What is a vintage frame worth? The short answer is: whatever someone else will pay for it.
The current Hetchins designs were introduced in 1987. Any design introduced since then can be ordered new. Therefore the maximum value of any Hetchins made since 1987 must be whatever it would cost to (re)order it new. This applies to any frame made during the time when Hetchins and Jackson were officially united, from 1986 to 1993, as well as subsequent production to the present.
For frames made prior to the introduction of the present designs, that is for frames made prior to April 1986, the present collector's value may, or may not, be higher than the original purchase price (adjusted for inflation and exchange rates, of course). This depends on a number of factors, not all of which pertain to the item's material worth as a piece of craftsmanship. These factors include the following:
1. Current condition. Pre-1986 frames in unused condition are highly unlikely, although even these do turn up: click here for an example. Generally, a bike in grade 3 condition or worse cannot be worth more now than new.
Should a frame offered for sale be renovated by the seller or the buyer? Generally, by the buyer. First, because the buyer will want his color scheme, not the seller's. Second, because renovation/restoration is a labor of love; the seller should not expect to get his costs back out of it if he resells.
2. Rarity and significance of the design also play a part in the current value of a vintage bike frame. However, given that any lug design can be cut new, "rarity" alone is hardly a decisive valuation factor. The first ever exemplar of any given model is, however, not a material feature which could be duplicated, and might therefore justify a higher current than original asking price, from a collector's standpoint.
3. Other immaterial factors: such as sentimental value ('I had one when I was a kid but it got stolen'), documented provenance, illustrious pre-ownership, show bike, bike with race history, etc., may figure into the valuation of a vintage bicycle frame. However, it is very difficult to place a monetary value on these factors.
In the opinion of this Editor, anyone who pays more for a used frame than what it would cost to duplicate it new is a fool. Unless there are immaterial factors involved which are relevant to the buyer. For example, David Miller can duplicate the frames which raced in the 1952 Tour of Briain, but, obviously, not the fact that they raced in the Tour. So, anyone who pays more for a 1952 Experto Crede than it would cost David Miller to duplicate new, has paid too much. Unless it is one of the very Expertos which actually raced in the '52 ToB, and precisely that factor is relevant to the new owner.
Current USA market prices for specific models: the MO ii is by no means rare; hundreds were produced; nonetheless, it is probably the most sought after Hetchins design of all. A good condition (grade 2 or better) MO ii with original equipment (Campag, TA, etc.) typically brings 2000 to 3000 USD. Other models, including Vade Mecum, Experto Crede, Spyder, and Six-Day, have been trading for between 800 and 1200 USD, depending on condition and equipment. Example: in August 2006, a 1970s Spyder was offered at ebay; it featured original paint, transfers, and a complete Campag NR groupset anodized in gold, all in grade 1-2 condition; it brought 1250 USD. A few exceptionally rare or fine examples have sold for between 2000 and 2500 USD; these included show bikes, exhibition pieces, prototypes, and one-off special orders--all in grade 1 condition (i.e., never built up, or built up once and never ridden). Italias, track bikes, and pre-1950s bikes tend to go for 600 to 1000 USD, depending on condition and equipment. Magnum Bonums will go for between 1000 and 2000, depending on condition and equipment. The Cognoscenti model was not popular--only 25 were built, and only three are known to have survived--so on the basis of rarity alone, a Cognoscenti should fetch a higher price than an MO ii. But Cognoscentis are, by common consent, the only ugly Hetchins design; only a collector with a foible would love one. No Cognoscenti has recently changed hands, so all bets are off, what price a collector is actually prepared to pay for one. Occasionally an even rarer find turns up, such as a TRIO or a Toni Merkens--only one TM is known to have survived and a few TRIOs. Neither one of these models was produced in quantity (only a dozen TRIOs are thought to have been made in total); prices for such a frame depend on how badly the prospective owner/collector wants to have it. To date, such frames have changed hands without the seller knowing what it was he had, the buyer having discovered it himself only after having acquired it. So far as the Editor knows, neither the TRIO owners nor the Merkens owner has any intention of selling.
UK prices for complete bikes run in the following range: Competition II, fully restored with period-correct components, grade 1, 750 GBP. 1952 Experto Crede, Bonum-type fork crown, renovated by Argos, grade 1, mostly Campag, Stronglight cranks, 675 GBP. 1954 Vade Mecum, by original owner with racing history, mixed components, grade 2-3, 450 GBP. 1957 Experto Crede, plain fork crown, period components, grade 4, 275 GBP (subsequently renovated by Argos for 420 GBP incl. double box lining). 1960 Brilliant curly, grade 3, original paint, transfers, headbadge, receipt, family of first owner, went for 600 GBP. 1964 Experto Crede, plain fork crown, period components (no wheels), grade 2, 475 GBP. 1962 Magnum Bonum, mixed components, grade 1, 1000 GBP. 1970 Magnum Opus Hellenic, mixed Campag, TA, Mafac components, grade 1, 850 GBP. 1973 Spyder track bike, original Campag equipment, grade 1, 485 GBP. 1978 Spyder, full Campag, original paint, grade 2, 400 GBP. 2001 MO ii (special order), full Campag, grade 1, 1000 GBP.
1930s and 40s frames in tatty condition, are currently running at 300 to 400 GBP, but up to 650 if the frame includes original parts. Sale by original owner's family with original receipt will tend to the higher end of the scale. Bear in mind that renovating a frame will increase its resale value, but not necessarily enough to recover renovating costs. Renovating Hetchins is for fun, not profit.
Pre-War tandems are rare; we do not know how many were built, but only about five are known to have survived. One recently sold at ebay for 430 GBP, including parts but in need of renovation; another in renovated condition was offered for 2,000 GBP but received no bids.
Special cases: these include special order frames, frames with illustrious previous owners, and rare models. For example, a 1989 MO iii illustriously pre-owned went at ebay for 1500 GBP, whereas a similar MO iii not illustriously pre-owned went for 1000 GBP at ebay. A Vade Mecum Superb (very rare, frame only) went for 600 GBP (ebay). Two other special cases sold at ebay in January 2008: Novus Ductor track bike with extra-long spear-point extensions, frame/fork only, never built up, second highest Southend serial number, for 1500 USD; Scorpion Bonum curly, frame/fork only, very early Jackson-build, never built up, for 1200 USD; both frames were from a consignment Alf took over to the Long Beach Calif show (1985?) and which were stored in Mill Valley for 20 years before being offered for sale. Two Magnum Opus Phase Is have traded at or just above 2000 USD.
ebay prices tend to be inflated, sometimes wildly so. In June 2013, for example, one particular seller offered several bikes for sale simultaneously, among them a 1950 Nulli, which drew an offer of 4,500 USD; 1955 Massed Start, 3,500 USD; 1938 Competition, 7,500 USD; and a 1937 Anglo-Continental which drew at least one offer of 8,000 USD (not the closing prices, I might add)--in the opinion of this Editor, these are completely unrealistic prices. David Miller could have built them (retro lugs and everything) for considerably less than that. The psychology of time pressure has an inflationary effect which does not always reflect the market value of an item (Hetchins or otherwise); a fool and his money are soon parted at ebay.
Click here a note on rarity (scroll down to the bottom).