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Important points in collecting Fishing Lures

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Fishing Lures

 It's easy to get hooked

This 1859 Haskell metal lure is valued at $2,000-$2,500.
 Thinking of tackling a new hobby? Antique fishing lures are an accessible collecting category with enormous growth potential. Though 60 million people registered for U.S. fishing licenses in 1999, only a tiny fraction of them are aware of the value of vintage lures.

 Most people don't think about the value of old tackle; they throw it away, give it to the kids, fish with it. I once paid $6,000 for a lure that the seller had been fishing with regularly, and recently I appraised a $50,000 box of tackle that the owner had just traded for a bicycle.

 The earliest lures some now centuries old were used by Native Americans, Eskimos, and American settlers. Today's American collectors focus primarily on American-made lures from the late 1800s to the 1950s.

Shakespeare and Company Whirlwind Spinner, c. 1910  The "Big Five" companies are Heddon, Shakespeare, Pflueger, South Bend, and the Creek Chub Bait Company. This "artificial bait" includes spinners and hard-bodied, wood-bodied, and hollow metal lures. Lures generally have from one to six hooks, with various attachments such as propellers and diving lips.

 Although some fakes came on the market in the past ten years, authenticity isn't a big issue; with up to 14 layers of paint and other hard-to-duplicate details, old lures are difficult to reproduce. After World War II, mass production by injection molding introduced the plastic lure; these are easier to find, and still collectible.

Shakespeare and Company
Whirlwind Spinner, c. 1910

 Read up
 To educate yourself, we recommend Old Fishing Lures & Tackle : Identification and Value Guide by Carl Luckey, and Edmisten's Fishing Lure Collectibles, co-authored with Dudley Murphy. Consider joining the National Fish Lure Collectors Club, which offers newsletters, magazines, member networking for referrals and trades, and numerous events across the country.

Pflueger wood-bodied lure, c. 1905

Pflueger wood-bodied lure, c. 1905

These fishing lures are antiques. They don't make 1920 lures anymore they stopped doing that in 1921.

Here's some insights into collecting vintage fishing lures:


  • Go to farm sales, estate sales, garage sales, and flea markets, and ask if they have any tackle. Many dealers are reticent to put out tackle where people may get hurt handling it.
  • Print a card, run magazine ads, and contact local editors and publishers of community, sporting, and outdoor newspapers and magazines.
  • Be innovative. Where would you find tackle? There's a ton of stuff just sitting in boats, garages, old mom and pop tackle stores and bait shops.
Scarcity = Value
  • High-grade lures have appreciated 50 to 200 percent in the last five years.
    This 1859 Haskell metal lure is valued at $2,000-$2,500.

    This 1859 Haskell metal lure
    is valued at $2,000-$2,500.

    Supply and demand greatly affect value: after a major auction house advertised a revered Haskell 1850 metal lure for $20,000, others came onto the market, the price decreasing significantly with each sale (today they go for $8,000-10,000).
  • With an older, rarer piece, it's better to have something in poor condition than not have it at all. If you want the lure, buy it, and look to upgrade it in the future.
  • Due to their scarcity, some of the most valuable lures are the "failures." One example is the red and white frog lure; it never had a chance, as consumers rejected its unnatural color scheme.
  • Popular lures are generally in poorer condition from use, although you can still find lures in the package (which increases value 20 to 100 percent).
  • Some pre-1910 boxes are more valuable than the lures themselves. Custom-designed lures are the most valuable. Factories allowed customers to special-order bait; now 70 to 100 years later, these are desirable due to limited production.
    South Bend Bait Company hollow metal lure, c. 1881

    South Bend Bait Company
    hollow metal lure, c. 1881

  • Extreme temperature and humidity changes are very damaging to old lures. Get your vintage tackle out of the garage and into a dark closet indoors.
  • Repairs may reduce value up to 90 percent (though this is changing; the National Fish Lure Collectors Club recently allowed limited restoration (up to 20 percent) on lures presented for show or sale under the club's auspices.
  • We recommend that novices not try to clean lures. You might wipe them with a cloth, but otherwise, leave them in the condition in which you found them.
  • Missing hooks can be replaced with same-vintage hooks, but be careful: Those 14 coats of paint generally weren't set when the hooks were inserted, so removing hooks can spoil the paint and the value.
  • Direct sunlight, even indirect light, can be harmful. Display lures in cases with UV glass and cotton backing (not polyester, which can react with the paint). Keep the case away from direct sunlight (a greenhouse effect can literally explode lures from overheating).


Old Fishing Lures & Tackle : Identification and Value Guide by Carl F. Luckey

Edmisten's Fishing Lure Collectibles

Images of fishing lures courtesy of Rick Edmisten


Michael Harrison - Fishing I
Fishing I
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