What Is my Lure Worth?

Most collectors bypass this as most lures they are looking at buying or quoting a price on have no sentimental value to them.  Only you, as an owner, can put a value on this.  A lure from your grandfathers tackle box may be priceless to you, but worthless to a collector.  My advice for lures of sentimental value is this:  Keep them and display them.  A display made with a picture of the original owner holding a stringer of fish with the lures pinned in the same display would be valuable to members of your family.  A priceless treasure no matter what the lures are worth.
When people ask me what my most valuable lure is, I always point to an old beat-up frog in one of my lure cases.  Why?  It is the only lure I got from my dad, and it is priceless to me.

The older the lure, the more it is worth…right?  No, not necessarily.  While the oldest lures can be worth more, it is usually due to the fact that they are harder to find not just because they are old.  Also, some newer plastic lures from the 60s and 70s can be worth more than a lure from the early 1900s.  But, a lure that is 100 years old has a story to tell.  And, to catch a fish on a 100 year old lure is quite a thrill, if you still wish to fish with one.

Whenever I appraise lures, I see a LOT of Pikies, Bass-Orenos, and Lazy Ikes (to name a few).  Many are still in the box.  However, these lures are typically not worth much to a collector for they are very common to find.  Now, don’t feel bad if that is what your great-grandfather left you.  For, what this says is that he knew how to fish and bought the lures that worked.  They worked so well that the lure companies made thousands of them.  Therefore, they are easy to find, driving the collector price down.

What I find many times, if the lure didn’t work well…fewer were made…and this makes it rarer and it COULD be worth more.  If the lure is tough to find, odds are that you can find two people that want it and this is all you need to drive the price up.

People think “rare” means great value.  First of all, “rare” is used way too often to describe a lure.  Secondly, see my notes under the "Demand" section in this article.

For myself, I like the lures with scratches and teeth marks on them.  Not only does this lure have more character and history, but it can indicate that the lure has not been repainted to “fool” someone into paying big dollars for it.  Repainted lures are a HUGE problem to collectors looking for that “perfect” lure.

With that said, the better looking the lure, the more it is worth.  If you see two cars that are the same model, year, and color…which is worth more?  The one that still looks new or the rust-bucket?  But, if you are like me…maybe you are just looking for a car with a good engine to get you around and the condition doesn’t matter.  Plus, you can save some big dollars by buying the reliable beater. 

It is funny, but when the general public looks at my collection…the beaters get most of the attention.  People like to see the lures that were used.  All I seem to get with “mint” old lures is a look like “You paid what for that?”  So, I avoid that for the most part…while most collectors don’t.  Many collectors buy the best lures they find to impress other collectors.  To each his own, I say.  I admit that I do prefer the mint lures too, but sometimes I feel the price is just not worth it.  If I pay $50 for a beater of a rare lure and the price drops out…I am out maybe $30.  If I paid $500 for the mint lure…I could be out hundreds of dollars.  Not to mention that some mint lures may eventually start losing their paint.  I once told someone at a lure show that there are two types of painted lures; one that is losing its paint and one that has yet to lose its paint (but eventually will).

I have seen auctions were people have bought repainted lures thinking they were mint and paid top dollar.  It is a shame.  And yes, I was 100% sure they were repainted.  I even talked to the guy that repainted them.  His response “I can’t help if they don’t know they are repainted”.  In my opinion, that is just wrong of a seller.

Look in an old tackle box.  What color is the most common?  You got it, red and white.  And, this color combo is still a killer today.  So, you can imagine that MOST wooden red and white lures are common and this brings the price down.  However, if the wooden lure is purple with silver spots (not a common lure color in days past), the price could be worth 10 times or much more than the red and white twin.

If the manufacturer of the lure is well known and has a great history, more people may collect these lures.  More collectors can mean more dollars as more people are willing to make offers for your lure.  The lure could be common, but if there are 100s of people that collect these lures, it may not matter.

Let’s face it, most people collect wooden lures.  These are by far the most in demand.  However, plastics are gaining popularity.  Old glass lures are in demand too.  For the most part, rubber lures don’t bring as much, even if old.  Also, being old metal lures are typically not painted and never wear out…they are usually not worth as much either unless they are over 100 years old.
But keep in mind that just because a lure is wood and may even have glass eyes doesn’t mean that it is old or has value.  Also, many people misinterpret some plastic baits and think they are made of wood.  Sometimes they can be hard to tell apart.

