How to Identify & Value Vintage Tricycle? (Guide 2023)

Vintage tricycles were literally the showstoppers in those days of yore! From kids to adults, everyone had a tricycle of his own. But today, I find many people just dump this ancient beauty in the junk or exchange it for free, thinking it’s cheap and common!

But you would be surprised to know I’ve seen precious vintage tricycles selling for about $1000!

And for that, you’d only need to note its age and brand and value it in an antique market! So, do you want to do the same? Well, join me on this journey, and we’ll discover your tricycle’s worth together!

Key Takeaways

  • Vintage tricycles won’t be mechanized. So, look for hand-made marks like spoked wheels, carved mudguards, seats, and bolted joints.
  • Branded or limited-edition tricycles like those from Schwinn or Murray fetch the best returns.
  • Look for tricycles with simple wood, bamboo, oak, or cast-iron frames for good value. Also, check the patent numbers and wheels to hike the costs.
  • Among the four types of vintage tricycles, you’ll get a $1000 – 4000 value for delivery and tandem tricycles.

What Makes a Vintage Tricycle Special & Valuable?

Vintage Tricycle with Curved Handles and Decals

Now, you might have seen the common tricycles with plastic seats, stickers, and chains. But vintage tricycles had so many unique features like low-step iron frames, thin handles, and rod pedals. And their front wheels were also large, about 40 inches in diameter!

But that’s not all! Below are some more unique features to spot a valuable vintage tricycle:

  • Spoked or solid rubber wheels with gas tubes 
  • Single, hand, or foot-operated drum or caliper brakes
  • Artistic features like textured paints, carved fenders, pin striping, or decals
  • Hardwood seats with antique Philips head screw or hex bolts
  • A 20 – 26-inch bicycle frame with oxidized black, white, brown, red, or blue finishes
  • 2 – 3 hub gears on the back

Let’s See the History & Evolution of Vintage Tricycles

It’s rare to have two makers for the same artifact, right? But, with vintage tricycles, we still have this debate! Some say that Stephan Farffler made the first tricycle in the 1680s, while others track it back to the 1700s in France.

But we at Antiques Know How know for sure that the earliest tricycles had levers, pedals, and cranks. But yes, they were pretty crude and had no chains or tubes. So, this increased friction and led to those creaky, squeaky noises with age.

Things changed in the 1870s when James Starley added chain drives, machine levers, and low-rise frames to the models. And this made them more functional and in demand. So makers shifted to steel and rubber for faster production.

The next 1950s tricycles were just the evolved versions of the same model. Like, they had small, same-sized wheels, tubes, baskets, and carriers. It’s just that they were fully machined and mass-produced. So, they are relatively common and cheaper than the rest.

4 Types of Vintage Tricycles & Their Base Prices

Now, the old tricycles were crude and didn’t have multiple gears for daily jobs. So, people tweaked them a little, leading to the four types as follows:

1. Vintage High-Wheel Tricycles

Old High-wheel Tricycles

High-wheel tricycles, aka ordinary tricycles, are just what they sound like! I mean, they have high, 40” front wheels that support (rather imbalance) the rider and his saddle seat. Plus, you might see some handmade features like direct drives, spoked wheels and curved handles.

Also, look for simple spoon brakes and metal rear platforms on the tricycle’s base. Overall, these cost around $180 – 350, but branded ones can go up to $1300 too!

2. Low Step-through Tricycles

If your tricycle has a curved, low-rise frame without any extra rod or seat, it must be a 1900s, step-through tricycle. Such tricycles were very lightweight and popular among women. Plus, most had small wheels and rubber tires for grip.

Other than that, you’ll also see some extra saddles, coaster brakes, and mudguards. So, these are a bit costly, between $500 – 1200.

3. Delivery Tricycles

Vintage Delivery Tricycles with Carrier boxes

Ever seen the delivery vehicles from Wendy’s or Culvers? Well, delivery tricycles are just like their manual versions, costing $700 – 6000. So, you can look for features like carrier boxes, padded seats, and fenders. Besides, you’ll get curved handles with extra rubbers for grip!

4. Tandem Tricycles

Old Double-Seat Tandem Tricycles

Tandem tricycles are new, double-seat cycles for friends and couples. So, they have all those new features like steel frames, multi-speed gears, hand brakes, and coasters. It usually costs about $1000 – 4000, but you can resell branded pieces for up to $6000.

7 Factors to Identify & Appraise Vintage Tricycles Correctly

As we saw, we can start valuing an old tricycle by its type and base price. But some crucial factors, such as age and design, also impact the final value. Let’s see how:

1. Vintage Tricycle Age & Patents

Vintage Kids Tricycle from the Early 1900s

If you want to know if your old, rusty tricycle is antique or not, you must check its age and dates. Well, the easiest way to do that is to check the printed dates on its frames. But if that’s not there, you can even check the patent numbers on its pedals.

Here are some numbers for reference:

YearAgePatent NumberRough Resale Value
199132 yearsUS5240267A (Patent for Old Tricycles with Sprockets)$700 – 2000
196558 yearsUS3583727A (Patent for Children’s Tricycle)$500 – 1700
196657 yearsDE1298013B (Patent for Crank Drive Tricycles)$1200 – 3000

Other than that, we also have some quick clues to help you confirm the dates. So, let’s check those:

The 1850s Tricycles

The 1850s tricycles were a mix of artisanal and machine products. So you’ll see wood frames, drive chains, and spoon brakes on one hand and saddle seats on the other. Metal rims and wood spokes will also be common. Also, you can charge $1000 – 7000 for them.

