You may ask
yourself...why collect fishing lures? Well, that's a valid question if the only
lures you've seen are those at Wal-Mart on a cardboard hanger with bubble wrap
holding the lure in place.
Let's first clear the
air on what is "Antique" and what is "Not Antique". In the lure world, old
and antique are relative. In the real world, antique means pre-1900
for all intent and purposes. There just are not that many commercially made
lures prior to 1900. 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". There are plenty of forty year
old lures around, but that just puts them into the 1950's and not much of
quality was produced after that point. The real quality material was
made in this country prior to 1940. After that time, production costs and
the war limited the ability of anyone to produce quality lures.
The other reason the
quality decreased is that plastics came into use after 1940, the big companies
started making cheaper lures and boxes to compete in the rapidly expanding
fishing tackle market. As with so many other things we see today,
"Made in America" just didn't stand for the level of quality that was produced
prior to World War II.
The golden era of
tackle is that time frame when Heddon, Shakespeare, Pflueger and the smaller
companies (miscellaneous) were competing to produce "quality" lures which were
hand painted and produced with glass eyes and wood bodies. Yes, your
father had some antique lures, but unless they were handed down from his father,
more than likely they are post 1940. If you want to collect post 1940
lures, that is great, but it isn't not the same as the earlier lures which are
relatively rare and getting more and more scarce. If you have a
plastic lure or even a wood Creek Chub made in the 40's or 50's, yes it's old,
but it is not an "Antique". (Yes, I know nothing post -900 is
technically an antique, but there isn't much to discuss pre-1900. So for
the sake of argument, I call anything pre-1940...antique.)
The collectible stuff
is more on the level of early American art, a product of an era when it was
considered ones duty to do things the right way and competition was organized to
produce a superior product. The height of that era for antique lures generally
falls into the period from the turn of the century until just prior to World War
fishing lures are as much a part of our American history as is the Winchester
Rifle was to the history of the West. No, the Indians were not involved in this
corner of history, but fishing lures were important to the men and women who
fished for pleasure or produced the fishing tackle during the early part of this
century. For some of us, the history is as important as the art.
The highly decorated
and carefully produced lures, boxes, advertising, and paperwork which are
collected today are rare and highly sought after works of commercially produced
art. Of the millions of lures produced, only a few survived in excellent
condition into this, the end of the twentieth century.
Because of the beauty
and rarity of these early pieces, the prices and demand have gradually increased
to the point where there is great interest among the large number of collectors
who frequent the antique and flea markets today. The collector base and
knowledge are growing daily.
information on this thinking, see:
COLLECTING KNOWLEDGE 101:
I don't care
what you collect, you can't have enough books or information on the topic. I'm
constantly amazed by people who want to start collecting and are too cheap to
buy a book on the area they want to collect. Invest in your knowledge and it
will pay you back a thousand times over. Start a large ringed notebook of the
various topics which interest you and keep adding pages as you find the
information. Print out this page and add it to the front of the book for future
reference. Join the NFLCC and order a copy of every catalog or article which
pertains to the area you wish to collect.
reference books. I even bought duplicates of the reference books I need
constantly and cut out the pages of the areas I collect so I don't have to lug
around the whole book. This was expensive initially, but cheap the first time I
needed that information at a show where I wouldn't have brought the whole pile
of books. My personal reference notebook has been reduced to about three inches
thick, and only contains the essential material related to underwater minnows
and boxes. I've also had to create one just for the miscellaneous
lures as that area is a specialty unto itself.
