Factors for Wood Lures and Lure Boxes
As the dollar value
of antique lures rise at a head spinning rate, the necessity of accurate grading
becomes more and more critical. When it was just a bunch of good old
boys trading lures they loved, the fine points of grading didn't matter too
much. Today we are talking about $500 or $1,500 lures instead of $5 lures,
so the matter of grading is extremely important.
With higher prices
our collections are going to be smaller. Each addition to a
collection is a major financial decision where you can't afford to make a
mistake. Fortunately, the advent of the Internet and the ability to
send photos across the country in a matter of seconds has helped solve many
grading problems because as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.
If you want to get
into a fired up argument, put three lure collectors in a circle, throw a lure in
the middle and ask for a grade. More than likely you will get three
different opinions. For this article, we'll dispense with the usual photos
or list showing NFLCC grades and limit the discussion to factors which
effect grading rather than making statements about absolutes.
One of the hottest
controversies in any type of collecting, be it coins, guns, or lures, is
communicating grading values. The collectors who have seen
everything will grade totally different than the novice who knows nothing.
Perhaps the most dangerous person is the one who has only seen lures at the flea
market and tries to communicate the condition of a lure when all he or she has
ever seen is a lure in very good condition at best. What you
know about grading is relative to what you have seen. Grading is
How are you going to
get through to "an average condition collector" what a pristine condition lure
should look like... much less discuss the fine points of plus and minus grades?
The representations on eBay.com by non-collectors, and not a few NFLCC members,
are typical of this problem. Hopefully we can cover a few topics here to
help us better communicate.
When we start getting
picky about lure condition, a 10X handheld glass magnifying lens is handy for
examining the paint surface, hardware, and searching for crazing . I
frequently look at lures under a 30X binocular dissecting microscope just to get
an idea of how the surfaces look at high magnification. This is getting
kind of anal about the topic, but if you are looking for fakes, it is an
excellent way to detect "workmanship".
See the article on
Grading Lures for photos and additional
TERMS FOR LURES:
The following are
commonly used terms and illustrations of defects which alter the grade of a
lure. They are the types of defects that can change a grade by a plus or minus,
and understandably the price. No one defect will set the grade, but these
are the types of problems which can be used to differentiate between Excellent
and Excellent minus or between Excellent minus and Very Good.
Plus and minus are in
the eye of the beholder, but they are the variations which can cause large
swings in price. Most collectors will pay a lot more for an
excellent plus lure than for an excellent minus. So, let's look at the
factors that determine plus or minus and often can change a whole grade level:
Marks made by the hook points as they swung around and contacted the paint or
varnish at a single point. Basically it's a tiny puncture hole in the paint or
varnish. Commonly referred to as a 'pointer'. One or two are no
big deal, but when the surface looks like the face of the moon it's a whole
different matter. When describing pointers, it is best to refer to
the exact number, depth and size. If the hook penetrated into the
wood and created a crater, then that is a worse situation than one which just
marks the varnish and doesn't touch the paint.
Usually in reference to varnish (not people) which are the result of the
varnish sticking to something and being pulled off the paint, or an actual
varnish chip down to, but not including the paint color. Varnish flakes
are highly subjective, but in a heavily varnished lure like a Heddon, large
areas of varnish flakes can and do seriously detract. If you are talking
about paint flakes, then the matter is serious since value decreases
drastically with any paint loss. Heddon series 00 lures are
notorious for flaked varnish due to all the sharp edges which stuck to the box
or anything else. Flaking can usually be expressed in terms such as
minor, heavy, light, or minimal along with the location.
Examination of the surface with a 10X lens should show sharp edges of the
flakes as opposed to a smooth rounded edge which may be caused by buffing or
chemical treatment of the surface.
Also known as 'checking', these are age induced minor separation fractures of
the paint or varnish. Usually there is a fine quilted pattern to the cracks
which look like brick work under a 10X magnifying lens. This is not to be
confused with deep splits of the paint which are better termed cracks.
In a heavily varnished lure like those produced by Heddon, Pflueger, or South
Bend, I personally find it comforting to see crazing because it is indicative
of age and quality. It is also extremely difficult to fake subsurface
crazing. Terms used to describe crazing would be lightly crazed, heavily
crazed, finely crazed, checking, or only obvious with a 10X lens.
a semi-circular scratch made by a hook into the paint or varnish.
