December is the Holiday Season and a time for remembering the past, which brings me to the subject of antique fishing reels and all the questions I get about them. In the old days, pre-internet that is, determining what a reel, lure, or old rod was worth used to be simple to figure out. If I hadn’t seen it before I charged extra for it. But now with the internet it’s much more complicated than that, although in some ways it may be easier. Internet search engines like Google and Bing and merchandising sites like EBay are where you go to find out the price of your fishing tackle. The trick is to type the words “antique” or “vintage” before the name of the product so get you get past the flood of new products on the market. Just keep in mind that though some tackle may still have the same name, many of today’s plugs and stick baits are now made from plastic not wood, or the design might have changed over the years making the older version much more collectable.
Years ago antique reels like Mitchell or DAM-Quick had a high price tag for they were hard to find. When the internet came along with all those selling sites, people could now post things they had laying in their basement or garage which drove the value of tackle way down. Being hard to find is what makes something valuable. You once had to drive around and look through garage sales and flea markets to find treasures, now you can sit in your undershorts and surf the web and see what someone has to sell all across the country or even the world. So the ‘looking for’ got a lot easier and old reels which were once hard to find are now more common place. Like Ocean City reels an off- shoot of old Penn, there are thousands of these old reels out there and while no longer made, they are still very common on the net, so they have very little value.
A hard thing to figure is the price of lures. I have seen a lure which was wooden with a normal color pattern go for 7 dollars, while the same lure a different color is worth 5 times as much.
Here is another brain teaser for you. How many people save the box or paperwork for the reel, not many. We take the reel out and go fishing with it then toss the box in the trash. So in general, the box the reel came in is usually worth twice what the reel is worth, and if you have the paperwork the price goes up again.
The real truth about antique rods, reels, and tackle is that; at the end of the day, none of this equipment has a set dollar value, they are only worth what someone will pay for them.
Now I would like to talk about the real value of an old reel. The value is you.
Things we have and which are close to us, are like pictures of us for our family. A guy came in the other day asking me about the price of his old reels, one of which was his grandfather’s. How or why would you put a price on that is hard to figure. I have a pocket watch which was my grandfather’s, I wouldn’t sell it at any price. Think how much that reel would mean to your grand kids or their kids. Even if they don’t fish, hey every family has some weird folks in it, but the hope is that one day they will fish and enjoy it as much as you do. The real key is that it’s not them using the reel which is important, it’s that every time they see it on the shelf, they will think of you. The images from something like that are stronger than any picture or price tag.
Reels which have lasted decades in an attic, will often go bad very quickly when used in salt water. So if you have an old reel handed down from family, it’s OK to use it but to keep it nice, wipe it off after fishing with ‘Get-Some’ oil, Reel Magic, or Penn reel cleaner. Just like when you wash your car, you rinse it and you still see soap spots all over it. When you rinse your rod and reel off with a hose there are still spots of salt on it, wiping it with a dry rag then a rag with oil will keep it in the family for years to come. Even with proper maintenance of your reel, the best way to keep an antique reel in good condition is to keep it on the self. Another important consideration or problem with older reels is bake-a-lite, which is the name for early forms of plastic. These materials become brittle with time and the new braided lines can blow-apart the spool on older reels. If your old reel has a metal spool then this is much less likely to occur. So be careful when matching new technology with old school tackle.
So like old friends our tackle stays with us, and like me it just keeps on going, a little corroded maybe a little rusty and creaks a bit, but from an old creaky guy in the bait shop, I wish you a happy holiday and hope you end the year with the fish you dreamed of. Thanks for another great year and most of all thanks for not making me get a real job.