Most of us have heard that the box can be worth more than the lure.  This goes for many collectables.  The box and pamphlet in the box can contain valuable information on the lure.  I have seen cases where the lure is worth $20…and the box is worth $300.  Yes, collectors are crazy, but in the early 1900s…who saved the boxes and how many survived?  And, the picture boxes really look cool….

You could have a very rare, old and in perfect shape lure…and it is not worth $20.  Why?  Well, it is so obscure that no one wants it. 

I once had a fellow collector come to me with a lure and ask for a value.  I told him “$10”.  This collector disagreed and stated “This is the only lure I have seen like this in 20 years of collecting”.  That may have been true, but the lure has no demand for it.  To prove it, I got out 5 of these lures I had with me and offered to sell them to him for $20 each (it was a lure company I was very familiar with and these were my doubles).  He refused and walked away. 

Then again, if you have a MN lure in the box that I don’t have and I want it…I may pay double what it is worth just to add it to my collection. 

Demand is probably the single most factor for valuing anything.  For example, in days gone by, farmland was worth more than lakeshore in Minnesota.  In the last 20 years, that has drastically changed as the demand for lakeshore has far surpassed the demand for farmland.  Farmland prices have gone up, but lakeshore prices can now be incredible.

When dealing with collectables, there are several values that can be given.  I have listed a few below and put them in order from the highest to least amount:

1)Retail Value – the price your lure would be priced at in an antique store looking to make a good profit.  But, keep your eyes open, many people sell lures (like me) at antique stores for “true value” prices…or less.
2)Insurance Value – This is the value you put on a lure if insured.  Usually it is slightly higher than what I call the “true value”.  This makes up for any ups and downs in the price of the lure.  After all, the insurance is supposed to pay for a replacement if lost.
3)“True” Value – What the lure would realistically sell for to a collector.

To get to the point, some lure book prices are close…some are WAY off.  There are so many things that affect the price of a lure…the only way to find out a true value is to actually sell it.  The next best way is to consult an honest appraiser.  But, watch out.  There are probably more dishonest and un-experienced “appraisers” out there than honest ones.  I don’t know everything either, far from it, so I make mistakes too.  For the most part, I don’t buy many lures anymore unless it is a MN-made lure I don’t have or one I really want.  I guess I have enough lures (if that is possible).  So, I am as honest with my appraisals as I can be.   If I buy a lure, I typically offer about 70% of what I think the lure is worth…or if I REALLY want it…I will over pay.

What I notice in some lure books…if they author of the book has the lure…he appraises it MORE than it is worth.  If it is one he doesn’t have, the price drops slightly.  If an author states the book is entirely of his collection, the prices can be quite over blown.

No book is 100% correct.  In fact, most can be only used for general knowledge.  When two lures that are exactly the same except for the color and one sells for $10 and the other $400…how can you distinguish that in a book?

I have been asked what my collection is worth.  Truth be told, like I stated earlier, you truly don’t know until you sell it.  Since I have no plans on selling mine at this time, I tell people it is worth $0.00.  That gives you an idea on how hard collectibles are to price.

Now that is a hard question.

The most correct answer:  Whatever someone is willing to pay for it.  Trying to put a price on a collectible item is not an easy task.  All it takes is two people to want your lure, and the price can go up and up.  I am constantly studying and researching lures and their value.  Like many things, prices can vary over time with the state of the economy, so you have to keep up with the latest trends. 

Each year, I appraise many tackle boxes.  People approach me with anticipation of having some big dollar lures.  Unfortunately, this is not the norm.  In fact, I would estimate that only about 10% of the tackle boxes I currently look at have a lure valued at over $25.  The percentage is much less for a lure valued at over $100.  But, some lures can sell for eye-popping prices…so you never know.

A few things go into determining what a lure is worth.  A lure must meet 3 or more of the below criteria to be worth anything to a collector.  And, the more the better.  If you have a 100 year old lure (age) in great shape (condition) (rare) made by a well-known manufacturer (maker) that everyone wants (demand)…you could have a lure that is worth hundreds if not thousands of dollars.