For those unfamiliar with the world of collecting, it may be surprising to discover that anything can become a valuable collectible.
Value is ultimately determined by the demand for an item among collectors. Hence, regardless of an item’s intrinsic value, if that particular item is rare, unique, or holds sentimental or historical significance, it can become highly desirable among collectors, driving up its market value. This is the case with rare antique fishing lures.
Additionally, cultural trends and shifts in popular taste can also contribute to the value of collectibles. For example, a particular type of vintage clothing may suddenly become popular among a new generation of consumers, increasing its value among collectors.
As long as there is collector demand for a particular item, it has the potential to become a valuable collectible.
Rare antique fishing lures are vintage fishing lures that were produced in limited quantities, have unique features or designs, and are highly sought after by collectors.
These lures were often handcrafted by individual artisans or small companies and are now considered to be valuable collectibles due to their rarity, historical significance, and aesthetic appeal.
Some of the most valuable antique fishing lures were produced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by companies such as Heddon, Pflueger, and Creek Chub. These lures were often made from wood, metal, or early plastics and were designed to mimic the movement and appearance of live bait.
One reason why rare antique fishing lures are valuable is that they are highly collectible among fishing enthusiasts and antique collectors.
In addition, many of these lures are considered to be works of art, with intricate designs and details that make them highly sought after by collectors.
Another reason why rare antique fishing lures are valuable is that they are often associated with important historical events or figures. For example, some antique fishing lures were used by famous anglers or were produced during important periods in fishing history.
In this article, we take a look at some of the most valuable antique fishing lures from the rich history of fishing tool development.
History of Rare Antique Fishing Lures
Fishing lures have been used for thousands of years as a way to attract fish.
Early fishing lures were often made of natural materials such as feathers, animal fur, and bone and were designed to mimic the appearance and movement of live bait.
Editor’s Note: What are Fishing Lures?
Fishing lures are artificial baits or imitations of natural prey that are used to attract fish. They are typically made of various materials, such as plastic, metal, wood, or feathers, and are designed to mimic the appearance, movement, and scent of live bait.
Fishing lures come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and styles and are often explicitly designed to target specific species of fish or fishing conditions. Common types of fishing lures include spinners, jigs, spoons, plugs, and soft plastic baits.
The lures are attached to the end of fishing lines and are cast out into the water to attract fish.
When a fish strikes the lure, the angler feels a tug on the line and can then reel in the fish. Fishing lures can be used in a variety of fishing techniques, including freshwater, saltwater, fly fishing, and ice fishing.
In the 19th century, the development of industrial manufacturing techniques led to the mass production of fishing lures made from materials such as metal, wood, and early plastics. Many of these early lures were simple designs, such as metal spoons and spinners, that were effective at attracting fish.
By the early 20th century, the development of new materials and manufacturing techniques led to the production of more complex and realistic fishing lures.
Companies such as Heddon, Creek Chub, and Pflueger began producing lures with intricate designs and details, such as the Creek Chub Pikie and the Heddon Frog, which are now highly collectible antique fishing lures.
During this time, fishing also became an increasingly popular recreational activity, and the demand for high-quality fishing lures grew. As a result, many small-scale artisanal lure makers also began producing handmade lures, many of which are now highly sought after by collectors.
In the mid-20th century, the introduction of new materials such as silicone and rubber led to the development of soft plastic baits, which revolutionized the fishing industry. Soft plastics allowed anglers to create lifelike imitations of natural prey, and quickly became a popular and effective way to catch fish.
Today, fishing lures continue to evolve and improve, with new materials and designs constantly being developed.
However, antique fishing lures remain highly collectible and sought after by collectors and anglers alike and are considered an essential part of fishing history.
Some antique fishing lures have sold for thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars at auction, making them some of the most valuable collectibles in the fishing industry.
