Frequently where the provenance of a frame is well documented or can be linked by the original owner to a specific event, it can contradict the year that the frame number appears to indicate. Much of this has to do with the way that the cycle trade operates and specifically David Rattray & Co. and the business they built up over a number of years.

In the absence of any supporting documentation or knowledge of the original sale, it is reasonable to assume that the age of the frame or bicycle is that indicated by the frame number.

This is not as straightforward as it seems, and there is a need to qualify this statement and to perhaps explain the reason that apparent discrepancies can and do exist ;

Rattray's business included the construction of lightweight frames by their own framebuilders. These were built throughout the year to be sold on there own or built up into complete bicycles. direct by Rattray's, by other Cycle Shops acting as agents, and by mail order.

A large number of frames were built in advance in both a finished and unfinished state. Finished frames (i.e. complete and painted etc.) in the more popular colours and sizes, were effectively 'ready to retail' complete and stamped with a frame number appropriate to the year to be sold. Those finished frames not used directly for display, and the unfinished or 'bare' frames would be held, in stock awaiting completion or use, to fulfil orders and replenish display stock.

Where it was not possible to meet the requirements of the customer from the finished stock, the unfinished stock would be used in the first instance. If however there was no suitable frame from stock or as a result of some other unusual request by the customer (Rattray's options list was wide and varied), a frame would have to be built from scratch.

All frames were stamped with the frame number prior to painting with the next sequential frame number, and a code appropriate to that year. If frames were to go into immediate use, either for display or for sale they would have been stamped a short time after construction. If however the frames were to be held as unfinished stock, no number would have been applied, effectively preventing them from becoming 'dated'. Unfinished frames could therefore receive a frame number some time after construction.

How long display or 'finished' stock would remain unsold depended on demand for that particular size or colour. More often than not, a number of finished frames and complete bicycles were carried over from one year to the next. It is therefore possible to have a frame with one particular years 'frame number' sold within days, within the same year, or at the extreme anything up to say three years from when it was first stamped with the frame number.

Construction of the following years frames would begin typically at the end of the season, when the trade is at it's quietest, i.e. from about mid to late September onwards. The assumption is that the finished frames would be stamped with a number appropriate to the following year. These frames would however be built in parallel with any needed to be meet customer demand during the remainder of the year i.e. from September to December. It is assumed that frames built in this case would normally receive a current year number, though clearly if an order could be met from those built and already stamped from the following years stock, they would have been used. This could give rise to the unusual situation where a frame appears to be dated and sold prior to the year indicated by the frame number.

Whilst the present frame number table is logical and constructed from first owners memories and some original documentation, each frame number has to be taken in it's own context. It is difficult to argue with an owner from new, who insists a frame was bought in 1953, when the table indicates it was 1951...... Both the owner and the table are probably correct - i.e. It was stamped, painted and available for sale in late 51' but not sold till 53'. at the extremes frame 62B could have been sold two years after 63B.

In order to improve the accuracy of the information in these pages, the only thing that I would ask in return for using these pages, is that you provide me with the details of your own machine, along with the serial number, any other information you can provide and where possible a photograph.

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Copyright © 1999-2003 R.Reid Last Updated Thursday, 16-Oct-2003 17:33 hrs.