If it is into the paint, then it's serious and greatly detracts from the
value. If only into the varnish and very, very light, then it's a
personal call, but a hook drag takes any lure out of the excellent range.
If you see a semi-circular mark on the surface, then you are talking hook drag
and it needs to be described.
Separation of the paint or varnish down to the wood and not normal. Cracks are
a source of water getting to the wood resulting in swelling which causes the
paint to flake or pop off in large sections. In some cases, cracks in
the paint are like crazing where it is a feature of rare, early lures which is
esthetically disturbing, but can verify the origins of the paint on an
otherwise excellent condition lure. Repaints typically would not have
cracks. Cracked eyes are something that should be noted, but have
influence on condition in the plus and minus department.
Paint loss in varying sizes, but usually down to the wood. If you are thinking
you have to express the amount of paint loss as a percentage, then forget
anything above Very Good for condition. If there is enough paint loss to
worry about expressing it as a percentage, then you have something in the
"fished" or used department. Paint chips greatly effect the grade of any
lure, be it ancient or just old. One may accept a paint chip, but be
sure to carefully note its existence when describing a lure with paint.
(a.k.a. lipstick shiny, slick, wet) A term used to describe the slick, smooth,
non-dull, quality of well preserved paint which has not been subjected to
chemicals or intense light. The opposite of the shiny surface would be dull,
dirty, and lifeless paint as a result of exposure to chemicals, light, dirt,
or use. Degree in either direction determines plus or minus grade.
a lure that is in less than Average condition. Not collectible, but useful for
parts. Many people who do repaints buy beaters to strip and repaint.
Some of which are passed as new lures.
scrape: A rub is a smooth, shallow
paint or varnish loss via rubbing, not a chip, not a flake, but more than
likely due to rubbing against a hard object like a box top or being deeply
cleaned. Depending on the extent, a negative factor, but not a big deal
if a light, small area. Scrapes are typically deeper, represent greater
damage, and often involve cutting the paint.
Excellent: A term used to describe a
lure with one small defect which may or may not effect the asking price of a
lure. Typically a single minor pointer, flake, chip, or paint off the
belly weight, but not indicative of the whole lure which is "otherwise
Typically adding new varnish, gill marks, or an attempt to match the existing
antique paint with new paint to hide a defect. A no-no and automatically
removes the lure from being a collectible. Touch-up's are easily
detectable with a black light which will show the difference in paint age and
type. Contrary to the official NFLCC stand on this issue, I
personally don't want a touched up lure in my collection at today's prices.
Good: A term used to avoid listing
all the problems on a lure or box.
a lure body that has been repainted by an arts and crafts person. Not
something that should be in the tackle collecting scene. If properly marked, a
curiosity fit for shadow box displays used by interior decorators and walls in
sports bars. Is that clear?
The ultimate euphemism for "It's only good on one side". Otherwise see
A term used by coin dealers to describe extensive polishing of a surface.
Some people delight in rubbing a lure with cleaner until it is without gill
marks or varnish in an attempt to upgrade the value. What they
accomplish is destruction of the lure and it's value. Cleaning is one
thing, polishing to remove the varnish is another. If you remove the
varnish on a lure, you have greatly decreased the value and there is no way it
can be considered being anything more than Average in grade.
The result of a plastic worm being left against lure paint for an extended
time. Typically the paint melts and leaves a messy goo where the worm was in
contact. Causes a burn-like mark similar to what a cigarette does to Formica
or a laminated furniture surface. Typically earns the lure a 'hangs well'
grade, but eliminates it from anything above used, or beater condition.
What some of us get when we start rationalizing how valuable a ratty old lure
is because of its age.
AND TERMS FOR BOXES
Not much has been written about the
grading of boxes, either cardboard or wood. I'm not going to try to
get too involved in discussing these treasures, but it is necessary to be
accurate in describing any problems with a box. A collector, Marie
Unger, brought this need to my attention, so I offer her grade descriptions as a
part of this discussion.
See the article on
Grading Lure Boxes for photos and additional
When discussing lure boxes:
Water marked: If you note irregular lines or unusual color changes in the
surfaces of a box which look like they are not a part of the design, then you
are most likely looking at water stains. The change is obviously
due to the box coming in contact with water or other solvents which would
cause the dye in the box paper to run, fade, or bleed. It is a question
of extent of damage that is important. If the dark red dye on a Heddon
box has bled into the large white background areas, then that is major.
