It is somewhat hard to believe today, but there was a time where you could go to one store, and purchase everything you might need. The saying went you could furnish a whole house, and even buy the house at Sears. Yes, in the days before malls and the internet, Sears really was a one stop shop. Not only were their stores incredibly stocked, everything you could need was also available, direct to your home, via mail order. It really was an amazing operation for a pre-internet age.
In addition to household products, Sears also dabbled in motor vehicles. Though there was an attempt at a Sears branded car (licensed from Kaiser in 1952-53), in the 1950's and 60's they mostly sold lightweight motorcycles, scooters, and mopeds. All of the vehicles were badged as "Allstate", and later as "Sears". They were generally built to existing designs and were sometimes altered slightly from the original models. Some of the companies who made motorcycles for Sears were Puch in Austria and Gilera in Italy.
During the 50's and 60's, Sears offered a full line of scooters in their catalogues and in their many stores. The entry-level and mid-range models up to 1960 were made by Cushman in the U.S. There was also mid-range model in the 60's made by Puch. However, the deluxe models were always Vespas.
Sears first brought in small amount of Vespas in 1952 as a test of the market. These sold so well that Sears decided to begin full scale sales. It should be noted that Piaggio had not set up sales in the U.S in 1952, and the success of the Allstates convinced them to start distribution of Vespas here. The Sears Vespas were dubbed the "Super Cruisaire Allstate" and were sold from 1952 to 1967. The last year of sales in 1966-67 the Allstate was simply called the "Sears" scooter.
In terms of the body design, there were essentially no differences between the standard Vespa and the Allstate Vespa throughout the years. Generally speaking, the Allstate was a stripped-down Vespa. It is unclear whether this was due to cost concerns to a general idea that Sears sell simple, rugged machines. No matter what the case, the differences between the Allstate and the Vespa got fewer as time went on.
The early Allstates were based off of the Vespa 125. The body and motor designs for the 50's Allstates were usually a year or two behind the Vespa. For instance, the 1953 Allstate had a cut-away cowl and doughnut-shaped fan cover from the 1950 Vespa. Additionally, all the 50's Allstates had solid aluminum floor rails with a criss-cross pattern on top, while the Vespas had rubber inserts on the rails.
One other interesting thing to note is the location of the headlight on the Allstate. At that time, the Italian market Vespas had the headlight mounted to the top of the front fender. The Allstate had the headlight up on the handlebars at the front of a bullet-shaped nacelle. The nacelle did not have a hole for a speedometer on the early Allstates. This headlight configuration was later used on the now-collectable Vespa 125 U model. In fact, the U model shares a lot of common traits with the Allstate. Though I am not 100% sure, I believe that the location of the headlight on the handlebars was required by U.S. law. It was a good idea no matter what, and Piaggio moved the location of the headlight on the standard Vespa to the handlebars in 1955.
The Allstates did not come with a speedometer standard. As mentioned above, the early Allstates had no mounting point for a speedometer on the handlebars. There was an optional speedometer available through Sears, but it was mounted via a bracket to the back of the legshields. Later 50's Allstates came with the same headlight housing as the European models, and that had an integrated hole for a speedometer. The Allstates still did not have the speedometer as standard, and there was a plastic blanking plate with a Piaggio shield filling the hole. In 1958, the Allstates changed from the widebody handlebar style frame to the new largeframe body of the VNA Vespa 125. From that point on, the Allstates came with the speedometers as standard.
There are other styling details that distinguish the Allstate from the corresponding Vespa. They are often small things, such as having a part painted on an Allstate, while the same part was polished or chromed on the Vespa. The Allstates did not have locks on the glovebox door. There was also no choice of color on the Allstate. The early ones were all a matte green color, and the later 60's VNB models were all red with white wheels and forks. On the final models in 1966, the smallframe 125's were all white, and the 150 Sprints were all silver.
The tail lights on the Allstates were always a simple affair. The very early 50's models did not have a brake light, just a tail light. They all had the small 50's rectangular tail light up until 1958. At that point, they had a somewhat larger rectangular unit. The last year or two all had the special U.S. market "Mickey Mouse" tail light made by Siem.
One major difference between the Allstate and the Vespa for all the model years, except the 1966-67, was with the front fork. The Allstate never had a front dampener on the fork. The front hub was the simplified version of that on the Vespa, with only a spring for shock absorbing. A similar setup was used on the very early Vespas, but it was abandoned in 1950 in favor of the spring and dampener used on all Vespas until the P-series.
The badges on the Allstate were few. The very first year had only a small shield badge in the center of the legshied that said "Sears". After that, the center was bare, and the badge moved to the left side of the legshield. This new raised aluminum badge was in the shape of the U.S. and had "Allstate" across the middle. For a few years around 1957 (I'm not sure exactly which years), there was another raised aluminum badge on the reverse side of the Allstate badge which read "Super Cruisaire" in script. The size of the Allstate badge shrunk from the widebody handlebar Allstates to the VNA style Allstates. On the final year of sales, both the 125cc smallframe and the 150cc Sprint had only a round blue metallic sticker which said "Sears" on the left side of the legshield.
When looking at the motor, Allstates did not differ considerably from the equivalent Vespas. The Allstates often had a slightly older motor design than the same model year Vespa. Apart from that, the motors were all from a standard Vespa 125. The only difference was in the final model year, 1966-67, when Sears offered the 125cc smallframe and the 150cc Sprint models. Those motors were identical to the Vespa models.
Sears sold a huge amount of Allstate Vespas in the U.S. Because they were sold through mail order, the Allstates turn up in even the most remote corners of the country. Therefore, your chances of finding one if you are looking is pretty high. In fact, outside of the larger cities, you are a lot more likely to find an old Allstate than a standard Vespa when looking for a scooter.
On the road, the 50's handlebar style Allstates are really too slow to be safely driven on today's streets. It is hard to over-emphasize how slow the 125 handlebar scooters really are, in addition, the lights on these scooters can be considered anemic at best and are really too dim to be sure that you can be seen by cars on the road at night. Furthermore, many of the early Allstate Vespas did not have brake lights as standard equipment, and all of them have downright dangerous front suspensions without a dampener.
The later VNA style Allstates are slightly better, but they are really quite slow. At least with those scooters you have the option of tuning the motor, or even replacing it with a later model's powerplant. One thing to also consider with the handlebar Allstates is that parts for these scooters, as with the handlebar Vespas are very difficult to obtain. This is especially true for trim or body parts. Many motor parts are also quite hard to come by, and sadly the situation is only likely to get worse. Some internal motor wear items are still in production, so one could reasonably expect to keep a running scooter on the road. I would however, advise strongly against purchasing a 50's Allstate scooter which is not 100% complete and running, as the parts search is likely to be long and expensive.
The situation is different with the 60's VNA style Allstates. Piaggio sold millions of these scooters, and virtually all of the parts are available. If you had a frame and some motor cases, you could probably build one from new parts. The only concern here is expense and originality. As always, it is much better to get a scooter that is complete and running rather than a project.
As for cost...though they are fairly common, I would still expect to pay about the same as for the equivalent Vespa.