Vintage and antique fishing lures that might have cost less than a dollar in the early 20th century can be worth hundreds of dollars today. We're not just talking about super impossible holy grail lures like the Haskell giant copper minnow that sold for over $100,000 back in 2004.
Some of the most valuable rare antique fishing lures are actually the kind of thing you might come across in your grandpa's old tackle box or a local antique store or estate sale. Keep an eye out for these amazing finds that could be worth much more than a prize-winning bass.
Heddon Vamp Lures
Vintage Heddon lures can be some of the most valuable rare antique fishing lures out there, especially if they date from the early years of the company. Heddon started making lures in the 1890s and is still in business today, and examples with glass eyes and wooden bodies can be worth a lot. Those with minimal wear are worth the most. A Heddon Giant Vamp in excellent condition sold for almost $800.
Like with most antiques, condition matters a lot here. The most valuable vintage fishing lures have flawless paint, rust-free hardware, and sometimes even the original box.
Pflueger Surprise Minnow Lures
Pflueger began making lures in the 1880s and continued into the 20th century, and examples from the early 20th century and before can be worth hundreds of dollars. The oldest lures tend to have holes for the eyes (rather than glass eyes or painted ones). These vintage lures are remarkable because of their delicate and lovely painted finishes. Some nearly shimmer in the light. If you find one with a beautiful paint job and those early hole eyes, you might have a treasure. A colorfully painted Pflueger Surprise Minnow with its original box sold for about $450.
Early Shakespeare and Rhodes Gem Clip Lures
In the early 1900s, William Shakespeare, Jr. was a big name in fishing tackle and lures, and he also produced lures under the Rhodes name. The key to the success of these early 1900s lures was the "gem clip," a see-through hardware system that made the lure look more realistic when you used it. Early gem clip lures from this era sell for hundreds. One wooden example with glass eyes sold for about $600.
Vintage Creek Chub Lures
Operating from around 1917 through the 1970s, Creek Chub lures were popular during the early and mid-20th century. Many got hard use, so if you find one in great shape (bonus points for the original box), you might have a treasure. A vintage Creek Chub in pristine condition and with its printed box sold for over $600.
Paw Paw Wotta Frog
Swimming frog lures are easily damaged, so finding them in good condition is a win. The Paw Paw Wotta Frog is a classic with a sleek green paint job, jointed legs, and a delicately patterned surface. If you have one of these rare lures from the early to mid-20th century, it's worth checking into it. With the original box and in pristine condition, they sell for over $100.
Early Success Spinner Lures
Spinner lures are a classic choice for fishing, and the oldest examples can be worth a lot of money. The most valuable antique fishing lures in this style date to the very early 20th century. Those made by companies like UTK can be worth a small fortune, especially if they are in really good condition for their age. A wooden spinner lure from around 1910 in nearly perfect condition sold for over $100.
Oliver & Gruber Glowurm
A unique looking bait with a ridged and painted wooden body, the Oliver & Gruber Glowurm is a rare antique lure designed for bass fishing. These lures weren't made for very long. Production stopped in 1924, so they are all around 100 years old. The company supposedly used labor from a mental hospital and didn't compensate the hospital or patients. If you can find a Glowurm in good condition, especially with the box, you should know they have sold for $140.
A Work of Art or the Catch of a Lifetime
If you have a lure by one of these brands or that you think might be valuable, look up the auction prices for similar lures that have sold recently. Make sure the condition is the same, since things like the paint job or box can have a pretty big impact on value. And remember, if you have something you think might be worth a lot, it may be worth the cost to have it professionally appraised.
Many of these antique lures are also works of art that were painted by hand. No matter the monetary value, it's probably worth displaying. Enjoy the beauty of these little treasures, whether or not they're the catch of a lifetime.