. Claud Butler was a large concern. In addition to frame production, there was a large catalog business as well. Bikes of all varieties were produced. There were both lugged and fillet brazed, as well as tandems and track bikes. Many were relatively mass-produced while others may be quite exceptional.
The company was probably most prolific before the Campy N.R. period. For top-end interesting frames-only from the 40's through the 60's, figure perhaps $750. The value of complete bikes will depend mostly on the parts and condition. Examples with interesting paint, and perhaps the unique bi-laminate lug construction method will be worth more.
Bikes from this Butler were common during the N.R. period. Some examples were very nicely done, they were probably only slightly above average. Estimated value for a full Campy NR machine is $850. Our understanding is that Geoffrey Butler as a company still exists.
Around the late 1970’s, Cannondale came on the scene and their impact was not trivial. Modern aluminum was just starting to make a foothold, and Cannondale sought to capitalize on the growing interest in alternative materials. Klein frames were well though out by intelligent folks from MIT, and Cannondale rightly saw a market opening. Cannondale frames gained a reputation for being extremely stiff. Some folks loved them, other folks were completely turned off by them. Quality control seemed to be somewhat mixed (differing views on this). For a 1980’s model with Campagnolo Nuovo Record components a value of $700 to $800 might be reasonable. The value possibly could be higher because it seems that relatively few of the bikes are still around in their original state. Conversely, most folks who seek vintage road bikes of the era have a warm spot for steel.
One of the great British frame makers. From the late 1930's through the mid 1960's, Carlton produced high quality frames that were often keenly priced compared to their competition. During the 1960's, though, Raleigh purchased Carlton in an attempt to enter the high-end bike market. Carlton bikes from around 1966 perhaps are really best thought of as Raleigh bikes. True high-end Carlton bicycles from before or right at the time of the take-over are often quite exceptional. The Carlton International was a gorgeous frame that featured a very ornate lugset. Note that two versions of the Carlton International exist; the better version has true hand cut lugs, the less desirable example has production made lugs. My understanding is that the less desirable version typically has a brake bridge with a seam on the underside. There was also model from the late 1950's, I believe, that was even more special; the Carlton Jewell. This frame had ornate lugs and exceptional flamboyant paintwork over chrome for an amazingly gorgeous look. There are probably very few of these in nice original condition out there.
Values for Carlton bikes seem to be in large part based on parts value plus a premium if the frame is exceptional. Condition and exact variety will make a tremendous difference. As a guideline, though, a Carlton International with handcut lugs with a mix of Campagnolo components correct for the period (and perhaps Weinemann brakes) should be valued at around $ 1,400 in guideline condition. The more common frames, such as a Carlton Flyer with a smattering of Campy parts would be valued at $850. For Carlton frames/bikes that are essentially Raleigh machines, it is best to work off of Raleigh valuations.
A house brand of Marcel Celborn, these are probably either Colnagos or built by a builder that builds some of the Colnago models. The examples we have seen are very tidy - certainly at least as good as a typical Colnago or Olmo. For a guideline condition road bike with Nuovo Record parts figure a value around $800.
A Japanese make that offered great value for the money but most examples are not of too much interest to collectors. An exception is a model that Centurion marketed that featured a lower-end model frame built by Cinelli.
A few of these were OK, but nothing terribly special. Such bikes in guideline condition about $ 650.
Cinelli bikes are among the most sought-after of all vintage lightweights. A few heretics claim they are over rated, but everyone is entitled to their opinion (even if it is wrong). Many Cinelli frames show exquisite mitering, smooth and even brazing (apparently done on an open harth!), and lots of lug thinning. This is even true for examples from the mid-50's! Sure they may have deep ugly file marks too - but that is only the surface! Add to the equation the widely held opinion that Cinelli frames ride pretty close to perfection. Cinelli frames are also a visual feast with their Italian style elements that are simply timeless. In Japan, appreciation for Cinelli products is near cult-like. A Cinelli is an icon of cycling tradition. Cinelli frames defined the paradigm of a quality racing bike for decades. Should I go on?
Late 40's to mid 50's models with Cinelli crest decal on forkblades are very rare! I believe there are one or two B models of this period known, but this author is not aware of a single example of a top model existing of this period in original paint. If one was to turn up, a value in the $5000 to $7000 might be reasonable. There are some early examples that have been repainted with either Simplex or Paris Robaix type changers that I’m aware of.
Cinelli frames that are the “A” model (either labeled Supercorsa or Speciale Corsa, both the same) feature the legendary Cinelli fully sloping crown and will typically take a 26.2 seatpost. The lower model, officially called the B model, has a flat crown. From around 1956 to 1959, Cinelli frames have lugs that are commonly called “wolfs ear” lugs as the upper inside edge of the downtube lug extends forward as viewed from the side (similarly the lower inside edge of the toptube lug extends forward as viewed from the side. A nice example in guideline condition should be worth approximately $4,000. From around 1960, Cinelli did away with this lug design element, and Cinelli frames remained fairly similar until around 1969 when the 3 holes in the lugs started to appear. Figure that nice examples from this pre-1969 period in guideline condition will be worth around $3,000. This amount will be higher, though, if the bicycle features relatively rare parts. Parts such as first generation Campagnolo alloy cranks, Cinelli Bivalent hubs, rare saddles, or badged Cinelli steel stems, will push up the price. As a guide, figure the base price of the bike at perhaps $2,700 and add 70% to 80% of the “rare parts value” to that figure to come to an overall bicycle value.
Up until around 1970 the headbadges will seem to have a brass colored edge, and by 1971 the headbadge will appear to have silver edges. This is now also the era of the full Nuovo Record bike. Many Cinelli frames until around 1972 or so will have provision on the brake and seatstay bridges for fender mounting. Around 1971 or so, Cinelli seems to have used this less often, and the examples with the fender mounting seem to have a slacker geometry. For 1970’s Supercorsa or Specialecorsa bicycles, figure a Nuovo Record equipped bicycle in guideline condition will have a value around $3,000.
Around 1978 Cinelli was sold to the Columbo family. There are bikes with either the new or old logo's from this period. Until about 1980, the graphics could go either way, but the brake bridges and bottom bracket shells had new Cinelli logos which makes these bikes recognizable. From around 1979 until perhaps 1982, Cinelli bikes with the new logo using a 26.2 seatpost and the lugs with 3 holes in each were very nice. Many do not consider these to be "real" Cinelli bikes, but they are at least as good as many of the earlier ones. Apparently a very good builder with considerable talent was contracted to build these wonderful bicycles. These bikes from this period are classics in their own right. Their geometry is upright, yet the ride is comfortable. These are bikes designed for the fast short distance riding so common in the United States. They, nonetheless, will handle mountain descents with ease as well! These bikes with a full Super Record group are worth nearly $2,000 given the current excitement for Super Record bicycles. And what better place to hand a Super Record group than on a Cinelli?
Sometime around 1983 the "classic period" ended. The 26.2 sleeved seat lug was replaced with a different cast model that used a 27.2 post. The familiar 3 hole lugs were gone as well. Quality during the following years took a pretty heavy hit as well. These examples in Super Record are worth about $1,000. By the late 80's quality improved somewhat but was never like the earlier bikes.
During the mid 1980's, Cinelli introduced the Laser. This frame had smooth sculpted filleted joints, although we've heard from folks who have seen these "naked" that there was often body filler used. But these bikes are extremely elegant and embody the 1980's esthetic that is so popular now. There were three versions of the Laser; road, track, and time trial. Really nice examples with Super Record or C-record often sell for around $4,000.