Yet more mail, from Matt in the Classic City, where I graduated from the University of Georgia way back in..., oh never mind:
"Hey. I can't help but notice from your blog that you seem to have a lot of luck (or knowledge) on where to find these old Fuji's. I am looking to get an America or Opus, although I would probably prefer the America. Do you have any recommendations on where to look? I currently reside in Athens, Ga which is about an hour away from Atlanta. I can't seem to find any bike swap meets anywhere around and none of the stores carry used bikes, except last years rentals. I've been looking at Ebay and CL fairly regularly, but to no avail. I have also tried a few used bike stores online, such as recycledcycles.net.
I plan to ride mine somewhat regularly.
I am hoping to get one of the '83 models, or those that were similar with 700c wheels. Condition isn't that big of a factor with me, although the closer to original parts the better. It has to be either ridable or near ridable, but I certainly don't mind if it has a few scratches or scrapes.
Well, if you could help me out with a few pointers, I would really appreciate it.
The most important thing in finding old Fujis is to have done this a couple of years ago. Things seem to have dried up considerably recently on CL and Ebay, with prices rising somewhat. A lot of items go through this transition, from scorned old junk to desirable collectors items, and 70's/80's Fujis seem to be no different. I'm not suggesting that Fujis are highly desirable collectors items today, but finding an America or Opus in a garage sale for $20 dollars is becoming increasingly unlikely.
This is still possible, but then the question is how much do you value your time? It is quite conceivable to go to 100, or perhaps 1000, garage sales and not find your exact bike. You might find some other old bikes, which is why a lot of people do this as well a just enjoying the activity.
But I'm going to assume you value your time and don't really enjoy cruising yard sales and thrift shops. So now there are two things to do. The first is being able to rapidly find out what is for sale. The second is letting people know for what you are looking.
Figure out how to search Craigslist nationally, it isn't too hard, and in more remote areas, sometimes some nice bikes are on CL for weeks. I've done this for both my America and S12-S (18) mixte. A lot of sellers are surprisingly open to shipping if you make it easy for them. Easy for them means paying for a LBS to pack and ship the bike.
Ebay you know about. I've had good experiences there so long as you are ok with paying full retail. But if it gets you what you want without a whole lot of time investment, it can be worth it. You do have to check fairly regularly, although not so frequently as Craigslist, where bikes can appear and disappear in several hours.
Sometimes ebay can have deals where the seller doesn't want to ship. If you know someone in the area, sometimes this can work out well. Generally, these auctions will sell for significantly less.
You have to be ready to jump right away, especially with Craigslist. People who sell on Ebay are accustomed to jumping through hoops and communicating with customers, always going after the high seller rating. Craigslist attracts a lot of very casual, one time sellers and is very anonymous, so many sellers don't respond well to requests for more information, photos, and so forth.
Another thing to consider is that in this search, you may come across a bike that is not exactly what you want, but it gets you into the game. So maybe you see a nice S12-S LTD, which is almost an America, but not quite. Go ahead and buy it. First, it will be a nice old Fuji, which is pretty cool in itself. Second, in addition to money, this is a future bargaining chip. As Fujis are transitioning from generic old bicycles to a marque sought after in its own right, more of these bikes are getting into the hands of people who won't necessarily sell them for cash, but may trade for other bikes.
I did this with my 1981 Fuji Gran Tourer. This bike was being sold as near NOS, having 50 miles and 25 years of attic time. I never had any yen for one of these, but I thought, well, how cool is that? So now I've got this, and it has turned into one of my favorite riders, but it could also be in play should something else come along that I really want.
On the push side, let everyone know you are looking. This post is a start, maybe someone will post a comment or send me an email, saying, "hey, tell Matt I've got a nice America for...". Go to the "Want to Buy" thread in Classic and Vintage forum on Bikeforums.net and let them know. Post ads on craigslist and other old bike forums. These bikes are out there, so you'll find one eventually.
I do think that pickings might be slim around Athens, Georgia. Given that it is a big university town, I'd expect that all the local cheap old Fujis were snapped up years ago by students and abused to death.
One last thing - let Scott Ryder, the eminent Fuji scholar, know you are looking. Scott seems to have an uncanny third eye that lets him see virtually every Fuji for sale in the U.S.
One way or another, you're probably going to have to put some time into it. Good luck and let us know how it turns out. And if any readers have a bike or more advice for Matt, add it to the comments or drop me a line and I'll pass it on.
Update: After reading this post, Scott Ryder, the eminent Fuji scholar and collector, tipped his hand and revealed how he does it:
"I've found a lot of my Fuji's just by asking someone I know, whether or not they're into bikes. If they don't, they might know someone who does. And just networking .. "
Sorry, Scott, you just make it look easy....