World’s Most Valuable Fishing Lure: Giant Haskell Minnow
Finalized Auction Price: $101,200
No discussion of the most valuable rare antique fishing lures can be completed without a mention of this giant copper Haskell Minnow which currently holds the record of the most expensive fishing lure in the world to ever be sold.
The Haskell series is a small line of antique lures created in the late 19th century by Riley Haskell, a jeweler from Painesville, Ohio, that represents some of the most iconic and highly sought-after antique fishing lures in the world.
Riley Haskell was a highly skilled gunsmith who lived in Painesville, Ohio, in the mid-19th century. He was known for his finely crafted guns, which were highly sought-after by sportsmen and collectors alike.
However, Haskell had another passion besides gun making: fishing. He loved nothing more than spending time on the water, casting his line, and trying to catch the biggest fish he could find. And as with his guns, he wanted his fishing gear to be of the highest quality.
So, Haskell decided to try his hand at making fishing lures. He began experimenting with different materials and designs, trying to create lures that would mimic the appearance and movement of live fish. He quickly discovered that his expertise in metalworking could be applied to lure-making as well, and he began producing highly detailed and realistic lures made from copper and brass.
Haskell’s lures were quickly recognized for their quality and effectiveness. They were highly sought-after by fishermen, and Haskell soon found himself making lures full-time.
One of Haskell’s most famous creations was the Haskell Minnow, a fish-shaped lure with a hollow body and finely sculpted details. The lure was designed to mimic the movements of a live minnow, and it quickly became a favorite among anglers.
Haskell continued to make fishing lures for many years, even as his gun business thrived. He remained passionate about fishing and always strove to improve his lure designs.
However, Haskell’s fishing lures were never produced in large quantities and were only sold for a short period of time, making them extremely rare and valuable antique fishing lures. Haskell’s focus was primarily on producing high-quality lures rather than mass production, and as a result, only a limited number of his lures were ever made.
It is believed that Haskell produced only a few thousand of these lures during his lifetime. Many were likely lost or destroyed over time, and only a small number of examples have survived to the present day. Of these surviving examples, most are in the hands of private collectors or museums, making them even more difficult to come by.
Furthermore, due to the fact that many of these lures were used for fishing, few of them have survived to this day. Those that have survived are highly prized by collectors and are often worth a significant amount of money.
Today, Riley Haskell is remembered as one of the pioneers of the modern fishing lure industry.
His lures are highly collectible and are prized by anglers and collectors around the world. Haskell’s legacy lives on, and his influence can be seen in the countless fishing lures that are still being produced today.
Today, this giant bronze-colored lure, a Haskell Minnow, is regarded as the crowning piece of them all after setting the all-time record for a fishing lure sold through public auction, in 2003, when it was purchased for $101,200 by an anonymous bidder.
The lure had been part of a private collection for many years before being put up for auction, and its sale generated widespread excitement among collectors and fishing enthusiasts.
The Haskell Minnow’s record-breaking sale price was a testament to its rarity and historical significance, as well as its appeal as a work of art. Today, the Haskell Minnow remains one of the most coveted antique fishing lures in the world, and its sale continues to be a benchmark for the value of rare and collectible fishing lures.
The Haskell Minnow was designed to mimic the appearance and movement of a live minnow, with a jointed body that allowed it to move realistically through the water. The lure was also hand-painted with intricate details, including scales, fins, and eyes, which made it highly attractive to fish.
Measuring at a length of 10 inches, the “Giant Haskell” is indeed a rarity among Haskell Minnows. This particular lure is nearly double the size of all other known Haskell Minnows, which are already highly sought-after and collectible among fishing enthusiasts and collectors alike.
The giant Haskell is made of thick sheets of copper and brass and features a hollow body with finely sculpted details.
The lure is fish-shaped, with textured scales and a pair of tandem angular hooks that extend from the revolving tail section and curve upward. It is believed that Haskell created this particular lure for trolling or casting, and it was intended to lure in larger fish such as bass, pike, and musky.
