Noname Antiques » Antique Fishing Reels Value (Identification & Price Guides)

Antique Fishing Reels Value (Identification & Price Guides)

Antique fishing reels witness this popular sport and recreation activity’s rich history. Interestingly, as soon as fishing became a popular American pastime, used equipment found its way to antique collectors.

Before starting your collection, the first thing to do is check an antique fishing reel price guide and discover the actual situation on the current market. Plus, saving these pieces from oblivion is essential for generations to come. Let’s dive into the world of fishing and take some fun!

 

Antique Fishing Reel Types

Manufacturers specialized in fishing reel types by the early 20th century. Therefore, you can find four visually distinctive ones despite numerous styles and brands on the market.

Casting reels

Casting reels

This reel type was developed in the 19th and early 20th centuries for the situation when it was crucial to retrieve the line rapidly. Most came with a capacity of 60 to 100 yards (55 – 91.5 m). The most famous manufacturers were:

  • De Forest
  • Bradley
  • Hardy Bros.
  • Chamberlin Cartridge Co.
  • Waltonian
  • Meek

Fly reels

Fly reels

Fly reels were narrow, single-action types appearing in the mid-19th century. It was necessary to fully revolute the handle once to get one full reel rotation, and it was impossible to use this side-reel model for catching large fish. The most significant manufacturers producing fly reels included:

  • Shakespeare
  • Heddon
  • Orvis
  • Hercules
  • Hardy
  • Pflueger

Saltwater reels

Saltwater reels

These reels were more sizable than other types since they were made for fishing bigger fish. Collectors typically look for the most sizable models, so they are the most expensive on the market. The group includes a few specific reel models, such as:

  • Surf-casting reels
  • Trolling reels
  • Big game reels

The most reputable makers dedicated to this reel type’s production include:

  • F. Meek & Sons
  • Hardy Bros.
  • Thompson
  • Imperial Montague
  • Lee’s
  • Shakespeare
  • Ohio Tool Co.

Spinning reels

Spinning reels

These fixed-spool reels are practically vintage because their production lasted from the early to the mid-20th century. However, they are the most collectible fishing reel group on the current market.

The probable reason is their unique rudder-like design that is entirely different than other models. You can recognize two classifications they are divided into, including:

  • Open face spinning reels
  • Closed face Spinning reels

If you plan to collect this reel type, you will see that numerous manufacturers created them, including:

  • Fin-Nor
  • Hardy Bros.
  • Taggart
  • Leighton
  • Chippendale
  • Seamaster

 

Antique Fishing Reel Value

Even though some unique fishing reels can reach a few thousand dollars, most are worth approximately $300 to $500.

Antique fishing reel value

Fishing reel type Dimensions Price
Height Diameter
Vom Hofe’s fishing reel 2.5 inches (6.3 cm) 4.25 inches (10.8 cm) $1,950
Hardy brothers’ all brass fishing reel 3.5 inches (8.9 cm) Width – 1.5 inches (3.8 cm)

Depth – 3.5 inches (8.9 cm)

$1,556
Hardy brothers fishing reel 2.37 inches (6 cm) 4 inches (10 cm) $1,182
Victorian Treen and brass fishing reel 0.04 inches (0.1 cm) 8 inches (20.3 cm) $1,132
Walnut sea fishing reel 4.53 inches (11.5 cm) 5.91 inches (15 cm) $846
J. Bernard & son’s trout fly fishing reel 1.58 inches (4 cm) 2.56 inches (6.5 cm) $728
Scottish Malloch fishing reel 2.5 inches (6.3 cm) 2.5 inches (6.3 cm) $722
English fishing reel (early 1900s) 2.17 inches (5.5 cm) 4 inches (10 cm) $644
English Turned fishing reel (early 1900s) 4.53 inches (11.5 cm) 4.34 inches (11 cm) $644
Turned fishing reel (1900) 1.66 inches (4.2 cm) 5.52 inches (14 cm) $644
P.D. Malloch Sun and planet fishing reel 3.75 inches (9.5 cm) Width – 3.75 inches (9.5 cm)

Depth – 3.55 inches (9 cm)

