Friday, September 15, 2006
Which of these three books will be worth serious money in the future?
One is a first edition copy of my novel Prodigal Child; the other two are little notebooks where I hand wrote and recorded serial numbers of bicycle frames that I built.
The book on the left was the one I used to record frames built in Worcester, England from 1974 to early 1979 when I came to the United States. It contains very little information; just the customer’s name and a number. All I was doing was recording numbers to keep them in sequence and to prevent duplications.
The last thing I expected was that I would be corresponding with owners of these same frames some thirty years later. Who can contemplate thirty years into the future? Some of the pages in the book have water stains and the ink has run a reminder that the old WWII vintage corrugated steel building where I ran my business leaked every time it rained.
The second book (On the right.) has a little more detail in that it records a serial number, the frame size, and the bike dealer it was sold through. Sometimes there is mention of paint color and chrome plating, and occasionally a customer’s name.
This book records custom frames built in California from 1982 to 1986. I built a few frames in 1981 while still working for Masi but these were not recorded. Also not recorded were frames built after 1986 and up to 1993 when I retired.
In 1986 I moved my business from San Marcos, to Temecula, CA and I have a feeling my record book got misplaced. I found it about two years ago and it is a miracle that either book survived over the years and the many moves I have made. I built only three custom frames in 1986 and so few after that date that I felt it was no big deal if I didn’t record the numbers. Again at the time I was trying to scratch a living, not build future collector items.
On Wednesday this week a 30 year old frame that I built in 1976 came up on eBay.
It had been repainted, not very well I might add and there was no name on it. The only way to prove it was the genuine article was because the person selling had bought it from the original owner whose name was recorded in my little book along with the serial number.
The item was viewed over 1,100 times and sold for $357; had it been an unknown frame it would have been considered an “Old Beater” and might have gone for $25 to $50. But because I was in the business for some 36 years, built a few good frames along the way, some people perceive that the frames are worth collecting and restoring.
Actually these old English built frames from the 1970s were not as aesthetically pleasing as the ones built ten years later in California, but what they lack in aesthetics they make up for in rarity. There were less than ten of these shipped to the US and Canada through the 1970s. I hope the new owner will refinish the frame in the style of that period and not add braze-ons to it.
Supply and demand is what makes anything collectable increase in value. The supply of my frames will never increase because I don’t make them any more; in fact it will decrease as more people buy them and hold on to them. It is already rare to see a custom built ‘dave moulton’ come up on eBay. There are plenty of Fuso production frames out there as I built almost 3,000 and incidentally the ride quality of a Fuso is exactly the same as any other frame I built.
As for the demand more and more people discover my frames every day; more people know of my work now because of the Internet than when was actually building frames. It took me years to become accepted as a legitimate framebuilder; in my current occupation as a writer and songwriter it will probably take me just as long. But think what an accepted literary work or a hit song would do for the price of my bicycle frames?
Which brings me back to the value of these three books; they are all connected. I have no intention of selling my two little frame number record books but in time they will be the only way to prove the genuine article. As the value of my frames increases it will become important to authenticate each one.
As for my novel; everyone who owns one of my bikes should buy a signed first edition while they are still available. It’s a not too expensive and interesting conversation piece to go with the bike. Is it worth reading? Of course; does anyone think I would reach the top of my profession in one field to embarrass myself and others by writing something mediocre?
For the Lowcountry readers of my blog; I will be signing books at the Sam Rittenberg Barnes & Nobels this Saturday, September 16th, and at the Mount Pleasant Barnes & Nobles the following Saturday the 23rd. I would love to see you there.
Posted by Dave Moulton at 9/15/2006 08:07:00 AM