These days kids crave the latest smart phones but if you grew up in the 1970s there was one thing any self-respecting youngster wanted - a Raleigh Chopper.
It was the coolest of cool bicycles - different, funky, great for doing wheelies and, if your mates didn’t have one, they’d turn green with envy as they watched you cycle off into the summer sunset.
As childhood evokes such strong memories, it should have come as no surprise to see the reaction provoked on Twitter when our toy valuer Steve Fulford revealed we were selling two vintage Raleigh Choppers in our June 25 Toy Auction.
The fans came out in force when they saw images of the bikes … ‘I had a black Chopper in 71. Only one I’ve ever seen!’ … ‘I think this is a hybrid from the changeover to Mk2 from Mk1’.
The Chopper is quite possibly the most iconic bicycle ever designed. With its high backrest and curved handlebars, it was a must have for any child of the 70s.
And they were made just down the road from our Derbyshire headquarters in neighbouring Nottingham by the Raleigh Bicycle Company.
The design, influenced by dragsters and ‘chopped’ motorcycles, was so popular Raleigh sold over 1.5 million of them.
Inevitably, they were so well-loved and well-used, many didn’t survive or, if they did, they weren’t in great shape. So, to have two vintage Choppers up for auction is special. Both are original Mk2 versions. One is in need of some restoration and has a guide price of £250-£350. The other is in superb condition for its age – because it may never have been ridden.
Its Derby owner, a keen toy collector, believes that to be the case. He bought it from a fellow Midlands collector seven years ago who told him he’d kept it in his bedroom for years.
Our vendor revealed: “You could travel the length and breadth of the country for years and never come across a vintage Raleigh Chopper as good as this one. It took me seven years to find it. I looked at so many. But when you got there they were never as good as described.”
This one was, however. Our seller bought it eight years ago and tells me he had to persuade its previous owner to part with it.
The top-notch Chopper includes accessories, speedo, lamps and mirrors. It has an estimate of £400-£600 but judging by the response we’ve had that price could pedal higher.
The seller had a Chopper as a child and couldn’t resist buying the two up for auction. He is parting with them now as he wants to thin out his collections and make space.
It’s incredible to think those Choppers are worth more than their original retail price in the 1970s. In 1973 a Mk2 Raleigh Chopper cost around £34 - equivalent to around £361 in today’s money so a hefty chunk for parents to find.
The Chopper stands out because it was ground-breaking. However, its design sparks debate, with claims by both Tom Karen of Ogle Design and Alan Oakley of Raleigh.
Oakley, Raleigh’s chief designer in the 1960s, is said to have sketched the first Chopper concept design on the back of an envelope. He was inspired by ‘chopped’ motorcycles such as Harley Davidsons seen during a trip to America in the late 1960s
However, a designer named Tom Karen says he came up with the Chopper. In 1968 Karen’s consultancy firm, Ogle Design, was approached by Raleigh to design a bike that would rival the Schwinn Stingray. Karen left Ogle design in 1999 and took with him sketchbooks that contained his designs for the Raleigh Chopper.
Designers the world over who created iconic toys of any description deserve praise. As well as delighting us in childhood, the best makes and designs can be valuable today. Right now, we’re gathering vintage toys for our specialist auctions and July Antiques and Collectors sale and your toys could prove to be auction stars.
Tinplate toys from the 1940s or 50s, Dinky vehicles and train sets are collectable as are Steiff bears or Victorian dolls. But so are Tiny Tears doll from the 1960s, early Barbie and Pippa dolls and vintage Action Man toys.
Moving into the 1970s, we sold a 60-strong collection of vintage Star Wars toys for nearly £10,000 and 1980s wrestling figures or Ninja Turtle can be collectable too.
If you have toys, a vintage Raleigh Chopper or any types of antiques or collectables to sell, free, open air, contactless valuations and consignments are available at Hansons, Heage Lane, Etwall, DE65 6LS. Pop done to our safe and airy marquee Monday-Friday, 8.30am-5pm, or Saturday, 9am-noon. To arrange private, contactless valuations, email [email protected]