you have a passion for antiques and collectibles - and writing?
Wayback Times invites you to submit freelance articles for use
in print and on our new web site.
your text submissions
The Wayback Times.
published in the Wayback Times since 1995 have covered a wide
range of interests, from Golliwoggs to toy VW collecting, and
from collecting insulators to hunting old books.
authors of our online selection of articles have included their
e-mail addresses and they are always delighted to hear from other
- Inside Antiques,
by Robert Reed
- Inside Antiques:
- Motorcycle Collectibles Zoom, Zooming
- By Robert Reed
More and more people
are climbing upon their gleaming motorcycle and zooming over
- Federal government figures show motorcycle sales increased
by more than 50% in the late 1990s in the United States. A number
of studies have suggested the Baby Boomer generation may be leading
the pack, complete with appropriate attire. One current estimate
indicates nearly half of North Americas motorcycle riders
are over 40 years of age.
- As the relationship between Boomer and bike grows, so also
grows the appeal of motorcycle collectibles. Vintage motorcycles,
jackets, helmets, posters, postcards and more are getting a lingering
- The American motorcycle was born of humble beginnings early
in the 20th century.
- In 1902, builder Oscar Hedstrom and financier George Hendee
teamed up to form the Indian Motor Cycle Company in Springfield,
Massachusetts. That same year, their efforts produced a single-cylinder
model. The following year, William Harley joined Arthur and Walter
Davidson in the Midwest to form the fledgling Harley-Davidson
Motor Company. They too built a motorcycle in their first year,
but did not have a formal sale until one year later in 1904.
- There were other American motorcycle makers of that era as
well besides Indian and Harley-Davidson. Among them were Excelsior,
Henderson, Merkel, Pierce, Schickel and Thor. Most had toolshop-like
beginnings with varying degrees of success.
- Within five years of launching, the Harley-Davidson operation
had grown to a full-fledged factory with 18 employees.
- Meanwhile, 1912 advertisements
for the rival Indian Motorcycle boasted, It is the most
desirable motorcycle today, and a demonstration at our Motorcycle
Annex will convince you of the superiority in design and workmanship
of the Indian.
- That year, their single cylinder model was $200 and the twin
cylinder model sold for $250.
- Harley-Davison had a good year in 1912 as well. They built
a six-story headquarters and factory in Milwaukee, Wisconsin,
and began exporting motorcycles to Japan. By 1915, they added
a sliding-gear transmission with final and primary drive on the
same side. Their three-speed transmission 1916 model was a nationwide
- By most accounts, both the Indian and the Harley-Davidson
were selling extremely well even in worldwide markets by the
onset of World War I in 1917. Both companies provided motorcycles
for the United States military during that conflict.
- In 1919, the competing firms both advertised in prestigious
magazines including the Saturday Evening Post with determination
- Economically speaking, up until that time, the early 20th
century had been a marvellous time for the motorcycle. People
wanted mobility, and for most of them the automobile was still
too expensive. So many went for two wheels instead of four.
- During the 1920s, however, the family-oriented automobile
finally began to edge out the motorcycle market. The Great Depression
of the 1930s that followed pretty much finished off the major
gains of the motorcycle and left sales mostly to lone wolves
in the marketplace.
- Harley-Davidson hit a few bumps but kept rolling. Indian
struggled and never fully recovered. The half dozen or so other
smaller U.S. motorcycles simply slipped out of the business.
- Mail-order companies like Sears and Roebuck made an attempt
to entice the motorcycle customer early in the 1940s despite
the hardships of World War II. A 1944 Sears catalogue advertisement
featured a driver and a bike encouraging sales of motorcycle
tires. As all tires were under federal regulation at the time
it warned, Be sure to include (your) Ration Certificate,
properly signed with your order of these tires. The All-State
motorcycle tires were $8.95 each.
- Accessories had growing appeal for the motorcycle rider in
- Montgomery-Ward offered an all-black motorcycle jacket in
their 1950 catalog. It had 7-inch zippers from below the elbow
to the cuffs, and a detachable collar. Price was $29.98.
- The arrival of the golden age in the 1950s brought
a significant rise in the motorcycle culture, notes author
Rin Tanaka, who wrote Motorcycle Jackets: A Century of Leather
Design, now in its second edition.
- Films like
The Wild One, created an image of freedom in the biker with a
black leather jacket.
- By the 1950s, several companies had emerged, including
Buco, Beck, Langlitz, Leathertogs, and Trojan. adds the
- Tanaka considers that golden age of motorcycle jackets to
be distinctive, flight jackets were a big influence at
the beginning of this era, but new styles in motorcycle jackets
began to appear.
- At some point during that same era, the Harley-Davidson Cycle
Champ motorcycle jacket sold for $34 and the Cycle Queen was
$27.95. Elsewhere, the Buco Weather-King for men was $37.50 and
the 1957 Weather-Queen was priced at $32.50.
- Catalogues continued to offer motorcycle accessories in great
numbers during the 1960s. The best buy in the 1965 Sears catalog
however was a bike called the Allstate 250. Made in Austria,
it sold $489 and promised to be sure-footed at speeds up
to 80 miles per hour. Allstate brand safety helmets, goggles,
and face shields are also available. Sears also offered fiber
glass saddle bags, windshields, and clamp-on mirrors too.
- Montgomery Ward advertised motorcycle helmets in bright colours
in the 1968 catalogue. A blue metal choice was $33.85, while
the red panel selection was $38.95. Optional was a snap on shield
for extra protection
keeps wind, rain and dust out
- During the 1990s, Harley-Davidson lent their image to a series
of beanbag-style dolls. The six-inch characters included Chopper,
Motorhead, Punky, Racer and Rachet. Doll
accessories ranged from a cloth bandana to a vinyl jacket. Earlier
in the 1990s, somewhat taller plush toy animals were offered
promoting Harley Davison Motor Cycles.
collectors potentially have an entire century of motorcycle collectibles
available to them. One area would include dealer memorabilia
including billheads, letterheads, sales sheets, and signs. There
is also a wide range of advertisements which appeared in
newspapers and magazines over the decades.
- Additionally, there are vintage postcards, event and advertising
posters, manuals, classic catalogs, black and white photographs,
badges, caps, logo shirts, and of course leather motorcycle jackets.
- Recommended reading: Motorcycle Jackets: A Century of Leather
Design, 2nd edition, by Rin Tanaka (Schiffer Publishing).
- 1 - A 1916 Harley-Davidson twin-cylinder motorcycle
- 2 - Indian Motorcycle ad for the 1912 models
- 3 - A $29,98 motorcycle jacket, catalogue circa 1950
- 4 - Cast-iron Harley toy made by Hubley in the 1930s
- Robert Reed has written on antiques and collectibles for
more than two decades. He has also authored 15 books, including
his recently released Antiques and Collectible Dictionary, available
- Return to
top of page
- This Is Livin' Publishing ©
- 581 8th Line West, RR1 Hastings,
ON, K0L 1Y0
- Phone/Fax: 705-696-1833