If, on the other hand, it's just a light dye line across the white, then it's
most likely no big deal, but should be noted.
Stiff and hard vs. mushy and
wavy: New cardboard boxes are not smushed or wavy on
the sides. The corners are square, the sides are straight and hard.
If a box has been wet, then the sides get wavy, the paper gets mushy and
frequently lifts away from the underlying cardboard. Typically box
collectors will talk about new condition boxes being "hard" as in stiff and
Unmarked vs. marked: When boxes were shipped from the factory, they were
typically marked with a number or description for the lure they contained.
Unmarked boxes may be faded due to light exposure. The inked number may
be diluted due to having been wet, or in some cases simply rubbed off.
The value of a lure will be greatly enhanced when in the correctly marked box
vs. an unmarked box. If the box is unmarked, then it is "just a box",
not "the box".
Typically the edges of darker boxes, like maroon or black boxes, will show
edge wear and the underlying lighter color of the cardboard is exposed.
The edge wear can be described as light, heavy, or not detracting, but the
extent should be described. If the paper is peeling back and the
cardboard is exposed, that should be noted.
The most typical problem with wood boxes is the fading of the ink used to
imprint the top or sides of the box. Typically someone will try to
clean a wood box and literally rub off the print. Fading on paper labels
is common due to sunlight damage. If you can't read the writing... note
Crisp photos or graphics:
Typically, offset photography used on some labels will fade with time and
exposure to light. The relative crispness of the photos or drawing
should be described.
Because boxes and labels are paper, they are frequently damaged by insects.
The chewed edges are obvious and should be noted.
Dirt, mildew, and oil
saturated: Often boxes are just plain dirty and dark
looking. Oil can saturate a wood box, render it unrestorable, and leave
a solid cardboard box dark and dingy. Many boxes are just plain
dirty from years of dust and mildew. Mildew will have a dark
spotted look rather than the even gray look of dirt.
It is not unusual for a price to be handwritten on a box. If so, all the
better to know what it cost in 1908. On the other hand if it says "To
Bob with love", or "Fred's favorite frog" then it detracts and should be noted
in the description.
Often parts of a label will be missing. The percentage and what exactly
is missing should be noted. If the name of the company is gone or the
name of the lure, that will be significant and should be described thoroughly.
Cardboard boxes are "taped" or overlapped with paper at the corners or joints.
If the integrity of the corners is lost and the paper splits, the side panels
are separated. This greatly detracts from the value of the box.
Tape should never ever be used to repair a box. Repairing boxes or paper
is an art that should not be taken lightly as a valuable piece can be easily
ruined. On wood boxes, the finger joints or rails may be broken.
If so, that should be noted and reported in the description.
Mint: Box should look like it came off the shelf. Crisp, no dirt,
corners sharp, and no wear. All lettering crisp and clear. Price tags or written
price should not detract. Structure of the box must be stiff and unwarped.
No water marks or sunlight fading damage.
Box will have very minor wear to the corners and some wear around the edges. All
wording and lettering should be clear. No rips or tears. Price tags or written
price should not detract. Structure of the box must be stiff and unwarped.
No water marks or sunlight damage. Wood boxes should have correct tops
that fit properly and no fading of the printing. The wood should be
completely clean and no oil or dirt in the wood as well as no evidence of
Box will have wear to corners and wear around edges. Box may have light soiling
or light water marks. Box may have very minor tears (e.g., paper label applied
that is starting to peel up) or very small dents. Some of the lettering may be
slightly worn. Structure is still there, box will be square at corners and
along panels. No mushiness to the side or tops. If it's a wood box,
the joints may be sprung or the top not working normally.
Box will have dirt, stains or water marks. Probably looks "dingy" overall.
Lettering will be worn, but you should be able to read part of it. Box may have
tears or repairs with tape. Structure may be distorted and joints of the
box may be split. Sides of box are not straight or stiff.
Poor: Barely readable lettering. Stains, soiling, with tears or
parts of the box missing (end flap, etc.). Structure is gone, box not
stiff or squared. Sides, bottom or top are mushy due to water damage.
Ladies and gentlemen, the bell has
rung. Please come out swinging and let's have a clean fight.
This round will end when the last collector leaves the room.