There is a 1983 John Howard on eBay this week. It is a frame I built in 1983 built up with a Campagnolo 50th.Anniversary Group, with lofty $7,250 “Buy it Now” price on it. Maybe overpriced, but maybe not.
People do ask that amount and more for Campagnolo 50th. Anniversary groups alone. Whether they get that amount is another story. What people ask for, and what the get are two different entities when it comes to eBay selling.
I do not know the seller of this bike or have any interest in the sale. Except that the bike’s exceptional condition caught my eye. It is as pristine as the day it rolled out of my shop 33 years ago. The owner stated:
“I only rode the bike a few times as I was always worried about damaging it. I ended up buying another bike as a daily rider with the intention of only using the Howard occasionally.
In the end, I didn't even ride it occasionally. It has spent virtually all of the last 30 years hanging in my basement.”
That is tantamount to buying a beautiful musical instrument and never hearing it played, or buying a classic car and never driving it. What a bullshit business the top end bike business is. I can’t think of any other where an artist or craftsman makes something so fine that it is considered un-useable for its intended purpose.
You see I was dammed if I did do good work, and dammed if I didn’t. When I left Masi and opened my own shop in 1983, I was competing head on with Masi. My new John Howard frame had to be as finely finished as a Masi, or even exceed it.
At the same time it sold for less than a Masi, because it didn’t have the Masi name. I even remember back then people telling me the bikes were too fine to ride, but what could I do? I wanted to command the highest price possible without pricing myself completely out of the market.
It is why I took it down a notch with the Fuso and later the Recherche. These were frames that were built straight, rode and handled exactly the same as the finely finished custom frames and the John Howard. But these were a reasonably priced bike that one could ride and enjoy. And believe it or not even race on. Imagine that, a racing bike you could actually race on.
I cannot envisage someone buying a beautiful handcrafted boat, but then never putting in the water because they were afraid to get it wet.