One of the most popular American bicycle brands during the mid-century era is the Schwinn. They stand out due to their unique designs which in turn set out a standard that other bicycle companies aspire to follow then and arguably even now. As the Schwinn bike possessed superior accommodating functional features and a very attractive signature balloon (wide) design.
Schwinn bikes are like gold pieces that can fetch you good business in the vintage bicycle market today. However, identifying and valuing these “gold pieces” can be a bit tricky. Apart from the physical features of the popular models such as black phantom, stingrays, & stingray krate, detailed features such as badges and serial numbers are the major pointers to the bike’s identity and in turn value. Because those features help collectors to indicate when and even where it was made to value them.
Read on as we delve comprehensively more into Schwinn bikes. We will briefly discuss its history. Then show you how to identify their popular models. And value them despite the market for vintage Schwinn bikes probably being oversaturated with millions of their models in circulation.
The History of Vintage Schwinn Bike
Schwinn has been in existence since the late 1800s (founded in 1895). Owned by two partners named Adolph Arnold & Ignaz Schwinn. During the company’s early years, the production of both adult and children’s bicycles was the market focus. However, until cars started to get a lot more affordable to the middle class, sales began to drop.
This sudden shift in the demand and consequent lowering of prices was about the boiling point for one of the partners named Adolph Arnold. The overwhelming state of the company forced him to sell his share of the company to Ignaz Schwinn.
Instead of throwing in the towel, Ignaz Schwinn, the now total owner of the company, sought to take on the market with a new strategy. Which is to manufacture a much better bicycle design and heavily market to people that can’t legally or quickly get a chance to drive a car (children).
So Schwinn included several features to his bikes before his passing in 1948 which offered children the premium experience that would be present in an adult model. These features include an inbuilt kickstand, cantilever frame, balloon tires, a rear-wheel brake, & spring fork. Several models were manufactured from the early 1940s down to the late 1980s.
One of the most popular models such as the black phantom existed between 1949 &1959 is the black phantom. While the other popular models such as the stingray and stingray krate reigned from the mid-1960s to the late 1970s.
How To Identify Vintage Schwinn Bikes
Before you buy or sell your vintage Schwinn bicycle you need to assess its value. And to achieve that you should at least be able to identify it.
Here are several methods for identifying your Vintage Schwinn bikes:
These badges are one of the clearest indications that your vintage bike is a product of Schwinn. Also, for each year or style of model, the badges are different.
Note: your vintage Schwinn bike may not have a badge but it can still be proven to be a Schwinn bike.
Schwinn bikes are well known for their balloon arch bars which start from the center of the bicycle frame. Such a frame is unique in the vintage bicycle market as there aren’t that many similar vintage bikes of similar designs.
You can also identify a Schwinn bike from its tire type. As Schwinn’s balloon arch extends to a balloon-style wheel frame which is built to accommodate a balloon-type tire. Such tires are the ones with a much wider diameter than most bicycle tires. It’s not hard to miss this feature.
The Schwinn bicycle’s frame design demands wider features and it doesn’t stop at the tires. It also extends to the seats, as Schwinn bikes are known to accommodate just about any but sizes. With their seat sizes varying between 10 to 12 inches wide.
Identifying Schwinn Bikes Serial Numbers
Another great way to identify your Schwinn bike is via the position of its serial number and the numbering system that was adopted to generate the serial number.
Identifying Schwinn Bikes Based On The Position of the Serial Number
Over the years since their invention, Schwinn bicycles have been marked with serial numbers in different positions. With each position indirectly indicating when your Schwinn bike model was made. For instance, from 1960 to 1969, serial numbers were usually engraved on the right rear axle mount. While Schwinn bike models made between 1970 to 1979 have their serial numbers engraved on the lower head tube.
Note: Schwinn bikes created after the 70s had the serial numbers engraved right on the bottom bracket.
Serial Numbers (numbering system)
The serial numbers on Schwinn bikes have a specific numbering system which you can also use to identify the time in which they are made. However, the numbering systems for these serial numbers vary according to era. For instance, during the period 1948 to 1958 Schwinn bikes had a solid dating system. Whereby, the common serial numbers were Z12993 & B12818.
But from 1959 to 1964 out of six or seven digits or letters the first two give a clear indication of when the bike was made. As the first letter signifies its month of manufacturing while the digit next to it signifies the year it was made. So if the serial number Starts with A9, it means the bike was manufactured around January 1959.
