BBC Antiques Roadshow expert puts £2,000 valuation on child-sized penny-farthing

1880s mini-high wheeler was bought from house clearance shop for £200

An expert on the BBC TV programme Antiques Roadshow has put a £2,000 valuation on a child-sized penny-farthing bicycle, stunning the owner who bought it for a tenth of that sum in a house clearance sale.

The owner had brought the Victorian bicycle to the filming of the latest episode of the show at Newcastle Civic Centre.

Expert Adam Schoon, who specialises among other things in Victoriana, asked him how he had come by it, and the guest explained: “I got it from a house clearance shop in North Shields, locally.

“It was lying at the back of the shop beside this old sofa and I just saw it lying there and I had a feeling this is going to be worth a bit of money.

“So what I did was I went and did a bit of research on the internet and I discovered there was one in America that was worth quite a bit of money, so I thought how am I going to get this on the cheap?

“I went and picked a few of the items in the shop, a few lights and things like that and I made the guy an offer of £300 for the whole lot. Overall it cost about £200.”

Asked by Schoon how recent the purchase had happened, he said it took place “about a year ago.”

Schoon told him: “The bike is made of two things. Wood and iron. An original handle there and what was this?”, he asked, indicating the other end of the handlebar.

The guest replied: “It was an old file handle so I drilled the end and I carved it a bit and I varnished it with a bit of coloured varnish.”

When asked whether he was “an engineer or something,” the guest said that he was.

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Schoon said: “When I first saw it, I really didn’t know whether it was a fake or whether it was real.

“Let’s have a quick look just here and here, there are two rivets which you can see are handmade. This is a hand-wrought bicycle.

“It’s got tyres made of iron. This is before pneumatic, pump-up tyres. Originally it would have had a leather seat, a bit of token comfort.”

Referring to the bicycle’s size, he said: “What must’ve charmed you is the fact that it’s for a child,” to which the guest responded, “I’ve never seen anything like it before, it’s quite fascinating.”

“I think you’ve probably got the feeling that it is actually a period one from the 1880s and indeed, it is an American one,” Schoon continued.

“They call them high wheelers and the men who used to ride, penny-farthings as we call them, they’re called wheel men, or wheeler men.

“It owes you the equivalent of £200, in this condition it’s clearly worth £2,000,” he added. “You have done well.”

The owner replied: “What?! Goodness. Knock me over with a feather. Goodness me. £2,000?!”

You can watch the clip from Sunday’s programme here.

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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