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General System Newsletter  

March 2003
Volume 2, Issue 5
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Some Fishing Collectibles

Collecting Antique Fishing Tackle
by drexelantiques
eBay Member

Collecting antique fishing tackle has become very popular in the last few years. At one time you heard "You collect what?" or "I didn't know anyone bought that old fishing stuff". Now, everywhere you turn there are collectors and dealers in old tackle.

The value of antique tackle has risen sharply. Collectors eagerly seek brand names like Heddon, Creek Chub, South Bend, Pflueger, Shakespeare, Paw Paw and others. There are collectors for lures, reels, bamboo rods, nets, creels and just about every type of fishing memorabilia you can imagine. eBay is one of the best sources for both buying, and selling antique fishing tackle. Here are some types of fishing memorabilia you can expect to find on eBay:


Wooden lures are the mainstay of antique tackle collecting. The first wooden lures in general use were made in the late 1800s; the "golden age" of wooden lures was from about 1915 to the 1950s. For lure collectors, condition is very important. A "mint" lure, with no damage, will bring far more than the same plug in average or less condition.

For some lures, certain colors of paint, or paint designs, are considered more rare than others and will bring a premium price. The box a lure came in may be worth as much as the lure itself - in some cases more. Metal spoons, spinners and other materials are also sought by collectors. Collectors have been buying some of the more rare or more unusual plastic lures.

Some of the more unusual lures are collected as folk art by some collectors, especially the handmade ice-fishing decoys.


There are many reel collectors today. Early fly and casting reels with names like Hardy, Vom Hofe, Conroy, Meek, and Milam are very collectible, and can be expensive. Reels by Pflueger, Shakespeare, South Bend, Bronson, and others are much less expensive and are a welcome addition to many collections.


Collecting interests have concentrated on split bamboo fly rods for many years. Lately, though, collectors have begun seeking some of the earlier fiberglass rods, bamboo casting and spinning rods, and steel casting rods. Names of bamboo rod makers to look for are Granger, Young, Dickerson, Phillipson, Devine, Edwards, Thomas, Payne, Leonard and Hardy. Other collectible rods include those made for trademarks such as Abercrombie and Fitch, Heddon, South Bend, and Abbey and Imbrie.

Split bamboo rods will generally be six-sided, and will look like rich grained wood. Handmade rods show some of the finest craftsmanship in the fishing industry.

Fly Fishing Tackle

There is an attraction to fishing with older fly tackle that isn't present with other types of fishing. Many older, split-bamboo fly rods, old fly reels and old fly fishing accessories are purchased for fishing, even with the high price attached to them. It gives you a feeling of being part of an earlier age to fool the wary trout with tackle from your grandfather's era. Split bamboo rods are still being made to feed these urges, as well as handmade reels, both of which are typically expensive.

A great deal of old fly tackle is purchased for decorative use (creels, old landing nets, old bamboo rods, etc.) and look great hanging over the mantle.

Miscellaneous Fishing Items

Everything from old fishing postcards, photos, books, fishing license badges, and much more are becoming of interest to collectors. Fishing gadgets, fly tying tools, and fishing art all find homes in collections. eBay is a popular market for these items.

A Word About Condition and Value

As with any collectible, condition is nearly everything when it comes to antique fishing tackle. Excellent, un-restored items will always be worth more than the same item in poor, or refurbished, condition.

Items that are rare have held their value, and should continue to do so for many years. When you find a truly rare piece, you need to consider future value; if it seems a little pricey now, it may still be worth buying considering the likely price for it in the future.

Collecting antique fishing tackle can be a rewarding hobby both for people who fish and hunt, and for people who just find themselves attracted to the folk art nature of lures and fishing memorabilia.

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