For Schwinn bikes made between 1965 to 1982, their numbering system is a little different. With two letters starting with the serial number. Whereby the first letter still signifies the month in which the bicycle was made. While the second letter signifies the year it was made. So if your bike possesses a serial number that starts with AA then it was made around January 1965 (with 1965 being the first year so it’s represented by the first letter A). Or if the serial number starts with DD then it was probably made in April 1968.
Identifying Different Types of Vintage Schwinn Bikes
There are various types or models of vintage Schwinn bikes. Whereby each possesses its own set of features.
here are two of the most popular models of vintage Schwinn bicycles:
Black Phantom Model
This is one of the first-ever models of Schwinn bikes to be released. It was first manufactured in 1949 and has been prominently sold till 1959. And then later manufactured again during 1995 for the sake of commemorating the model. It possesses several unique features which set it out from the other models in the market. Such features include a taillight,
Rear carrier, cycle lock steering mechanism, chrome steel fenders, whitewall tires, spring padded saddles, Bow Pedals, and a tank with horns.
Note: You can find them in various other colors such as blue, red, and even green.
Unlike the black phantom, this was considered the most sought-after bike design among kids. Due to its unique design which mimics a low riding motorcycle. Especially with its raised handlebars and banana seats that can be as wide as 20 inches. There are up to 6 versions of this model such as classics, fastback, Deluxe, Krate, Ram’s Horn Fastback, and super DELuxe.
Note: Stingray Krate happens to be the most popular out of the 6 versions mentioned.
Assessing Vintage Schwinn Bike Value
To ensure that you’ve done a proper assessment of your bike’s value here are several methods to try out and factors that must be considered:
Do Your Research
One of the best ways to assess the value of your vintage Schwinn bicycle is to do some rigorous internet research. And you can do that by visiting forums where you’ll find other collectors like yourself that can offer advice almost in the same way an appraiser would ask.
Knowing when your vintage Schwinn bicycle was manufactured will help a lot in finding its value. As older models tend to attract a higher price tag. For instance, the black phantom bike which was released in 1949 has more value in the vintage bike market than newer models such as the stingray.
Given that Schwinn bicycles are made from mostly metal parts, it’s only natural for them to fall apart after several years of storage. But if you do find a Schwinn vintage bike that happens to be in Good condition, such will attract more value than when it’s all rusted and losing its paint job.
Hire an appraiser
If you seek a professional consultant for your vintage piece then you should probably hire an appraiser. Specifically, one that has experience with valuing vintage and antique bicycles. He or she would assess your piece based on the set of factors they believe would truly show it. Value. And probably do comparisons of previously made sales of similar vintage bikes.
Another factor that helps in Assessing the price of your Schwinn bike is its authenticity. As many Schwinn bikes may not be as the seller may claim or you may have thought them to be. That’s why it’s far better to look for clues that’ll help you identify its value. For instance, clues such as the position of the serial numbers along with the numbering system will give you an idea of when it was made. And in turn, it should put you in the ballpark of what it could cost.
You can also detect its authenticity from other physical factors that were mentioned earlier in the “how to identify a vintage Schwinn bike” section of this article. Such as its badge style or presence, frame type, tire type, and seat size.
If your bike happens to be older than 1970 then it has a higher possibility of being shorter in supply than superseding models. As fewer units of such models were shortened based on the company’s budget at the time of its growth. At least until the late 1970s which was around the time the Schwinn company had the finances to manufacture millions of units. Which saturates the market for certain later models of Schwinn bikes.
There are instances where Schwinn bikes were sold specifically to commemorate certain events. A good example is the black phantom models that were designed in 1995 to celebrate the
Compare to Recently-Sold Pieces
Here’s a list of recently sold pieces that should give you an idea of how the pricings work:
- A muscle blue 1966 stingray Schwinn bike was sold for about $2000.
- A Schwinn black phantom bicycle from the late 40s (1949) was sold for $1300. It was in a fair condition.
- A Schwinn grape krate in perfect condition was sold for up to $3000.
Top 7 Vintage Schwinn Bicycle
7. vintage Schwinn tiger 1961 men’s bicycle
This is an affordable men’s Schwinn tiger bicycle that was manufactured in 1961. As one can easily tell from its serial number which says K14XXXXX. The letter “k” among the numbers states that the bike was made around November. While the digit “1” next to it states that the bike was made around 1961. Overall, the bike is in good condition and the frame has been repainted.