Although this giant Haskell minnow is incredibly rare, it is not the only oversized Haskell Minnow to have been discovered. Other examples have been found that measure up to 8 inches in length, which is still significantly larger than most other Haskell Minnows.
These larger lures are even more highly prized by collectors than the smaller-sized options due to their rarity and the skill required to create them.
Most Valuable Rare Antique Fishing Lures
Aside from the Giant Haskell, there are several other antique fishing lures that are highly valued by collectors and fishing enthusiasts everywhere. Some of the most valuable and sought-after antique fishing lures include:
The specimens we have highlighted in this list are from the records of auctions carried out by Lang’s Auction House, the world’s leading fishing tackle auction service. Lang’s first auction debuted in 1991 with the distinction of being the only auction house dedicated solely to the field of antique and collectible fishing tackle.
Since its inception in 1991, Lang’s, Inc. has become a premier auction house in the field of antique and collectible fishing tackle. Its founder Bob Lang’s vision for a specialized auction house dedicated to this niche market proved successful, and his legacy continues today under the leadership of John Ganung, who purchased the company in 2002.
Under Ganung’s stewardship, Lang’s has expanded to include three selling venues and has attracted collectors from around the globe. Lang’s has also achieved numerous world record auction prices for antique and collectible tackle, as well as for Derrydale Press books and items related to the famed author Zane Grey.
What started as a humble venture has now become a go-to destination for collectors and enthusiasts alike, offering comprehensive services for consignors and buyers at every level.
Lang’s, Inc. remains committed to its founding principles of expertise, integrity, and exceptional service, making it a trusted leader in the field of antique and collectible fishing tackle.
Unidentified Prehistoric American Wooden Minnow
Finalized Auction Price: $42,560
In the world of fishing lure collecting, there are few things more exciting than discovering a previously unknown piece of angling history. And that is exactly what happened when an unidentified wooden minnow went up for auction in 2006, selling for an incredible $42,560.
Considered the “single most historic and important wooden minnow to ever come to auction,” this lure is believed to be a predecessor of all American wooden underwater lures.
The piece was found in the tackle box of an Ohio angler, Hiram Rice, who lived in an area famous for early fishing lure makers like Pflueger and Pardee.
Despite not being able to trace the manufacture of this rare and possibly one-of-a-kind lure, historians note that it is practically identical to early Trory minnows. This particular lure is described as being in very good condition despite dating from the late 1890s.
The lure’s design is a testament to the craftsmanship and innovation of early fishing lure makers in America. It is believed to be the earliest example of an American wooden underwater minnow, which makes it a true piece of angling history.
The lure’s value is not just in its historical significance but also in its rarity and beauty. The fact that it was found in the tackle box of Hiram Rice, alongside an assortment of antique fishing tackle, only adds to its allure.
This mysterious and unidentified wooden minnow remains a highly sought-after item among antique fishing lure collectors, and its sale in 2006 set a new record for the most expensive fishing lure sold at a public auction at the time.
Finalized Auction Price: $37,400
The Chautauqua Minnow, created by Krantz & Smith of New York in 1908, had a rocky start in the fishing lure market.
Anglers quickly discovered that the lure was not very effective at catching fish, and as a result, the demand for it was low. Production was eventually cut off shortly after the first few Chautauqua Minnows were made, making them exceptionally rare for collectors.
Despite the initial failure of the lure, some recognized its potential value as a line with an extremely limited supply and saved at least this one specimen from being thrown away. This particular Chautauqua Minnow was later discovered and sold for an impressive $37,400, demonstrating the incredible value of extremely rare antique fishing lures.
Collectors prize the Chautauqua Minnow not only for its rarity but also for its unique design. The lure features a unique curved, wooden body with a metal lip that creates a wobbling action when retrieved. It also has two treble hooks attached to the bottom of the body, making it suitable for both trolling and casting.
