some about collecting antique fishing lures in an area most commonly known as
high-end rare and historical. This discussion is not about the
lures commonly found in antique shops or those used by your father and most
certainly not about plastic lures. These are the lures used by your
grandfather or his father during the time frame 1900 to 1930. It is
about lures in excellent condition, not those which were fished and then left
to rust and deteriorate in a greasy old tackle box. These are not the
common everyday lures you find being sold on eBay very often.
I want to
talk about those lures and boxes preserved or put away to protect them for
over eighty years or those which have been in mature collections and are now
just seeing the light of day. We are talking about the rarified area of
the one thousand to five thousand dollars and up group. It has been
speculated on among collectors and dealers that this group consistently
involves about three to five hundred individuals at this point. There
are others who will step into the circle from time to time, but are not
consistent buyers at this level.
all, collecting antique lures has absolutely nothing to do with fishing.
Yes, some collectors happen to fish, and some got started collecting because
of fishing. But when you get into the high-end of this hobby,
which ultimately deals with the rare and historical, it has nothing to do with
fishing per se. It has everything to do with use of specific
knowledge, learning about speculation in collectibles, and ultimately
investing in something which is appreciating rapidly at this time. The
key word here is "at this time". If you think you can wander into this
hobby, buy a few expensive lures, sit back and wait on the market to lift all
boats, then you are in for a big surprise. It ain't likely to happen.
Collecting is hard work both physically and mentally. If one gets into
it just to speculate in the rapidly rising collectibles market, then someone
is likely to get badly burned. Conversely, if you buy lower grade lures
and figure the market will get you out of them at some point without a loss,
then you too have another think coming and it's not going to be pleasant.
lures basically have no real intrinsic value above five to ten dollars.
For some collectors there is an emotional connection to our past or an
individual we cared about when growing up with whom we associated fishing.
There are those who love beautiful things that are old. But in the end,
lures are historical artwork that was, in some cases, mass produced more than
sixty years ago. There are plenty of old lures out there.
The real quest is for the special historical pieces or those preserved in new
condition. Yes, there are those who don't care about history or
condition and that is their choice.
studies the past history of the hobby of lure collecting, it will become
evident that the first people who collected had no intention of putting
together historical or high quality collections. They just like
the looks of the lures and collected or gathered for fun, not profit.
The gatherers were the guys who wanted as many lures as they could put in a
house or barn. It didn't matter what the history was concerning the
lures, they just wanted them and as many as they could get. Those guys
are still out there and they have massive "collections" of stuff. All
kinds of stuff. Barns full of stuff. Attics or basements with
wires strung from one side to the other with lures hung side by side from wall
to wall. These are not the people or collections we want to discuss
high-end historical collectors are generally much more driven and certainly
more competitive. They are the ones who usually study and understand the
history of the lures they collect. Yes, it takes a lot of financial
commitment to collect the older lure material if it is in any kind of
condition, but this is the level where "investing" becomes a consideration.
If you spend more than a few thousand dollars a year on collecting lures, you
are most likely investing either consciously or unconsciously. Of course
the "pure of heart" would never stoop to admitting they collect to invest.
But if you are spending fifty thousand a year on any collecting activity, you
best look at it as an investment, understand what you are doing, or you are
going to lose a lot of your hard earned money.
written several pieces where I related how long-term collectors have used
their experiences in other collecting areas to help build lure collections.
Collecting is a non-specific science. The methods, but not the information,
used to collect in one area are usually applicable to collecting in another.
There are steps you have to take to understand how, what, and when to collect.
If one just goes out and starts accumulating "stuff" then there is no order or
flow to building a high-grade collection. One typically can't just
decide to start collecting and then randomly buy lures. First, you could
go broke and second, more than likely you would buy a bunch of pretty junk.
Not the way to start.
preserve historical pieces just like individual collectors, but museums hire
staffs who assemble collections with great care and study. Great
collections are built on knowledge, study, perseverance, a good deal of luck,
and money. If you read about anyone or organization who built a great
collection, be it art, or otherwise, it was always done with someone in the
chain acting as the "knowledge" base. Someone has to know what to
buy and why. Whether it is a dealer with connections or the
collector him or herself, the knowledge aspect has to be there.
Knowledge can be the result of long-term experience or dedication to the
accumulation of a specific area. There are collectors who build
collections by themselves, who study and assimilate information. But
there are precious few collections which are not built on a strong base of
information. This is why collecting tends to follow the publication of
knowledge in one form or other. In the past, it was books, now it may be
the Internet. If you decide to collect in the high-end, who are you
going to look to for verification and advice?
another type of collector who just walks into a show, approaches a collector
who has a display they want to buy and says:..."how much?" The owner
says: "it's not for sale." And the 'buyer-collector' says: "No, you
don't understand. How much do you want? Price is no object."
