Set Your Hook: Collecting Lures

Collecting Antique Fishing Lures


Antique Fishing Lure

I got to thinking this week about what “else” can you do that is related to fishing, but isn’t fishing itself. With a little thinking (and some help from Google) I stumbled upon the hobby of collecting antique lures.

The first step is to decide what type of collection you’re interested in assembling. If you want nothing but very-rare, excellent condition lures, then my first advice:

Get to a library!

Find some books about lure collecting and then go buy the books that you like the best.

But, if you’re like me, collecting is more about the act of collecting than in the dollar value of the item. It’s the stories behind the lures and not the value when I’d sell them. (Can you tell I’m thinking about taking this up as a hobby?!)

Here is some of the general knowledge I discovered about collecting antique lures:

Most of the really excellent collector material falls in the 1900 to 1940 era. Lures made after 1940 are “old”, but they are not antiques relatively speaking. Just because your father used them doesn’t make them “antiques” or valuable. The real quality material was made in this country prior to 1940.

The really collectable lures are made of wood or metal. The golden era of tackle is that time frame when Heddon, Shakespeare, Pflueger and the smaller miscellaneous companies were competing to produce “quality” lures which were hand painted and produced with glass eyes and wood bodies.

Grading lures for quality and value is subjective. Visual values vary considerably from person to person. A collector should have a set of photos of new condition lures to reference when he finds a lure that might be added to the collection.

Some grading scale pointers:

Excellent lure means there are no hook pointers in the paint, absolutely no hook scrapes, no paint off the belly weight, no paint chips and maybe only a very, very minor varnish flake. The paint is shiny, but there may be age related crazing or minor fracture cracks in the varnish or paint.

Excellent minus allows for some minor varnish defects, but no paint loss other than maybe very, very minor chips at the tail or belly weight, and no hook drags. Hooks should be consistent with the paint finish.

Excellent plus means almost perfect.

Mint means perfect and untouched. (In coins, this means un-circulated. In lures, it would mean that the lure had never been used for fishing.)

If a lure has been touched up in any way or manner, some collectors will feel that it is no longer collectible. You’ll need to decide on your own what you think about that.

In the end, there are no hard and fast rules on grading, so you have to set your standards and live with them. If the bait meets your standards, the collect it!

You’ll also need to decide on your own what type of collector you’ll be: in it for the value or in it for the “fish tale.”

Fishing lure collecting resources:

Readers Weigh In:

  • Do you collect anything?
  • What do you think about collecting antique lures?
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