6. Kool Lemon Yellow 1972 Schwinn Fastback Stingray fastback Bicycle
The highly sought-after fastback Stingray bicycle comes in lemon yellow. Its overall style appears cool with its elevated handlebars, wide seat, and its gear. The paint job remains intact.
5. Schwinn 1967 Ramshorn Fastback Stingray Sky Blue vtg
Here’s another Stingray model which has the same tall seat, and gear knob section but a different style of handlebars. As they are designed to imitate the horns of a ram.
4. Schwinn Corvette Bicycle
The vintage corvette bicycle is the most sought-after in the vintage Schwinn bicycle market due to its nostalgic design. That would give any boomers or millennials a ride down memory lane. As this piece was released around 1955.
3. Vintage Schwinn Chicago Green Sting-Ray Bicycle HOT ROD PINK Banana Seat
This is a smaller Stingray model with only 36 inches of height between the top of the handles and the bottom of the tires. Its overall condition seems average with its rusted-up appearance which can be fixed with a little repainting. But the great part with this vintage price is that all the parts are still functional and are far less damaged.
2 Vintage Cardinal Red Schwinn Stingray Pixie 2 Bicycle 16 in Tire 1977 EUC
The Cardinal Red Schwinn StingRay model bike pixie 2 Bicycle is a rare kid-type vintage bicycle. As you can see from its intact training wheels. The whole setup even comes with an antique-type old horn.
1. 1995 Schwinn Black Phantom 100th Anniversary
Black Phantom Schwinn bikes are one of the most popular models in today’s vintage bicycle market. Its design consists of the Schwinn signature balloon arch frame and a great mix of colors. But a slightly narrow seat. Another special fact about this bike is its rarity. As this black phantom bike is one of many promotional bikes that was released to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the black phantom model.
How To Restore Schwinn Bikes
Are you looking to get your vintage bike up and running? Or are you looking to make a solid sale? Whichever the reason it may be it is clear that you need some tips on how to properly restore your Schwinn bike:
Here are the steps to follow:
● Gather The Necessary Equipment
What you need for this process is a bucket filled with soapy water. And the soap must be specifically made for bikes. If that happens to be out of sight or out of reach then you can make use of mild dish soap.
Note: The recommended type of soap will prevent your bike from losing its paint Job.
● Clean The Frame
Once you’ve got all the cleaning necessities set up, dunk a Piece of rag into the soapy water. Squeeze it dry and then use the rag to wipe your bike’s frame. Especially in areas that are more likely to accumulate debris such as the underside of the downtube and the fork area.
After the whole procedure, you should look to rinse off the suds from the frame of your bike. After that leave your bike to drain and dry up under the sun.
Note: Try not to get any movable part of your bikes wet such as the crank or chains. As it could cause them to rust and make their movement smoother.
● Oil Your Chain
Now that your bike is dry, the next step to take is to flip the bike upside down. This will give you easy access to the pocket and chains. After flipping the bike, apply little doses of oil or lube and then rotate the pedal backward at least 5 times.
● Purchase Replaceable Parts
Most times the problem with your vintage Schwinn bicycle may not be about built-up dirt and a bad paint job. It could also be in a bad condition due to some missing or damaged parts. Such as rusted chains.weak joints on the frame, a bent frame, or a bent fork.
Additional Online Resources
You can get more information about your vintage Schwinn bicycles from special antique bike forums such as Schwinn bike forum, the cabe, and rat rod bikes. Another way to get more information on your vintage Schwinn bicycle is to consult an appraiser or ask for advice from a friend who’s also a collector. Although the information may not be complete, he or she can give you the sense of direction you need as a novice in the business.
Where To Sell Or Buy Vintage Schwinn Bike
You can sell or buy vintage Schwinn bicycles online on reputable sites such as eBay, Etsy, old road, and Craigslist. However, you can also purchase Schwinn bikes from your bike store, or a bike repairs shop. And if you’re lucky enough you could spot them in garage sales, antique shops, flea markets, and estate sales.
By now you should be able to grasp how the market works for Schwinn bikes. As we’ve provided a summary of the Schwinn bike’s history. This should offer you insights into how the company fared over the years and when (& why) it decided to go with its unique design. You can use that information with measures that we’ve set out on how to effectively identify a Schwinn bike before assessing its value.
We’ve also provided the top 7 vintage Schwinn bicycles you buy today. Along with recent auction sales that should give you an idea of how the pricing works.