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Sandy Erdman: There's growing interest in vintage fishing gear

Collectible fish items, beer mirrors, anchor bookend and codfish boxes and fish decanters, too. All were found at Angie’s Vintage Rust, Treasures Under Sugar Loaf, Winona.
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Walk into any antique mall or shop today and you’ll see evidence of the growing interest in collecting fishing lures, tackle and other fishing gear.

Today we are finding that the more rare antique tackle is going up in price and value as more unique fishing items are being found. More older folks are downsizing, and gems are can be found.

What values are we talking about?

According to Carl F. Luckey, author of "Old Fishing Lures and Tackle, Identification and Value Guide," "Consider the 3-inch Snake Tin Liz lure produced by Arbogast around 1933. Today it may list around $200 to $300. The 2-inch Airex Spinner, on the other hand, manufactured by Airex Bait Company in 1948, is valued under $5.

"When it comes to reels," Luckey wrote, "the Lakeside from Abbie and Imbrie in 1946 is worth from about $10 to $20, but an Arnold Fly Reel from Bivan’s Mfg. Company, 1955 goes for about $20 to $30."


"The types of lures that have come down the road range from the sublime to the ridiculous from the ineffective to the explosively successful fish-getter. Thousands of fishing collectibles are out on the market, such as hooks and harnesses, tackle boxes, lures, rods and reels. The rarity, demand, condition and age determine the value of fishing collectibles."

According to Karl White, author of "Fishing Tackle Antiques and Collectibles," "The older the item, the more it is worth, because the older it is, the less there are available. Simply put, supply and demand comes into play in most cases. Some lures of the 1920s and 1930s, made for a short period of time, are quite rare and valuable. Some others made in the 1940s through the 1970s are also valuable."

Where to find them

Try old general stores in your area, especially the storerooms and basements. Many treasures have turned up on dusty storage shelves. Anywhere tackle has been sold for more than 40 or 50 years. Online collectors trading boards. Garage sales and flea markets are good places, although at some flea markets, a few folks think of old tackle as being very marketable and the pricing can be way out of line. Check out antique malls and shops and do comparison shopping.

At Sarah’s Uniques and Jim’s "Man"tiques antique mall, St. Charles, owner Jim Kieffer tells us, "We have several different fishing reels, including Pflueger‘s and Shakespeare’s about $5 to around $35, and a variety of lures for everyone. Some are in boxes and many are just very old and collectible ranging from $2 to $40. We have the reels, too. We also carry a large selection of minnow buckets and what is now a very collectible item, fishing spears. Fishing spears are a unique collectible, as there are many different sizes and styles as well as some very old and unique ones. The spears run anywhere from about $20 on up to $100, depending on style and condition."

"The truly interesting thing about old fishing items is that each and every one I have are still usable today, even though some are over a hundred years old," said Brad Sissel, vendor at the Old River Valley Antique Mall, Stewartville. "The lures can range from $2 to over $100. Vintage reels can range from $10 apiece and regular fishing rods are mostly under $30, but the split bamboo poles are around $80 to $100, and my collectible fish spears are usually under $30, along with the fish decoys in the same price range."

Lure collector — and maker

Wayne Carrigan, a collector, also loves the craft of making lures. He’s owner of Root River Lures in Chatfield.


"We have a lot of the lures made up and ready to go to shows and on the Root River Lures website, Facebook, emails, and phone calls from repeat customers," he said. "I also have quite a few custom orders of lures that cannot be purchased commercially that I make. An example of a custom lure is when fishing some of the Canadian provinces you need to use a single barbless hook. One customer from Ohio had a very specific lure that was a large stainless steel barbless hook tied with multiple colors of squirrel tail to mimic some of the bait fish in the lake he would be fishing. I tied lures that mimicked perch, whitefish, and grayling. He was after large northern pike."

Related Topics: FISHING
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