$597
English turned fishing reel (early 1900s) 1.78 inches (4.5 cm) 3.55 inches (9 cm) $590
Brass fishing reel 2.37 inches (6 cm) 3.75 inches (9.5 cm) $535
Hardy brothers’ Marquis aluminum fly fishing reel 1 inch (2.5 cm) 3.5 inches (8.9 cm) $497
Walnut frog back sea fishing reel 5.91 inches (15 cm) Width – 5.71 inches (14.5 cm)

Depth – 3.55 inches (9 cm)

$491
English brass fishing reel (the 1900s) 1.19 inches (3 cm) 2.76 inches (7 cm) $429
English brass fishing reel (early 1900s) 1.19 inches (3 cm) 2.17 inches (5.5 cm) $429
Hardy brothers’ Silex No. 2 fishing reel 2.37 inches (6 cm) 4.53 inches (11.5 cm) $429
English fishing reel (the 1900s) 2.37 inches (6 cm) 3.15 inches (8 cm) $429
Farlow fishing reel 4.25 inches (10.8 cm) 4.25 inches (10.8 cm) $423
Brass fishing reel 2 inches (5 cm) 3.75 inches (9.5 cm) $423
Fishing reel for salmons 0.04 inches (0.01 cm) 3.35 inches (8.5 cm) $367
Starback Neptune fishing reel 2.5 inches (6.3 cm) 6 inches (15 cm) $354
Farlow salmon fly fishing reel 3.35 inches (8.5 cm) 4.34 inches (11 cm) $354
Side casting reel 0.04 inches (0.1 cm) 3.35 inches (8.5 cm) $329
Salmon fly fishing reel 2 inches (5 cm) 4 inches (10 cm) $304
Mulloch fishing reel 4 inches (10 cm) Width – 4.5 inches (11.4 cm)

Depth – 3 inches (7.6 cm)

$304
Brass Farlow fishing reel 1 inch (2.5 cm) Width – 1 inch (2.5 cm)

Depth – 1 inch (2.5 cm)

$242
Army and navy fishing reel 4.75 inches (12 cm) 4.75 inches (12 cm) $230
F.J. Williams’s brass trout fishing reel in brass 1.38 inches (3.5 cm) 2.56 inches (6.5 cm) $217
Nickel fishing reel 1.38 inches (3.5 cm) 2.56 inches (6.5 cm) $217
Mahogany sea fishing reel 6 inches (15 cm) 5.25 inches (13.3 cm) $205
Walnut Starback fishing reel 1.58 inches (4 cm) 3.55 inches (9 cm) $186
Brass and bakelite fishing reel 3.55 inches (9 cm) 1.97 inches (5 cm) $180
English Starback fishing reel (1910) 4.34 inches (11 cm) Width – 4 inches (10 cm)

Depth – 3 inches (7.6 cm)

