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   If you are not that familiar with antique tricycles, it may be hard to tell the different between a real genuine antique and a reproduction, replica and out-and-out fakes.  It's not too difficult to tell if you see the tricycle in person, but only seeing a picture on the internet (read: on eBay) may make it hard to determine the authenticity of the tricycle.  We're bombarded almost on a daily basis with pictures and request for values on tricycles that are obvious knock-offs and eBay is littered with them like a Chinese decorative tricycle factory exploded.  This page should help clear things up....hopefully.


Some Definitions:

Replica - a tricycle that is built virtually identical to an earlier model.  High quality using the same exact design.  An example are Kool Stop's line of Colson replicas.

Reproduction - a tricycle made to resemble something old, but with no intention of deceiving anyone as to its true age.

Fakes - We consider anything that is made to look old that could be passed off as old to unwitting buyers as fake.  There are a lot of these on eBay.

Fantasy Pieces - some people enjoy taking old tricycles and creating fantasy pieces with their parts.  These trikes were never factory produced.  Some are very cool and have value themselves.  Some examples include choppers and low-rider trikes.



Who Sells Fakes:

There is an enormous amount of fake items on eBay on any given day, tricycles included.  Some are meant to deceive, while others are clearly stated as decorative pieces or reproductions.  Before buying any antique looking tricycle, you should look at the pictures carefully to determine if, in fact, it is genuinely old.

     Many of the fakes that are showing up on eBay are made in China.  They can be found for sale at wholesale through many dropship providers' websites, usually for a fraction of the cost on eBay (as in a few dollars each).  These fakes have been around for a number of years at this point, and they are starting to show up in estate sales and public estate auctions, where many people are buying them to resell on eBay.  It doesn't help that some auctioneers can't tell the difference and are passing them off as antiques.

      Not all fakes were meant to be fakes.  Many were made to be sold as merely decorative items.  A lot of them are much much smaller than any tricycle would be, but it can be hard to tell size from a little picture on eBay, especially if the seller does not disclose the actual measurements.



What to Look for to Spot a Fake:

There are a number of things that can better help a buyer determine if a tricycle is a fake or actually a real antique.

  1. Wooden seats - most antique tricycles did not have wooden seats, although a few did.  If a tricycle is from before 1900 and has a wooden seat, it should show lots of wear and age.

  2. Philips head screws - No Philips head screws in the 1800's.

  3. Welds - before electricity, there was no welding.  If you see someone selling a tricycle with welds with claims it was made before 1890, they are lying.  Welds on any tricycle prior to 1900 are very rare, if not non-existent.

  4. Hex nuts & bots - genuine antiques do not have six sided bolts holding anything together.  The earliest tricycles with bolts and nuts will have four sided nuts.

  5. Steel covered wood wheels - although I have seen example of authentic tricycles with wooden wheels with strap steel over the wood (like metal tires), it is very rare.  Few were produced like this, and even fewer survive.  Most likely wood and steel together on the wheels means it is a fake - especially if any of the other things listed in this section occur on the tricycle as well.

  6. Chemical rust - anything made with iron will rust.  Many fakes are now being chemically treated to oxidize quickly and it is easy to spot.  A rusty antique tricycle will have a brown even rust to any part of the metal that has been exposed (ie. paint is missing).  Chemical oxidation causes an orange-ish rust that is spotty and seemingly not related to normal wear or exposed metal.

  7. Pots, baskets, planters etc. - No authentic antique tricycle will ever have any sort of basket on the back, period.


What About a Fake for Purely Decorative Purposes?

If you want to buy a reproduction or blatant fake, miniature or regular size for decorative purposes, we have no problem with that, and are in no way trying to discourage the sale of tricycle shaped planters and the like.  A fake 9" tricycle might look just right on your mantel or might be the perfect perch for you favorite doll or bear.

    We personally would not recommend buying a reproduction or fake however.  You can find many old and antique tricycles with as much (usually more) charm than any mass produced Asian knick knack, and you won't pay that much more for many of them.  If you purchase a $100 antique tricycle, it's likely that when you are through using it, it will be still worth $100 or more.  But if you pay $40 for a Chinese knock-off, after several years it is likely to be worth about a dollar at your yard sale.  There are roughly a couple dozen (or more) fake tricycles on eBay on any given day, and thousands more on other websites across the internet.  They are not rare and will never have any value in your lifetime, or your children's children's lifetime.



A Last Bit of Advice:

If you find an "old" or "antique" tricycle (especially on eBay) that you are thinking about buying, check out other listings on eBay to see if you can find the same exact tricycle for much less.  An eBay search for "tricycle" will only bring up around 600 results normally.  It's easy to scroll down through quickly to look for similar tricycles.  And I suggest steering clear of ANYONE who is trying to pass repros or fakes off as genuine.  If their listing says that they "aren't sure of the age" or if they allude to "not knowing" or "not sure" of anything, find another seller who does know and who is honest about their products.

