Four years ago, after already encountering several bogus sales offers, I began keeping track of the times I was offered "real" Fausto Coppi bikes. Since February 12, 2000 I have been offered 13 such bikes. Without exception, there is always something materially wrong with the bike. (ie wrong size, implausible model, etc) I have also been offered b.s. bikes of LeMond, Kelly, Merckx, Hinault, Degado, Fignon, Poulidor, Magne, Leducq, and Pantani. Some of the attempts are so bad they are laughable.
When it comes to rider specific bicycles I go to great lengths to obtain the bike directly from the rider himself or the team owner. I always obtain a letter of provenance signed by the rider attesting to the bicycles authenticity. In the event the rider is no longer living, the bike needs to come from the family or from someone who's reputation is above reproach. At least then, if things get sticky, I have some level of recourse in the event I paid a premium based on the bikes provenance.
The one time I violated my own rules is the one time I think I was duped. I bought a bike with what appeared to be solid history from another collector in Europe. Everything seemed on the up and up. The price was neither to high or low, and the bike seemed to be right. Besides, the bike was purportedly that of a high "B list" rider and not one of the kings of the sport. Unfortunately, about two years later I became aware that this same collector was selling "race worn" jerseys that were nothing more than knock-off bike shop merchandise. In my mind, this cast doubt as to whether the bike I purchased from him was indeed the real deal. I knew right then there was no way I would ever display this bike. As penance, I turned the machine into a rain bike. Fortunately, this happened early on in the collecting process and only whacked me for about $1,100.
Ever since that experience, I have tightened up my buying criteria. I think you really have to be precise if the focus of your collection is race used bicycles and jerseys that are attached to specific riders. Even with all the letters of provenance in the world, at some point you have to take a leap of faith. That said, the last thing you want to happen is to have someone else discover that one of the items in your collection is not as you described.
FWIW, I am aware of 3 entities that claim to own Greg's TdF winning TT bike. (With the one in Israel I guess it is now 4) Damn, that is some kind of magic.
Brett Horton San Francisco, California
<snip> Every day there are bicycles being sold with claims that they were ridden by Merckx, Armstrong, etc. <snip> Unless there is proof, I think any "claims" are fairly worthless.<snip>