A few days ago, someone paid $5.2 million for a LeBron James trading card from his rookie year. While I cannot understand paying that much money for a piece of cardboard, I am not surprised: Basketball, more than any other team sport, focuses attention on individual stars. And Le Bron James is arguably the brightest of the 21st Century, much as Michael Jordan, "Magic" Johnson and Julius "Dr. J" Erving were the luminaries of their times.
Of course, if someone can afford to spend that much money on a card, well, who am I to tell them they shouldn't? I suppose that if I had that much money, I probably would--after I helped people I want to help--develop some collection or another. And some people would wonder why in the world I was collecting whatever it was I was collecting.
If I were collecting bicycles...hmm...would I want classics? Bikes from a particular country or region? Genre? Color? Or would I concentrate on really obscure bikes, or ones that were not meant to be ridden?
In that last category might be this machine:
|Photo by Lisa Powell, for the Springfield News-Sun|
The color on the frame didn't come from a Krylon rattle-can. (Aside: Graffiti artists don't like Krylon. Don't ask how I know that!) In fact, it didn't come from any can or brush. It is actual gold.
To be exact, it's 14 karat gold plating on a chromed frame. Very few bikes are chromed these days because it's expensive and some jurisdictions have made it all but impossible to do because of its environmental impact. Also, if not done properly, it's worse than leaving the metal bare.
Even fewer bikes have ever been plated with gold. For a time, some Campagnolo parts were available with gold plating; a few bike makers made special-edition machines--sometimes one-offs--with the shiny yellow stuff. In 1972-73, Lambert of England offered its bike built from "aircraft tubing" with gold plating--for $259.95. Soon afterward, the price of gold skyrocketed and Lambert discontinued those bikes--which, I am sure, are collector's items.
Most other gold-plated bikes were from makers at the very top end of the food chain. Note that I said "most": The bike in the photo is not anywhere near that level.
It is, in fact, a Huffy--the millionth bike produced by the company, on 13 May 1947.
The bike is on display in the Dayton Cyclery Building its namesake city's Carillon Park. Other bikes in the museum pay homage to Miami Valley's history as a bicycle-making center. Fabricators included a couple of young men who would parlay their knowledge and skills into another invention that would change the world.
Their names were Orville and Wilbur. They used, not only the expertise in machinery they gleaned from building and repairing bikes, but what they learned about aerodynamics from different bike designs and riding positions.
Hmm...I wonder what the Wright Brothers thought about Huffy bikes. From what I've read, Huffy--known in those days as Huffman--bikes were actually respectable.