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For enthusiasts, finding vintage Schwinn bicycles is an exciting hobby. Schwinn bicycles are easy to identify by the Schwinn logo displayed on the bike. But you can also look for the serial number to identify an authentic Schwinn bike. The serial number will also indicate when it was made, which can help you estimate the value of the particular Schwinn bike.
Look for the balloon frame. Schwinns are best known for the arched bar in the middle of the frame, also called the balloon frame. Not all Schwinns are made with this frame. Some Schwinns follow other popular design models such as 10-speed or mountain bikes.
Look for balloon tires. Balloon tires are bigger in diameter and can be wider than most other bicycle wheels and are made to go over sand. That is why Schwinns are also called beach cruisers.
Look for a wide seat. The balloon frames will have a wide seat that is meant to accomodate most of the average bottom size. The seats on Schwinn beach cruisers can be approximately 10 to 12 inches wide.
Find the serial number on the bicycle. Schwinns produced between 1960 and 1969 have serial numbers on the right rear axle mount (this mount keeps the wheel in place). Look for the serial number on the lower head tube (right above the wheel on the front of the bike) for Schwinns produced between 1970 and 1979. Those produced after these dates will usually have a serial number stamped on the bottom bracket shell (the rear axle hanger holding the wheel in place).
Identify Schwinns produced before 1948 by looking for either of these serial numbers: B12818 or Z12993.
Interpret the serial numbers of bikes produced between 1959 and 1964. Those Schwinn bikes produced before 1959 have no real system to numbering but the serials typically contain six or seven numbers or letters. (Go online to Re-Cycle.com for a list of serial numbers between 1949 and 1959.) Those bikes produced between 1959 and 1964 typically start with a letter representing the month it was produced (A=January, B=February, and so on) followed by a digit representing the year (9=1959, 0=1960, 1=1961, 2=1962, 3=1963, 4=1964).
Read the serial numbers of bikes produced between 1965 and 1982. The numbering system changed. The first letter still represents the month the bike was produced, and the second letter now represents the year. For example, a serial number starting with AA means it was made in January 1965, BA corresponds to February 1965, CC corresponds to March 1967, and so on.
Distinguish Le Tour or Super Le Tour Schwinn models by looking for the "S" in front of the serial number. These bikes were produced between 1972 and 1986. The serial numbers will have a letter in the second position representing the month it was produced, and a number in the third position representing the year.
Take the date of production gathered from the serial number, the model printed on the bike itself, and the overall visual design and compare it to a Schwinn pricing table like that found at OldRoads.com. OldRoads.com will provide some information about Schwinn bikes and pictures of them.
Do a quick search online at sites like eBay.com or SchwinnBike.com to find other photos of that particular bike model to compare to the bike your interested in. SchwinnBike.com, however, does not have a huge classic bike index to compare older models with. On eBay, look closely at bikes that have a clear number of the serial number so that it will increase the likelihood that you are using an authentic Schwinn as a comparison to the bike you are interested in.