Every thing else being equal, head toward those church sales, country auctions, estate, and tag sales that advertise "FISHING BOAT FOR SALE."  When you arrive early, forget the old skiff - they seldom have antique value.  Look instead for everything else having to do with fishing.  Quite often, people selling the "old boat" are also looking to rid themselves of the accompanying rods, reels, nets, and tackle boxes stuffed with tangled spinning lures and plugs, tied flies, an old fishing license, knives, line, hooks, and other fishy smelling things.  Some of these "cast-away" objects can reel-in surprising prices.  For instance, a single fishing lure-a 6" long "Haskell" minnow, patented in 1859, recently sold at auction for $14,850!

Like most old lures, an early Haskell Minnow wouldn't strike you as anything important.  It looks like a little dead fish with a barbed double hook at the end.  Originally, the lure was silver-plated.  But that probably wouldn't strike you as odd.  Only about thirty or so have been identified to date.  Who would know?   If you found a Haskell Minnow in your basement, or one of the scarce few other types that bring huge prices, you'd probably go fishing with it and hook it on a submerged log.  So wouldn't most antique dealers.  The point is, don't sell or discard Grampa's old fishing stuff!  This is one time when you don't want to brag about the one that got away.

The valuation of old lures is dependent upon: condition, age, attribution to a recognized collectible maker, interest and appeal, the track record price of the lure type, and basically, how much those fellows who covet old lures are willing to pay for yours at the time.  Most lures you'll encounter will be worth but a few dollars.  One or two, if you're lucky, will be worth couple hundred.  Casting lures, most early ones are made out of wood, metal, string, or rubber-not modern plastic, are the most sought after.  Look for glass or tack eyes and hooks that are fastened inside tin cups set into a small hole drilled into the lure.  A small weight tied to the lure is a good sign.  Flies are collected by their tier.  An original paper backing or envelope will usually be marked.  Carrie Stevens (1882-1972) is a master tier whose files are recognizable by a tiny red band in their heads.  There are a thousand other things to study in discerning the age and quality of lures but you'd forget them just like I do.  Here's my suggestions for the novice.

1.  Keep in mind that 60 years is old for a lure.

2.  Look for "associated" clues as to how long they've been around and buy lures with age.  If there is a boat for sale; how old is the boat?  Who fished with the lures?  Dad or Great Grand Dad?  I bought a tackle box full of lures last year based on a 1952 fishing license that was enclosed within.

3.  Be cheap.  Pay no more for lures than what seems to be a good buy if you're just purchasing them to catch fish.  If you don't fish, pay less.  That way you won't get hooked.

4.  Look for lures that are beautifully crafted and have interesting, mechanical, fish-catching design.  An original lure box is a big plus. 

5.  Once you've made what you think is a great catch.  Relax, and do your homework.  Hope you land a big one!

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Wayne Mattox Antiques | 82 Main Street North | Woodbury, CT 06798 | 203-263-2899 | wayne@antiquetalk.com
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