This kind of collecting requires no knowledge, just money. It's not
collecting, it's shopping. It also tends to be self-limiting, because
there are not many collectors who will sell under those conditions and the
buyer soon burns out. There are individuals in the current market
tossing around six digit figures in the desire to buy whole collections or
"invest" in the tackle market. They usually pay too much, get less than
they paid for, and go away after a short burst or when they figure out they
are the laughing stock of the hobby.
the fun of any collecting is figuring out what is rare and what is not.
For some people, possession of something other people want is a driving force.
There are collectors who just collect what appeals to them personally and that
is fine, but when the time comes to sell their collection, one can only hope
their tastes are shared by others who want to own and possess similar items.
Otherwise, you don't have an auction, you have a garage sale.
Organizations like the NFLCC and regional tackle shows exist to assemble
collectors so knowledge and friendship can be shared to the mutual benefit of
one another. It also exists so collectors can make connections, friends,
and ultimately buy something for their collection. With the advent of
eBay and the Internet, the connections aspect is all but eliminated.
Now, you just sit at the computer, place a bid and hope for the best.
The question comes to mind: how will knowledge will be accumulated if
there are no friends to call? Who will closet collectors call to ask a
question? What if there are no tackle shows to attend to shop and
compare values and condition? Is the hobby to become dominated by a host
of closet collectors buying blindly on the Internet and basing their bids on
past prices realized?
We know a
strong economy drives the values of collectibles... be it lures or art.
Good times bring individuals with disposable cash and strong urges to collect.
Bad times do just the opposite. What do we have to look forward to for
the next ten years relative to collecting lures? With the habits of the
baby boomers well documented,
there can be no doubt that collecting of all kinds will increase, not
decrease. The recent moves in the prices of
duck decoys shows us the highend
of that market in the three to four hundred thousand dollar range is not
leveling off, but accelerating. It is my personal opinion that lure
collecting will gain strength as more knowledge is disseminated via the
Internet. Collectors who are turned off by the high prices in decoys may
well migrate to lures. More lower-end collectors will migrate into
older and more expensive material as they gain knowledge about what to collect
and learn to appreciate the history of the early material. As older
collectors sell their collections, prices will rise, bringing more interest
and attention to a hobby that started out as just a bunch of good old boys
trading the things they loved to use and talk about.
to anyone seeking to become a serious player in the upper end of the antique
lure game, would be to make a close association with someone who really knows
the market. There are certain dealers who can make or break your
collection. The odds of anyone roaming the floor of a National
NFLCC show and correctly buying a large number of high-end lures is highly
unlikely. But, with the right person at your elbow, it could be done.
I know of one such individual who did this by paying the way for an advisor
while he bid at an auction and once again at a National show. This
individual had the good sense to realize he didn't know what he was doing and
brought along a hired gun to show him the ropes. The buyer later got out
of collecting after buying everything in sight for about three years. To
my knowledge, he has never returned.
recommendation would be to start out slow and easy by attending as many shows
as possible to look and learn. Don't buy when just starting out.
Look long and buy later. There is no better way to start
your education than by looking at massive numbers of lures and getting a feel
for what is available. Older collectors will usually not sell to someone
they don't know. It's the "good old boy network" in its finest form.
But, sometimes, money talks when an individual wants to move a large
collection all at once. It happens and it's luck when you find out about
it and are able to participate. Again, friends and connections are the
eBay can be risky business if you don't know what you are doing, but sticking
with the high-end where there are more than a few bidders can be a pretty safe
bet on something that is not too uncommon. Bids in the five hundred
dollar and up category are usually pretty safe if more than five bidders are
trying to buy it. Of course it helps to know something about the bidders
too. Don't hesitate to check the prior bidding habits of the the current
bidders. Do they buy in the high-end or are they the type who just like
to see their name on an item at the inception of the bidding? Use the search
facility on eBay to determine the quality of the bidder by past purchases.
If someone has typically been successful at buying selected high-dollar
material, then it is likely they are knowledgeable, but it also may be a
case of too much money chasing anything that someone else wants.
doubt about how and what to do about collecting in general, start by reading
every book you can find on
the topic. With all the on-line book stores, there is just no excuse for
not owning all the books on the area you wish to collect.