by Mark Edson -
Anyone having the slightest familiarity with vintage fishing tackle has usually heard of what I consider to be the granddaddy of all vintage fishing tackle: The Haskell Minnow.
This metal lure, manufactured in the 1850s by a gunsmith named Riley Smith, seems to embody the aura of collecting vintage tackle. The lure came in four sizes but only three are thought to have been made in any quantity. One measuring approximately 10” in length, and the only one of this size know to exist, was found in its original wooden box a few years back. When it found its way to auction, it sold for six figures. Fortunately, for hardcore collectors and those folks just finding their way into collecting, most can be collected for a small fraction of the Haskell Minnow.
After years of fishing, and thankfully at the continued urging of my Dad, I began my pursuit of old fishing tackle in the early 1990s. My first purchase was a Creek Chub Pikie for $5 at the local swap meet. It had all of the characteristics of a collectible lure; made of wood, it had glass eyes and had an identifiable company mark on it. Sadly, nearly 20 years later, that pikie is still worth only about $5. The pikie, like many lures in the numerous company lines, were massed produced allowing many of these lures to survive for decades and why many are still found, even today, in their original boxes with the paperwork.
Surprisingly, there is a plethora of old vintage tackle still waiting to be found. In my 20 years of collecting, 2013 is shaping up to be one of my best years for finding vintage tackle. The only difference between 20 years ago and now is finding the high dollar items ($250 and up) at swap meets, garage and yard sales is now uncommon. If you do get lucky, thanks to all the resources available, it is priced appropriately.
What does one collect when it comes to fishing tackle?
Depending on the collector’s interests, it could be paper or celluloid fishing licenses; some states began issuing fishing licenses in the early part of the 1900s. Other items include bamboo fly rods, tackle boxes, glass minnow traps, line dryers, etc., but most collectors focus on reels and lures because of the wide range of manufacturers, variability and availability. Many collectors focus on what they used or knew as kids letting their passion grow from there.
Invariably, most people who have vintage fishing tackle want to know, “What’s it worth?” Here is where we need to make a distinction. With many folks who have vintage tackle for sale, they assume something collectible must be valuable. The terms collectible and valuable are usually mutually exclusive when it comes to fishing tackle. With a great majority of fishing tackle, though there are exceptions, the more valuable tackle was produced prior to WWII. After WWII, most tackle is readily available and the value drops accordingly. Many items today can be purchased for well under $25. A good mantra to live by is: “The older and nicer condition the item is the better.”
Well, that’s it for this lesson on collectables. Next time we will explore “Why all Pikie’s are not created equal” and detail why some lures that are over 70 years old are only worth $5 and other versions, of the same lure, of the same vintage, can be, in many cases, worth several hundred dollars more. We’ll also discuss what characteristics “newbie” collectors, ready to dip their line into the world of vintage tackle, should look for when they are at their local swap meet.
Do you have or just find your great grandfather’s tackle box tucked away in the attic and it’s full of vintage fishing tackle? Would you like to know what you have and its value? Please feel free to email me and include pictures if you would like to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, check out my pictures of vintage tackle at my FACEBOOK Page: Antique Fishing Tackle! Until next time, “Tight lines.”
*Featured image: Heddon 150, Underwater Minnow, Green Crackleback – New In Correct Box $200-$300
Images courtesy of Mark Edson