Note some of the links are to posts that I have not yet put into English.
There are many things I find interesting about old Japanese bicycles, fender ornaments, cloisonne badges, revolving bells, celluloid grips, leather saddles, beaded edge rims & tires, chaincases, frame covers, 3 layer enamel paint & pinstriping etc. To a varying degree most of these can be found on vintage bicycles from other countries. However, one item on vintage Japanese bicycles that I have not yet seen on vintage bicycles from other countries is the guarantee medal. If you have ever seen catalogs of vintage Japanese bicycles you have probably noticed a strange item hanging from the top tube.
The guarantee medal is typically a small medal varying in diameter from 3cm - 6cm. It bears the manufacturer's name and/or logo on the front and has the details of the guarantee on the back. It was most commonly attached to the top tube via a leather strap. To remove the guarantee medal one would have to cut the leather strap as the strap ends were securely riveted.
The custom of attaching these guarantee medals was in place as far back as 1930's, possibly earlier. The medals were predominantly made of metal; however, there are some that were made of specially treated paper and in the late 1950's early 60's plastic.
As I have repeatedly pointed out, vintage Japanese bicycles, especially those from the 1950's, have the manufacturer's name or logo on nearly each and every part, and the bicycles themselves, as a whole, are true works of art. The guarantee medal is no exception. It proudly bears the manufacturer's name and many are works of art in their own right. Like many old things, they are over engineered and therein lies the beauty. Created before manufacturers value engineered a product from every angle and stripped them of anything that was beyond the bare minimum.
Take for example this exquisite guarantee medal from Nichibei Fuji. The use of old Chinese (KANJI) characters, and katakana for particles, as well as the order of reading right to left are sure signs that this was produced prior to 1945. Let's take a closer look. The symbol for Nichibei Fuji being Mt. Fuji appears in the center, the background is the sun with its rays forming the top half of the border, the bottom half has a propeller and cherry blossoms.
The reverse side states that the company guarantees the product to be free from defects and will standby its product.
Here is another example, a guarantee medal from Mitsuuma.
Quite prestigious and elegant, to me I would rather have one of these than a slip of paper.
This is quite an interesting guarantee medal. Japanese vintage bicycle fans will readily recognize this as the logo of the Zebra bicycle company.
I'll continue this post with more on guarantee medals net time. In the meantime if any of you out there have photos of gurantee medals, or, have seen similar medals on foreign made bicycles, please send in a photo with details so I can share with other enthusiasts. firstname.lastname@example.org