So you’ve found some vintage fishing lures and you’re wondering if it’s worth anything. Or will they still catch fish? Or should you just give them to your neighbour’s kid because they are interested in fishing?
Many people ask if there is any value on antique baits they have come across as well as some not-so-antique but nonetheless old fishing lures. It’s hard to answer this question with certainty, especially if you are not immersed in the world of vintage fishing lures or other devices and ephemera. Chances are they’re not worth much financially, but then again …
Old versus antique
The beginning is to determine what era or age you are talking about. Baits made forty to sixty years ago are old, but very few have any significant value. They can be well used today to catch fish if you tend to.
There are a few exceptions, however. Certain wooden baits, discontinued by their makers a few decades ago but preferred by anglers, have been hoarded by connoisseurs and can still make good money.
The original Big O, a balsa wood crank lure made by Tennessean Fred C. Young in the late 1960s, is one such lure and started the crank-lure-for-bass industry. While plastic versions are still being made today, signed and numbered wooden Big O originals are legendary and valuable baits that are now included in the collector’s fishing bait category, despite not being a century old.
Another example is Heddon’s large Creek Chub Husky Pikie. As a bait with metal lips, it was particularly popular with musk trollers. Many were dismayed when Heddon started making this plastic bait, and so the last of the wooden models were snatched up by anglers to fish for more than to collect, although today they are considered vintage fishing lures.
The definition of vintage goes back further than the mid-20th century, and truly antique baits are those that are a century or older, including some of the first wooden and metal baits ever made in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were manufactured. Some of these are worth many thousands of dollars, especially when accompanied by the original packaging in which they were sold.
A one-of-a-kind musk charmer Minnow sold for $ 21,000 in 2018. That’s a staggering sum until you find out that the most ever paid for old fishing lures was $ 101,200 for a Riley Haskell Minnow in 2003. Vintage Heddon, Shakespearean, and Plowman baits are valuable collectibles, but there are plenty from lesser-known manufacturers.
A friend of mine, Pat Salimeno, had one of the most prized collections of vintage fishing lures when he passed away over a decade ago. Like most real collectors of antique implements, Pat was smart and careful. He specialized in bait and learned his hobby over decades. He found bargains by working a lot before the internet. I accompanied him to two eye-opening sales at Lang’s Auctions, the leading auction house for antique fishing tackle, and later sold Pat’s collection. By signing up with them, you can access previous auction catalogs and search for previously sold items.
Another source of information is the National Fishing Lure Collectors Club, a nonprofit educational organization that provides membership forums and publishes a quarterly magazine. When you become a member you will have access to the bibliography of educational resources, including scrapbooks for antique equipment. Some of these books have become self-collectable and, although published two or more decades ago, have value for identification purposes, if not for evaluation of devices in the current marketplace.