The Chautauqua Minnow may not have been successful in its time, but its rarity and design have made it a valuable piece of fishing history. It serves as a reminder that even failed products can become extremely valuable collectibles when paired with the right demand.
Rare Musky Haskell Minnow
Finalized Auction Price: $32,000
The Haskell Minnow is a highly sought-after antique fishing lure known for its intricate design and craftsmanship. But among the many variations of the Haskell Minnow available today, this Rare Dark Haskell Musky Minnow stands out as a true gem of early American craftsmanship.
Measuring 7 1/2 inches in overall length, the Rare Minnow is finely crafted down to the smallest details, from its textured scales to its finely sculpted fins.
This lure is a testament to the skill and artistry of Riley Haskell, a highly skilled gunsmith who decided to try his hand at making fishing lures in the mid-19th century.
Patented on September 20, 1859, the Rare Dark Haskell Musky Minnow is a prime example of the early American fishing lures that are highly prized by collectors today. Despite its age, this lure remains in excellent condition, a testament to the care with which it was made and the care with which it has been preserved over the years.
In 2007, this specimen went up for auction and sold for over $32,000, unsurprising, considering its rarity and the high demand among collectors for early American fishing lures.
It is not surprising that the Haskell Minnows are considered to be some of the most desirable lures in the world, given their intricate design and the limited numbers in which they were produced.
Musky Charmer Minnow
Finalized Auction Price: $25,000
The world of antique fishing lures is full of surprises, and the Musky Charmer Minnow is no exception. This unique and rare fishing lure is highly sought after by collectors due to its impressive design and rarity.
The Musky Charmer Minnow was produced by the Charmer Minnow Company, which was known for creating high-quality fishing lures in the early 20th century. However, the Musky Charmer Minnow stands out from the rest due to its larger size and distinctive design.
Measuring just over 5 inches in length, the Musky Charmer Minnow is considered the rarest of all the Charmers. What sets this lure apart from the others is its striped tail, which is unlike any other design from the Charmer Minnow Company.
It’s believed that only a few Musky-sized Charmers still exist today, making this one of the most valuable and highly sought-after lures in the world of antique fishing tackle.
In 2018, an excellent-condition Musky Charmer Minnow was sold at auction for just over $25,000, making it one of the most expensive fishing lures ever sold. This high price tag is a testament to the lure’s rarity and desirability among collectors.
For serious antique fishing lure collectors, the Musky Charmer Minnow is a must-have addition to any collection. Its unique design and rarity make it a true treasure for those who appreciate the artistry and history of vintage fishing tackle.
Shakespeare Muskellunge Minnow
Finalized Auction Price: $23,100
The Shakespeare Muskellunge Minnow, sold at auction for a whopping $23,100, is a testament to the innovative mind of William Shakespeare, Jr. As the son of a banker, Shakespeare had a passion for fishing and sought to create the perfect lure. His “Revolution” lure, introduced in the late 1890s, was a game-changer for the industry.
Equipped with three treble hooks and a propeller, the “Revolution” was one of the earliest wooden baits sold in the United States.
Over the years, Shakespeare continued to refine and improve his lures, producing several new successor variants to the Revolution, including the Muskellunge Minnow, which is now one of the most valuable in existence.
What makes this particular lure so valuable is its pristine condition. It has been carefully preserved over the years, with every detail of its construction still intact. The attention to detail and quality of materials used in its creation is a testament to Shakespeare’s commitment to excellence.
The Shakespeare Muskellunge Minnow was estimated to sell for $5,500, but auctioneers were surprised when it sold for more than four times that amount. Its high value is a testament to its rarity, as well as the skill and craftsmanship that went into its creation.
For collectors and fishing enthusiasts, the Shakespeare Muskellunge Minnow is a piece of history representing the early days of lure-making in America. Its value is not just in its price tag but in the legacy that it represents.