difference between a collector and a gatherer or accumulator is the knowledge
the collector gains by study. If you just want to gather as much stuff as you
can accumulate, then you don't need much knowledge. If you collect, you will
have structure, purpose, and direction to your acquisitions. If you spend more
than 20% of your free time thinking about fishing tackle collecting, you might
be a collector. If you spend more than 80% of your free time looking for or
thinking about tackle, you might be a dealer or have OCD (obsessive-compulsive
prices of what you wish to collect get high, you best be a very studious
collector or you are going to go broke accumulating junk. I have a friend who
"collects" and for the most part will never pick up a book, or read the many
articles relative to what he collects. His "fractured collection" is testimony
to the fact that a lack of knowledge is a detriment to the quality of your
power, and in lure collecting, nothing will better serve you to survive the
rising tide of fakes and high prices than knowledge. Finding a lure or reel is
the easy part, identifying and figuring out exactly what you have and what it is
worth is the hard part. As quality lures become more scarce, the odds of buying
a "reconstructed" bait and box combination are great. If you don't know the
correct numbers on the box and the correct age of the bait that matches the box,
you may make a costly mistake. Knowledge is the only long term answer. Sure, you
can call a friend and pick his or her brain for a while, but that gets old for
both of you.
several ways to accumulate a collection. You first have to understand that there
is a huge difference between "field finds" and "dealer or Internet buys". The
former requires lots of your time and luck, but little money, while the latter
requires lots of knowledge, money, and you better know someone you can trust. Of
course you could be one of those lucky individuals who inherits a collection,
but what fun is that?
start? First and foremost, learn all you can and then join the NFLCC. Go to the
tackle shows, look, listen, and learn, but don't buy at first. Above all, ask
questions before you buy. Make friends with older members who have forgotten
more than you or I will ever know. Read, read, read, and read some more. Most
serious collectors I know read some collecting related material almost every
night. You cannot know enough.
individuals, the "hunt and find" is the attraction of the hobby. For these
people, collecting is frequently secondary and they typically sell what they
find. Great! It's a way for people who don't have time to hunt material to add
to their collections.
Link up with
a like-minded mentor who you can visit on a regular basis. I was fortunate
enough to find not one, but three or four mentors when I started a few years ago
and I can never thank them enough. Try to cultivate the friendship of an older
collector who is a student and has seen it all. It is your only defense and most
guys are more than happy to help a new collector if he or she is serious.
Network with friends. Get on the phone and talk to people who share your
interests. Yes, your phone bill will soar for a while, but so will the
Grading lures is subjective. In other words, it
is in the eye of the beholder for the most part. What is only very good plus to
me, may be called excellent minus by another person. Visual values vary
considerably from person to person. As we all know, not everyone has good taste
or appreciation for details. So, what is excellent condition? I keep a set of
photos of new condition lures to show people who don't understand what excellent
means. This is the only method I have found to educate someone who doesn't
understand the difference in old verses excellent. These terms are not mutually
exclusive, they can co-exist.
have a frame of reference, like the photos, for the ideal or excellent, then you
can discuss the variations from that ideal. To me, an 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.
If a lure has been touched up in any way or manner it is no longer collectible
in my book or a part of the grading system. Period.
on what constitutes
excellent, very good, good, etc. Since I don't collect anything less than
excellent minus in lures, I tend to not even notice baits which are of lesser
quality because I collect for condition. If I color collected, I might accept
lesser quality to get a color I don't have, but I don't color collect and
therefore condition is very important to me.
variation to this excellent rule lies in evaluation of really early (c.
1900-1912) baits and boxes from certain companies. With many miscellaneous
company baits and some turn-of-the-century companies like Shakespeare or
Pflueger, the condition rarely, if ever, meets the excellent standard as just
outlined. In this case you have to make some allowances for age, wear, and
rarity, but generally not with post 1912 material when there was a larger volume
of production. For instance, Heddon made millions of L-rig lures, but fewer were
made in cup rig in 1906. Boxes were not made to last and they didn't. If you
find'em, get'em. There is a whole page on
grading boxes on this site.
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, then that's fine, but don't expect the
next guy to agree with your excellent evaluation when most people see it as only
very good. If you have never seen what excellent looks like, then it is very
hard to understand just how great the condition can be on some of the well
preserved lures. There is no substitute for looking at or hand holding large
numbers of lures. Your brain eventually absorbs the condition information after
you stick your fingers often enough with hooks.
