Vintage Schwinn Bikes

Vintage Schwinn Bikes are a collectors gem to anyone who knows bike history. The bike received it’s named after Ignaz Schwinn who was the main manufacturer of Schwinn bikes back in the late 1800’s.

The Continental and the Varsity models are still extremely popular Vintage Schwinn Bikes today. The popular Banana bike was a large seller back in the 60’s. They are considered to be high on the list of Vintage Schwinn Bike collector’s today. There are many other Vintage bikes that collectors are seeking today. Schwinn remains high on their list.

When a collector reads the name “Vintage Schwinn” they know they are getting a bike that not only comes straight out of American History but has been built with above excellence in mind!

Collecting Vintage Schwinn Bikes

The Schwinn Bicycle Company’s legacy lives on due to the fact, that these bikes are highly collectable. Schwinn bike collectors spend a lot of time seeking out vintage models at garage sales, flea markets and online. Many Schwinn bicycle collectors love the bikes due to nostalgia. They may have had a Schwinn Bicycle Company manufactured bike, as a child. Alternatively, they may have wanted a Schwinn bike and their family could not afford one. There are collectors, that worked at Schwinn Bicycle Company factories, or had family that worked at one. Other people enjoy the bikes as an investment potential.

Collectors of Schwinn bikes provide a vital service to history, by preserving an important part of America and the world’s history. Without collectors efforts, the bikes would be left to rust in landfills. People who collect Schwinn bikes, are interested in the history and preservation of this company’s bicycles. It is possible that with time, the bicycles may grow in value. Many bikes are in poor condition, and must be repaired. Often multiple bikes are disassembled, and put back together as a working bike. Finding a bike in excellent, or even good condition is rare. The bikes were originally purchase to be used, and they were!

Collectors who see a Schwinn bike want to know it’s age. This is determined by a serial number. The serial numbers were stamped on different places of the bikes. The serial number may be on the frame of the bike near the Schwinn emblem. Another place to look for the serial number, is under the crank of the bike. In addition, some bikes have the serial number near the rear axle. With this serial number, a collector or owner of a Schwinn Company Bicycle can use online sources, to find out the year of it’s manufacture. Generally, thousands of each model of Schwinn bicycle was manufactured.

Early History of Schwinn Bicycles For Collectors - Vintage Schwinn Bikes

One of the most popular bikes in the world, is the Schwinn bicycle. The company that manufactured this brand of bike began in 1895. Chicago was the original home for the Schwinn Bicycle Company, which was started by Ignaz Schwinn. He left Germany in about 1891, and moved to the United States. While in Germany, Ignaz Schwinn had worked on early forms of bicycles. By 1895, the Arnold, Schwinn & Company was created with a partner, Arnold Frederick William Arnold.

Because automobiles had not yet begun to be manufactured, bicycles were a major form of transportation. Over 30 factories, owned by various individuals were in Chicago by the early 1900s. Once motorcycles and automobiles were invented, bicycle sales began to rapidly decrease. Ignaz Schwinn began to become involved in the manufacturing of motorcycles, in addition to his bicycle manufacturing. The depression years of the late 1920s almost put his company into bankruptcy. To save the bicycle division, Ignaz Schwinn closed the motorcycle portion in 1931.

The company was passed into the control of Ignaz’s son, Frank W. Schwinn at this time. Frank Schwinn, focused on reviving the bicycle portion of the company. Because of the Great Depression, he developed a low-cost bicycle model, that more people could afford during the tough economy. A new model of bike, named an Aerocycle was created to have the appearance of a motorcycle. It quickly became a top seller, due to it’s innovative fat tires, fenders and fake gas tank. This bike became an instant hit with paperboys, and was nicknamed the paperboy bike.

Bicycle racing also gained recognition with the public, and Schwinn Bicycle company developed bikes for racing. Materials for racing bikes, required durability, while being lightweight. Further marketing innovations included working deals with tire manufactures and retailers, in order to sell more product. Schwinn company also developed a new line of bikes called, English racer. These bikes were made to compete with bikes from Europe and Great Britain.

Bike manufacturers in the United States, put pressure on the government to raise tariffs on imported bicycles in 1955. This helped Schwinn Bicycle Company to have a slight increase in it’s sales of bicycles. During this time, the Schwinn Bicycle Company did not keep up with new models, or innovations. They also had legal difficulties, with lawsuits filed by the United States Supreme Court, in the late 1960s. This reduced their sales of bicycles.

Frank Schwinn focused the companies business revival, on marketing bikes to children. He used children’s television shows to advertise Schwinn bicycles. In 1971, the government investigated marketing practices of the company, on the show Captain Kangaroo. The Captain Kangaroo character, was put under scrutiny for the heavy marketing of the show’s sponsor, Schwinn Bicycle Company. Eventually, the show made adjustments to it’s marketing format of selling Schwinn bikes.

Recent History of Schwinn Bicycle Company

In the early 1960s, Al Fritz, a bike designer working for the Schwinn Bicycle Company, developed a new bike model. This new bike was called the Schwinn Stingray. It was built with 20 inch tires, a unique banana-shaped seat and high-rise handlebars. Parents hated the bicycles design, but children loved the Stingray Schwinn. Bikes of this model and design, became a huge fad and many were sold. Within two years, other bike manufacturing companies were copying this style of bike.

Concurrent with the massive popularity of the Stingray model, a new model was becoming popular for teenagers and adults. The 10 speed bike was being imported from Europe. Schwinn Bicycle Company redesigned it’s Paramount series of bikes with better quality materials. They also improved their Continental and Varsity models into multi-gear bicycles. Due to the demand for multi-gear bikes, the Sierra, Superior and Super Continental models were also manufactured.

During this time, many bike companies were developing lighter weight and thinner bikes. The buyers were interested in bikes that weighed less, and looked like European bike models. Japan was also importing lightweight models of racer style bikes to the United States. The public wanted higher quality gears and materials in the multi-gear bike. The Schwinn name was even used on some of the Japanese import bicycles. By the middle of the 1970s, many of Schwinn’s bicycles were being manufactured in Japan.

By 1975, a BMX racing bike, was created by Schwinn Bicycle Company. The styles developed during this time were the Scrambler in the 1970s, and the Predator in the 1980s. The bikes were popular, but at the same time other companies were also creating BMX racing bikes. Schwinn heavily marketed these models of bikes. They sponsored BMX racing teams, and had their bikes featured on television shows.

The mountain bike or all-terrain bicycle was the new fad in California, by the late 1970s. Schwinn Bicycle Company, was slow to begin development on this bicycle style. Their first all-terrain bike was the Klunker 5, which was poorly manufactured. It was redesigned and named the Spitfire 5, but failed and the company stopped making it. Schwinn tried again with two more models of mountain bikes, the Sidewinder and King Sting. By this time, competitors had already built better models of mountain bike, and Schwinn was struggling.

Frank Schwinn’s nephew, Edward R. Schwinn became the company’s president in 1979. The Schwinn company began to struggle financially with labor problems, and competition from overseas. In addition, the company’s factories were out-dated and un-modernized. Schwinn bicycles were out-sourced to Asia, while a new factory was developed in Mississippi. This was an assembly plant, with parts being shipped from Asia. This plant closed in 1991. The Schwinn Bicycle Company continued to struggle financially. In 1993, Richard Schwinn, Ignaz Schwinn’s great-grandson took over the company. The company was eventually sold to Pacific Cycle in 2001. Pacific Cycle was sold to Dorel Industries later.

All of these troubles make vintage Schwinn Bikes even more valuable to collectors.

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