Schwinn Sting-Ray bicycle, $5.

The collecting of antique and vintage bicycles has become huge in recent years and you can bet that knowing at least a little about what you're likely to encounter will pay you well! One of the most important of these collectable brands is the institution known as Schwinn.

Back in the early 1960's, muscle cars were all the rage, and Schwinn had the idea of making some of that 'muscle,' available to millions of kids. So in 1963, Schwinn introduced their Sting-Ray line, which changed the world of bicycles forever. There had never been anything like the Sting-Ray, with its weird handlebars and unusual banana seat. Apparently parents hated them, but the kids thought they were so cool that in 1963 alone, Schwinn sold over 40,000 Sting-Rays, and would've sold more if they hadn't run out of 20-inch tires!

The final mutation of the Sting-Ray bicycle was the 'Krate,' of which over a million copies were sold between 1968 and 1970, making it one of Schwinn's most popular bicycles ever. The Krates were identifiable by the unusual names that matched the bikes' colors: 'Apple Krate,' 'Pea Picker,' 'Grey Ghost,' 'Orange Krate,' and 'Lemon Peeler,' some of which are shown below.

The Krate bikes sported fat 'racing slick' style rear tires, springer front forks, small 16-inch front wheels, rear shock absorbers and even front drum brakes. Some models even sported rear disc brakes! But the Krate had one feature that was of extra special interest to the authorities - the 'Stik Shift' shifter - which resembled an actual car stick shift, which was mounted right on the bike's center bar to operate the 5-speed rear derailleur. This shifter understandably caught the attention of the Consumer Products Safety Commission in 1974, which banned its use, effectively consigning the Krate to history.

So, here we have an item that was a wildly-popular icon of pop culture, shot down right at the height of its popularity. To see just what a perfect collector scenario all this turned out to be, all you have to do is search eBay's closed auctions for the word Krate, and see how some of these old Krate bikes are selling well into the #2000 - $3000 range!

A very important issue to cover here is the 'parts and pieces' factor spawned by the collectors' love for these old bikes. Whenever you encounter any chunk of history that has such a powerful collector interest, you should always consider the peripherals. Virtually all of the parts, accessories, paperwork and anything else you can think of related to these old Sting Ray bikes is very marketable on eBay, as are even the more mundane renditions of the reg'lar old Sting Rays.

As if you hadn't already guessed, Sting Ray or not, other vintage Schwinn stuff is highly sought-after by collectors who collect anything and everything related to vintage Schwinn bicycle stuff. Schwinn was a notorious producer of 'original' accessories for their bicycles. And it was common practice back in the day to head down to your local Schwinn shop and peruse the aisles for original parts and pieces like headlights, locks, tires, tire gauges, seats, hand grips, and anything else you can imagine. All were marked Schwinn, and all had - whether on the item itself or on the packaging - the characteristic red and white Schwinn look.

Several years ago, I sold a vintage Schwinn oil can on eBay, and it turns out that the high bidder was actually a member of the Schwinn family, who was trying to gather together some of the parts and pieces from the empire that Schwinn represented back before the World changed and everything went overseas.

The Sting Ray in our example here is a 1999 promo for Country Time lemonade, and even these bikes sell for several hundreds of dollars on eBay. But as you can see, our bike here isn't one of the better examples of a Sting-Ray bicycle, since someone of little sense left it out in the weather.

But that doesn't really matter, because what this bike really did do, was give me the opportunity to cover yet another tiny sliver of the big and beautiful world of profit opportunity that's out there waiting for you!

Photo of Schwinn Sting Ray bicycle