Take a look
at the photos, detailed terms, and discussion provided on
Grading: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Also take a long look at the article on
Grading lures and boxes.
experience, many large collections with "thousands" of lures are
"representative" collections and not "condition" collections. There are not that
many unused lures out there anymore in the older age range. Much of the better
material is in the hands of collectors and traded or sold in a small circle of
friends. Those friends are people of like-minded values who tend to appreciate
and are willing to pay for the quality they wish to place in their collections.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing a representative collection, but
don't think that just because it is old it will go up in value. Typically, it is
a combination of age and condition which drive the higher prices. You can almost
always get rid of a piece in truly excellent condition before you can get rid of
a piece for which you have to make excuses.
by rare colors is a whole different game. Figuring out what is rare and what is
not is difficult at best. Experience is the key. With fewer and
fewer lures being available to handle at shows, this is the hardest area to
learn. What is considered a rare color by one individual may be totally
different for another person because their experience will be different. When a
color for a bait is called "tough", just consider the source and then decide if
you want to pay extra for a supposedly rare or semi-rare color. To my knowledge,
there is no list or book which states what colors are rare and which are
considered tough. That knowledge is closely held by long-term collectors and
gained by experience.
asked what I think is rare in lures and where should one collect. It might
be easier to say what is not rare than what is rare. Post 1920 Heddon is
not rare. Pre-1920 Heddon is rare. Creek Chub is not rare, early
South Bend and Shakespeare is really rare. Early Pflueger in
gem-clip is rare, Neverfail hardware is not rare. Pre-1910 Shakespeare
with an excellent paint job is rare, Dalton Specials are not. For a more
comprehensive list of what is rare and what is not, see the
What's Rare page.
Winchester rifle collection was put together without the benefit of having seen
a really nice, excellent condition collection. Once I saw the excellent
condition collection of a friend, I went home and sold my whole "collection" and
started all over from scratch. Next time around, I bought only the high quality
I wanted to collect. I remembered this lesson when I started collecting lures
and it has served me well. Buy the best you can afford and find out what
constitutes the best. For lures, the items shown on this site are a good
start to seeing some of the better lures which you can collect.
will change your values. Where you start your collection on the food chain or
how you perceive quality will greatly influence the level you collect. There is
no question that you should collect what you like, but price is a limiting
factor for all of us. On the other hand, if quality is the goal, then a few good
pieces are better than a room full of junk. I know, because I bought
more than my share when I started.
confronted with making a high-end buy, I have a number of mental tests which I
run to determine if I really want to make the buy or not. They are:
the last time I saw one of these and what is the likelihood I'll see another
one? ( A dangerous test if
you are a beginner and think everything is rare!) After you collect for a
while and build up contacts among other collectors, the feeling that you will
see another lures again is more positive. The longer you collect, the more you
understand what is really rare and what is not. There are lots of lures out
there still in the hands of non-collectors.
If I pass
on this, can I find another one in the same condition?
(Mental masturbation at best.) Same theory again: there are thousands of lures
out there and if you just wait, they will come to you in time. Or, they will
show up on eBay.
really something I will enjoy in my collection?
(Do you get warm and fuzzy
feelings?) With the passage of time, we all tire of parts of our collections.
Today's passion is tomorrow's trader. It happens.
Do I want
to go off in another collecting direction, or stay on the path I have decided
upon? (One tends to collect
that which is available. If Shakespeare isn't available, collect Heddon. Can't
afford to play the game in wood baits, collect plastic. Do what works for you.
Am I going
to get mad at myself if I let this pass?
(Who among us has not kicked him or herself for passing on a piece because "it
cost too much", only to later wallow in regret?) There will be another, but
the test is when and how much will it cost next time around.
price out of line with my experience or that of other collectors of a like
mind? (One doesn't want to
pay too much and be seen as "stupid" by ones' peers? On the other hand, stupid
today maybe smart tomorrow!) Always pay a premium for quality. You never go
wrong with the best.
survived? Is it really rare?
(Experience is the only teacher. When you first begin collecting, everything
is rare because you don't know how many are available.) My greatest fear is
that someone is hoarding a million Heddon underwater lures which were stolen
from the factory and plans to bleed them on the market for the next two years
at different shows. Paranoia runs deep.
