Colorful fishing lures seem to be baiting the hooks of collectors. The bright eyes and colors add to the appeal, as does the sentimental value that many collectors can connect to their pastime of fishing.
Wayne Carrigan, of Chatfield, not only collects, but also makes fishing lures.
“I've always loved fishing," he said. "I still remember how excited I was when my Uncle Bob took me trout fishing for the first time when I was 10 years old with a bamboo pole, some fishing line, and a bobber."
Carrigan started his collection with a couple antique bait-casting reels from the 1940s that came in a box purchased at an auction in 1981.
"Soon, I started picking up a few old fishing lures, and the next thing I knew, I was focusing on fishing lures," he said. "I actually started making fishing lures in 1997 when some friends and I started muskie fishing and we could not buy lures.”
All wood lures from the early 20th century are especially desirable, with their unique hand-carved, hand-painted fish bodies. Some run into the hundreds of dollars, but plastic lures from the 1930s to '40s can be found in the $15-$75 range.
Carrigan estimated he has "several hundred" old fishing lures, with about half of them in the wood lure category. Some date back to 1920, but a majority are from the 1930s and '40s.
"As far as value, I don't have any of the high end lures," he said. "I'm definitely not in it for the money or value. I have found that the secret to high-end collecting is condition, and a lure with their original box brings a premium, while some collect for sentimental value. Two of my favorite reels are from my uncle Bob, and hold a lot of sentimental value.”
Where to find them
Old bait shops and some older hardware stores where tackle has been sold for 40-50 years. Collectors trading online and some old bait shops may still have a collector's board that have old or unwanted tackle available. Many folks are downsizing and some old-timer may just have lures or other fishing gear in the basement or garage. Garage sales and flea markets are good places. Although, at some flea markets a few of these folks think old tackle as being very marketable and the pricing can be priced way out of sight.
Sylvia Bauer, Country Side Antique Mall, Cannon Falls: “We have a large variety of lures. Dealer 36 has 50-75 lures, as well as others throughout the shop. Prices range from $5-$75. The wood lures age approximately 1920-1940. There are many colorful ones to choose from.”
Paul Larsen: “Fishing lures at Mantorville Square are mostly priced in the $3-$10 range.”
Sarah Kieffer, Sarah's Uniques & Jim's “Man”tiques, St. Charles: “Old fishing lures are very collectible at our shop. Priced from $3-$50, depending on the kind. We have Lazy Ike, Heddon and Pflueger, just to name a few.”
Joan Thilges, New Generations of Harmony: “We have vendors with a large number of lures of all types. A simple spinner spoon sells for 59 cents, with most lures falling well under $10, a number of collectible lures in original boxes, like an Eppinger 7-inch spoon for $32, and a few huge saltwater lures.”
Sandy Erdman is a Winona-based freelance writer and certified appraiser concentrating on vintage, antique and collectible items. Send comments and story suggestions to Sandy at firstname.lastname@example.org.