Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A medal so near & yet so far

As a collector of Art Nouveau & Art Deco cycling medals, I was intrigued by this lovely 1873 specimen on eBay. Although earlier than “my period”, its historical significance certainly caught my attention.

Consider that the late 19th century “bicycle” designs fall broadly into three periods, typified by these developments:

· 1864 – 1866. Development and marketing of the front-wheel drive velocipede (aka “boneshaker”) by Michaux/Lallement. In use till circa 1872 (example: demise of the Phantom “boneshaker” company).

· 1870. James Starley’s large front wheel drive high-wheeler (aka “penny farthing”). In use by the general public till circa 1890.

· 1885. John Kemp Starley’s chain/rear-sprocket drive “Rover” (aka “safety” bicycle). Essentially in use thereafter.

Dated medals from the high-wheeler era are not particularly rare but I have never seen a velocipede example quite as early as this. I was apparently not alone and sadly, it proved to be out of my league, commanding a final bid price of $774.

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