Is this a
fad buy? Will this "hot area" pass and should I just wait until the demand
dies down? (One or two
competing collectors can drive the prices on a limited supply and when they
drink their fill, the price will drop like a rock. This has happened in Heddon
underwater minnows, Punkinseeds, and highend Creek Chub. A few competing
collectors drove the price through the roof and once they finished their
collections, prices settled back down as calmer collectors re-entered the
market. Ebay can be a reality check.)
item worth a premium to obtain at this time?
(If it is a rare and a once in a
life time opportunity to fill a hole in the collection...just do it!) I had
some really rare (expensive) Shakespeare appear recently. I'm still swallowing
hard, but it's in the cabinet thanks to two friends who helped me rationalize
people collect this item?
(If you and two other guys are the only ones collecting a given item, don't
overpay for the right to own it.) If you are the only person collecting a
given item, then you have to think twice about being held up for a high price.
Where else are they going to sell it?
item so unique that no one else would want it but me?
(A collectible is not a good investment unless other people want it.) Yes, I
realize that the pure of heart collector doesn't really care, but at the price
levels which some lures are trading these days, you have to weigh the cost vs.
return on investment equation. If you don't, you are going to go broke.
finally, how am I going to get out of this item if and when I want to move it
to another collector or dealer?
(Is it a good investment? Is there
a market for the item?) Quality will always move. As long as you have the best
available, you won't have to apologize when it comes time to sell.
AND THE "FIX"
If you hang
around lure collectors for very long, you are going to hear one of us mention
the drug related feeling..."I need a fix". If we lure collectors can't
find something to buy or add to the collection on a regular basis, we tend to
get withdrawal symptoms: hyperactivity, edginess, yearning for stimulation to
the lure seeking part of the brain. More than likely this is a
pre-historic left-over from the hunting and gathering instinct. A
distinct, powerful lower brain function, not unlike sex.
antique lure chat rooms long enough and you will see someone mention they are
fulfilling this need by relating tales of a find or begging for someone to post
a story through which the rest of us can endure another lureless day. It's
the "I need a lure fix" syndrome. It is why eBay is such a success.
Assuming you accept this observation as fact, let's see if we can burst the
comfort bubble and hang out some psychological underwear for airing regarding
this constant hunting and buying of fishing lures or any collectible.
We all hate
rejection. No one actually goes out looking for rejection in any form be
it socially or business related. One would suppose that healthy
individuals avoid rejection on the assumption that rejection is something you
would just rather do without on a good day. I would suggest that the "need
a lure fix" feeling is related to rejection avoidance. Ask any insurance
salesman: "What is the worst feeling you endure?" I'm sure it will be
rejection. Salesmen in general, to be good at their craft, have to be able
to handle rejection. The rest of us avoid rejection like crazy.
of any ilk are not used to rejection because they satisfy their need to avoid
rejection by constant buying in the name of "adding to their collection".
Think about it, no one is generally rejected when buying, that comes when
selling. If there isn't anything to buy in one area, then we shift to
another area of collecting. (Can you visualize plastic lures from the
70's?) The same pattern occurs in most areas of collecting and shifts in
collecting occur when the supply or price move out of the individual's comfort
If you want
to test this observation, just try to sell some of those " in very good plus
condition" lures for which you paid so dearly. This is when the
chickens come home to roost. If you are talking selling, then you are
talking about moving out of the comfort zone. Those who buy do so out of a
need to avoid rejection and seek comfort. (Ever notice all those women in
the malls with shopping bags?) No salesman says "no" to the buyer with the
right amount of money or the ticketed price.
buyer, the comfort is found in the acceptance created by the buying. If
you doubt this observation, get on the Internet or phone and try to sell
something at an inflated price. If no one accepts your item, then you are
going to find out about rejection on some level. I would suggest all of us
need to try to sell some of our collectibles from time to time just to get a
reality check. Want to find out if you are paying too much? Buy a
lure in the morning and see if anyone is willing to buy it for the same price in
So, the next
time you start getting that feeling that you need a "lure fix", remember that
you are just avoiding rejection and all the other excuses why you are trying to
make a buy are just rationalizations.
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