Heddon Dowagiac Expert
Finalized Auction Price: $19,000
The story of the Heddon Dowagiac Expert is one of perseverance and ingenuity. James Heddon, a beekeeper, and newspaperman from Michigan, revolutionized the fishing industry with his creation of the Dowagiac Casting Bait in the early 1900s. The lure was named after the town where Heddon worked, Dowagiac, and was later shortened to the Dowagiac Expert.
This lure was originally marketed as the Dowagiac Casting Bait in the early 1900s. Over time, Heddon shortened its name to the “Dowagiac Expert,” and it quickly became a favorite among anglers.
Despite being a game-changing invention, few copies of the Dowagiac Expert survived to this day, and even fewer are in good condition. It is a testament to its popularity and rarity that the white cardboard box it came in can sell for as much as $1,000 without the lure itself.
Measuring almost 6 inches long with large glass eyes, a front spinner, and an intact tail, this wooden beauty is a stunning example of the Dowagiac Expert in its natural scale finish. Produced by Heddon himself out of Dowagiac, Michigan, it is likely the best-known example of the very few of its kind.
Heddon Mohawk Minnow
Finalized Auction Price: $18,400
The world of antique and collectible fishing tackle is full of rare and valuable items, and the Heddon Mohawk Minnow is definitely one of them.
This beautiful lure, believed to have been made around 1905, is the only known example of its kind to come with a matching wooden box from the Mohawk, Florida, Heddon location. It is in spectacular condition, and the box is also in fine shape.
What makes this particular lure so special, however, is the complete paperwork that comes with it. This documentation helps to date and confirm the significance of the find, adding to its historical and collectible value. When this lure went up for auction in 2013, it fetched an impressive $18,400, a testament to its rarity and desirability among collectors.
The Heddon Company has a long history of producing quality fishing lures, and the Jeanette Hawley “Mohawk” Minnow is no exception.
With its intricate design and attention to detail, it’s easy to see why this lure is so sought after by collectors. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or a passionate collector, the Heddon Jeanette Hawley “Mohawk” Minnow is a true treasure from fishing world history.
Little Wonder Minnow
Finalized Auction Price: $18,000
The Little Wonder Minnow in Box is a true rarity among fishing lure collectors.
Produced by the Clinton Wilt Manufacturing Company in Springfield, Missouri, this lure and box combination dates back to 1910 and is the only known example of a complete two-piece cardboard box for this lure to exist.
With this specimen, the lure itself is in excellent condition, and the box is also in great shape, which is unusual for an item of this age. Consequently, for a Missouri lure collector, this piece is a must-have, as it is a one-of-a-kind specimen that represents a significant part of the state’s fishing lure history.
At a 2019 auction, this Little Wonder Minnow in Box fetched an impressive price of over $18,000, which is a testament to its rarity and the value that collectors place on such unique and historically significant pieces.
For collectors, it is not just about the lure itself but also the story and history behind it, making this Little Wonder Minnow in Box a true treasure for any serious fishing lure collector.
The Clinton Wilt Manufacturing Company was a fishing lure manufacturer based in Springfield, Missouri, that was in operation in the early 1900s and was one of the more prominent names in the state at that time.
The company was founded by Clinton Wilt, who started out making lures as a hobby before turning it into a full-fledged business. Wilt was known for his attention to detail and his use of high-quality materials in his lures, which quickly earned him a reputation as a skilled craftsman.
The Little Wonder Minnow, which was first introduced in 1909, is one of the most famous lures produced by the Clinton Wilt Manufacturing Company.
This small, slender lure was designed to imitate the movement of a live minnow in the water and quickly became a favorite of anglers in the region. It was made from high-quality wood and featured a painted finish that was both durable and attractive.
In addition to the Little Wonder Minnow, the Clinton Wilt Manufacturing Company produced a variety of other lures, including the Wilt’s Economy Minnow, the Springfield Bait Company Minnow, and the Clinton Wilt Weedless Minnow. Although the company was relatively small, it quickly gained a loyal following among anglers who appreciated the quality and craftsmanship of its products.