Dating a Hobbs

The Veteran-Cycle Club is the focus and inspiration for many bicycle collectors in the UK and abroad. Mervyn Cook is a former Hobbs of Barbican Marque Enthusiast for the VCC. His interest started when he found an unidentified lightweight with lovely lug-work which investigations showed to be a 1946 Hobbs Superbe.

Over the years, Mervyn compiled a register of surviving Hobbs bikes which now contains details of well over 100 machines and continues to grow. Although the Hobbs company records have not survived, documentation accompanying the frames on the register have enabled the three frame number codes to be identified and it is now possible to accurately date Hobbs frames from their unique number. The register is becoming a valuable historic database, providing an insight into the machines built by Joe and Albert Hobbs.

The oldest Hobbs recorded, a Raceweight, is accompanied by its original invoice, dated February, 1933, and numbered 680. Pre-war frame numbers simply ran numerically up to No 2202, a track iron built shortly before the war which brought Hobbs frame-building activities to a temporary end. Other interesting pre-war frames from the register include No 1649, built in about 1936, and the first frame known to have the delicately ornate "Continental Superbe" lug-work. This beautiful lug design was used by Hobbs for the post-war Superbe and the top Blue Riband models.

Dating a Hobbs
For the first two years of post-war production, frames were initially numbered with a six, seven or eight digit number, the first two of which indicate the year of build. Thus, the earliest pre-war Hobbs on the register is a Superbe, No 450535. Another Superbe, No 4601207, was built in 1946 and was also accompanied by its original invoice.

In 1947, Hobbs changed the numbering system to that used for the remainder of their time as a major frame-builder. Frame numbers were prefixed by a letter indicating the build month. The remainder of the number began with the digit indicating the year. Thus, the frame number B7500 was built in July 1947. This belongs to another Superbe model which, complete with the original invoice, is in the British Cycling Museum.

The earliest lugless frame recorded, No 46101506, was built in 1946. Frames featuring the Blue Riband's design details and extra-fine quality are also recorded as early as 1946. Using information collated from the register and surviving catalogues, it is now possible to identify most models from the lug-work and from paint finish and other details.

If you're curious about your Hobbs or have a mystery model and would like to know more then please consider joining the VCC and making use of the information available to members.

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