Below are some examples of tricycles that have been passed off as antique for sale on the internet.  None of them are in any way old, and definitely not antique!


This tricycle sold for almost $70 with shipping on eBay.  It was advertised as a "Salesman's Sample."  Seller gave measurements, and at a foot high, it would have to be a salesman's sample or for use by a newborn. 


Some poor soul paid a whopping $61 for this trike on eBay.  This decorative tricycle can be bought from dropshippers and importers for around 5 bucks.  Advertised as "antique" and as a "boneshaker."  Seller said that it had been acquired at an estate sale where it had previously sat in a garage for "a many years."


Despite being small enough for a premature infant to ride (total of 10" high) and being pictured on a sofa table, this fake horse tricycle sold for over $70 on eBay.  There were even some scuffs to the finish added in the manufacturing process to make it look old.  Remember, people were smaller in Victorian times, its a fact, but not that small.  No authentic antique tricycle is going to be a total of 10 inches tall or have wheels that are 3 inches in diameter - and no authentic antique like this (of normal size) will sell for $70.  If it seems too good to be true, it is.


This obvious fake is one major reason we no longer give out free value estimates.  The eBay seller asked TricycleFetish about the value and age of the tricycle.  We responded that it was a couple of years old and made as a decorative plant stand or garbage can.  Seller ignored our assessment (which was 100% correct) and listed the item on eBay as being an "antique tricycle" and called it a "boneshaker." Similar imported decorative tricycle sell retail for a third or less of the $170+ price it sold for on eBay.  Also note, a good giveaway that it is a blatant fake - the stabilizing metal rod under the basket to keep it from tipping when a heavy plant is put in the basket.


...and yet another tricycle from the same seller as above.  Obvious fake.  You can't tell from this one picture, but the tricycle had brand new rough welds.  Victorian tricycles did not have welds - for obvious reasons.  This time the seller ripped someone off for over $80.



IDENTICAL tricycle to the fake pictured above sold on eBay for a more realistic $37 (shipping included) for a decorative piece.  The seller of this tricycle advertised it as "old fashioned" and "NEW."


Someone paid over $60 for this one on eBay.  Again, only a total of 9 inches tall, not big enough for a newborn to ride.  Advertised as antique and backed by a whole description about its antiquity.  Notice the rear curved seat support?  They are very very rare on original antique tricycles - very rare, and yet they show up on many of the fakes seen on eBay.


Yet another fake.  This one sold on eBay for over $40.  The same day, one that was advertised as decorative (not as being old, like this one was advertised) sold for only $5 before shipping.  Also keep in mind that these are only 9 inches tall, and should ship anywhere in the US for well under $10.  Anyone charging upwards of $20 or over may be trying to make buyers think this is larger than it actually is.


Advertised as 1860's, listed for $75 on eBay with a reserve above that price.  Nobody bid.  Obvious fake for many reasons.  No antique tricycle to our knowledge ever looked anything like this.


Is it real? Who knows.  Auctioned on eBay by a zero feedback seller for opening bid of $800.  Ended with no bids.  Most likely fake.  Click on the picture to view the photo the size it was in the auction....doesn't help much does it?


Whoever made this horse tricycle made no attempt at showing any wear at all to the paint.  Rather it was painted in a way that makes it look like there is wear.  Also, bad cast iron work and obvious fake pedals and cranks.

    We will periodically update this page with more ridiculous prices paid and asked for fakes on eBay and elsewhere as we find them.  Remember, iron tricycles that date to the late Victorian era are usually worth several hundred to several thousand dollars.  If you are unsure about the authenticity of a tricycle, you may want to purchase our price guide and our appraisal service.  The low price you pay for the guide and accompanying service could save you hundreds of dollars.

Buy the price guide now

  This horse tricycle was very cleverly aged in a number of ways, but despite all the yellowing, rust and paint flaking, there is no damage structurally or to the paint.  Also the cast iron work is horrible.  Another good giveaway that this horse tricycle is not antique is the design of the pedals.  Antique pedals are not merely rectangles of small gauge steel.    




Here are some more examples or fakes, reproductions and replicas:

Obvious faux antique tricycle with distressed seat and metal.

This is an identical tricycle as in the previous picture, this one without distressed parts.  Reproduction.

Tricycle Fetish is the only online source for antique tricycle and vintage tricycle information. We have spent numerous hours collecting information on tricycle manufacturers to provide you with a history on your old tricycle. We have included hundreds of antique tricycle photographs from the early 1800's, vintage tricycles from the 1940's to contemporary tricycles of today. We've answered thousands of questions over the years and will continue to help you in your research well into the future. We adore these tricycles just as any child would and collect them ourselves. If you find any helpful information on your tricycle here, please let us know. We love to hear from other tricycle enthusiasts. Send us photos your tricycle restorations or a photo of the trike that is special to you and we'll include it here on the site. We'd also like to include a link to your site if you provide tricycle parts, supplies, repair kits, restoration or any other type of tricycle related service.
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