The 1900s Tricycles

If your tricycle has a low-step steel frame, gears, shifting bars, and rubber grips, it must be a 1900s tricycle. Such trikes cost around $700 – 4000 and often have saddle seats, boxes, and carriers. Plus, they also have rubber and metal tires with air-filled tubes as shock absorbers.

The 1950s Tricycles

Does your tricycle have sleek, high-step steel frames? Or does it have all those modern leather straps and handles? If yes, it’s a 1950s tricycle, costing $500 – 3000. You’ll get all the modern features with these – stickers, decals, bells, horns, lights, and whatnot!

Also, these might have adjustable handles and seats. Plus, their wheels will be small and even, with an extra rear platform for balance.

Get vintage tricycles with extra accessories like planters, hand cranks, animal or bird-shaped heads for a rare, handmade make.

2. Vintage Tricycle Framing Materials

You all might have seen steel or plastic tricycles in your antique shop. But do you know that back then, it was more vernacular? For example, makers used local woods like Oak, Ash, and Beech to frame the tricycles. And later, they moved to alloyed iron for strength.

So here’s how much you can charge for each of them:

Antique Tricycle Frame MaterialsEstimated Price
Wood – Oak, Ash, Beech$700 – 4000, but Bamboo and Wicker ones might go to $7000
Cast, Wrought, or Alloyed Iron$500 – 4000
Alloyed or Galvanized Steel$500 – 2000
Aluminum or Zinc Compounds$200 – 1500
Plastic, Acrylic$50 – 300

Try to get tricycles with a metalized, chrome, or hand-painted finish for more returns.

3. Antique Tricycle Brands

Antique Branded Tricycles with a Black Finish

Need a durable, high-investment tricycle? Then it’s best to get branded models. But first, you need to check their logos from their frames, head tubes, or fenders. Then, simply match the brand name from our list to get the exact resale value!

Vintage Tricycle BrandsTop FeaturesAverage Cost (To be added to the Base Value)
SchwinnLow step-through frames, Wide handlebars, Cargo baskets, and carriers$500 – 2000
Radio FlyersRed steel frames, Adjustable seats, and Spoked Wheels$600 – 1800
ColumbiaPolished steel frames, Adjustable seats, fenders, and Pneumatic tires$200 – 1500
GartonOrnate fenders, handlebars, hard steel frames, and seats$300 – 1500
MurraySteel frames, straightforward designs, and Adjustable Seats$400 – 2000

Try to get tricycles with their original stickers, fenders, carriers, and rear seats for the best returns.

4. Old Tricycle Wheel Types

Different Types of Vintage Tricycle Wheels

What kind of wheels do you see in tricycles nowadays? Only the tubed, rubber ones, right? But surprisingly, vintage tricycles had more variety, like spoked and inflated tires. So, these obviously have different features, shapes, and values. So, let’s have a look!

Old Tricycle WheelsTop FeaturesAverage Cost (To be added to the Base Value)
Wooden Spoked WheelsHardwood wheels with Stripped Metal Rims$25 – 150
Wire-Spoke Tricycle WheelsSteel wire core, Wood spokes, and Rims$9 – 50
Solid Rubber WheelsMetal rims with inflated solid rubber tubes on top$40 – 100
Pneumatic (Air-filled Tires)Air-filled tires with encased inner tubes and outer rubber tires, and shock absorbers$10 – 70

5. Vintage Tricycle Seats

Vintage tricycles have three types of seats: Wooden, metal, and plastic. Of these, the wooden ones are hand-chiseled and may have some old lacquers and Shellac. So, they cost more, from $100 – 500.

In contrast, the metal or plastic seats are new and machine-made. So, they are cheaper, from $5 – 60.

Always check the screws and seat hardware before purchase. Look for seats with four-sided screws or Philips bolts for good resale.

6. Old Tricycle Joints

Vintage tricycles won’t have any welding marks for gusset plates. Instead, they’ll have simple glued or stapled joints. You might see metal or leather casing in some new models, but those might have cracks. So, you can restore them with wax for more value.

Avoid getting vintage tricycles with broken, chipped, or faded parts, which might lose their value by 12 – 15%.

7. Vintage Tricycle Colors

If you want a rare, high-value tricycle, get the ones with natural red, blue, white, or black pigments. Yes, you’ll see gold or silver parts in the branded ones, but those might be new and spray-painted. Even the purple and pink trikes are cheaper due to the machine polish.

How Do You Clean Old Tricycle Parts?

Prepare a mild solution of warm water and abrasive soap and spray this on all the oily parts to remove the grime. Next, scrub it with a scouring brush and simply rinse it with water.

How Do You Lubricate a Vintage Tricycle?

You can lubricate vintage tricycles with any commercial lubricants, greasers, or WD-40 lubes. Otherwise, you can also wipe the parts with common linseed oil to prevent rust.

Which Vintage Tricycle Parts Should I Oil?

You should oil all the moving tricycle parts like chains, levers, seats, handles, and wheel brackets to reduce friction. Also, pour a drop or two on the brake assemblies to reduce the creaking noise.

Vintage tricycles are a lovely collectible for your garage. But, to get the authentic ones, you must check their age and brand. And the most reliable and trusted way is to observe their marks and compare them from our tables. I am sure, you’ll value your piece on your own!

And, if you want to value more garage items like ‘pedal cars,’ ‘go-karts,’ and ‘mini-bikes,’ I’ll be happy to help!

Judith Miller
Judith Miller

Judith is an antique expert with nearly 20 years of experience in the field of antique identification and valuation. She has reviewed over 30 thousand vintage items and has worked with numerous antique shops. She enjoys seeing new places, attending antique shows and events, and sharing her knowledge with people! Know more about me

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