$174
Ramsbottom’s trout fishing reel 0.04 inches (0.1 cm) 2.56 inches (6.5 cm) $155
Ramsbottom’s trout fishing reel 0.04 inches (0.1 cm) 2.56 inches (6.5 cm) $136
Vom Hofe's fishing reel
Vom Hofe’s fishing reel
Hardy brothers' all brass fishing reel
Hardy brothers’ all brass fishing reel
Hardy brothers fishing reel
Hardy brothers fishing reel
Victorian Treen and brass fishing reel
Victorian Treen and brass fishing reel
Walnut sea fishing reel
Walnut sea fishing reel
J. Bernard & son's trout fly fishing reel
J. Bernard & son’s trout fly fishing reel
Scottish Malloch fishing reel
Scottish Malloch fishing reel
English fishing reel (early 1900s)
English fishing reel (early 1900s)
English Turned fishing reel (early 1900s)
English Turned fishing reel (early 1900s)
Turned fishing reel (1900)
Turned fishing reel (1900)
P.D. Malloch Sun and planet fishing reel
P.D. Malloch Sun and planet fishing reel
English turned fishing reel (early 1900s)
English turned fishing reel (early 1900s)
Brass fishing reel
Brass fishing reel
Hardy brothers' Marquis aluminum fly fishing reel
Hardy brothers’ Marquis aluminum fly fishing reel
Walnut frog back sea fishing reel
Walnut frog back sea fishing reel
English brass fishing reel (the 1900s)
English brass fishing reel (the 1900s)
English brass fishing reel (early 1900s)
English brass fishing reel (early 1900s)
Hardy brothers' Silex No. 2 fishing reel
Hardy brothers’ Silex No. 2 fishing reel
English fishing reel (the 1900s)
English fishing reel (the 1900s)
Farlow fishing reel
Farlow fishing reel
Brass fishing reel
Brass fishing reel
Fishing reel for salmons
Fishing reel for salmons
Starback Neptune fishing reel
Starback Neptune fishing reel
Farlow salmon fly fishing reel
Farlow salmon fly fishing reel
Side casting reel
Side casting reel
Salmon fly fishing reel
Salmon fly fishing reel
Mulloch fishing reel
Mulloch fishing reel
Brass Farlow fishing reel
Brass Farlow fishing reel
Army and navy fishing reel
Army and navy fishing reel
F.J. Williams's brass trout fishing reel in brass
F.J. Williams’s brass trout fishing reel in brass
Nickel fishing reel
Nickel fishing reel
Mahogany sea fishing reel
Mahogany sea fishing reel
Walnut Starback fishing reel
Walnut Starback fishing reel
Brass and bakelite fishing reel
Brass and bakelite fishing reel
English Starback fishing reel (1910)
English Starback fishing reel (1910)
Ramsbottom’s trout fishing reel
Ramsbottom’s trout fishing reel
Ramsbottom's trout fishing reel
Ramsbottom’s trout fishing reel

Antique Fishing Reel Value Evaluation

All reel types look the same for those who don’t enjoy fishing. While this may seem partly true at first glance, be sure that the difference in quality and their features are entirely different.

Most models were hand-made and came from a limited output, which typically means they were high-quality and more expensive. Nowadays, you should consider four essential criteria that increase these devices’ value, particularly when you find a piece that combines at least three of them.

Age

The rule of thumb is that older reels are most collectible and pricey. Most were hand-made models made in limited numbers and of quality materials. Since their number is low nowadays, you can expect that their value is high.

On the other hand, many people used to buy high-grade products from reputable manufacturers. That means there is a high chance of finding numerous pieces saved until now. Since they are highly available for collectors, their prices will be lower than expected.

Condition

The antique fishing reel condition is crucial when estimating its value, like with other collectibles. In other words, only well-preserved pieces with original parts will be costly. Be aware that even the oldest and rare devices won’t be valuable if they come in poor mechanical or physical condition.

You should precisely determine your reel condition to get a clue of how costly it can be on the current market. For that purpose, there is a 1 to 10 scale for grading items’ two features, aesthetic and mechanical condition.

Appearance

  • Mint grade – This piece has never been used and is in its original factory condition.
  • A10 grade – It looks new, but you have no guarantee that it hasn’t been used.
  • A9 grade – This reel comes with still polished hard rubber, intact plating, and sharp edges. Machining marks are visible, and you can’t notice any traces of corrosion or damage.
  • A8 grade – The reel in this group has visible light scratches and noticeable plating wear. Even though the device is clean and with tight crank knobs, you can notice that the rubber edges are not sharp enough.
  • A7 grade – In this grade, you can expect to see reels with small chips, traces of use on screw slots, and plating wear. Plus, the device requires light cleaning.
  • A6 grade – These reels have minor scratches and dents due to regular and sometimes light corrosion and damaged screw heads.
  • A5 grade – This device was in regular use, and you can notice significant scratches and chips, bent knobs, and heavier corrosion. Sometimes, a bearing cap, nut, or screw can be missing.
  • A4 grade – This piece comes with heavy corrosion, broken parts, missing parts, badly damaged feet, and buggered screws.
  • A3 grade – In this grade are reels with severe problems, like a broken frame or foot and badly dented plates.
  • A2 grade – You can use this item for parts only.
  • A1 grade – Unfortunately, this reel is worthless.

Mechanical condition

  • Mint grade – In this group are fishing reels in original factory condition.
  • M10 grade – This reel functions perfectly, and you can’t notice any signs of wear.
  • M9 grade – The device works well, but the mechanism is slightly worn. However, the spool is still adjustable while the brake and click are strong.
  • M8 grade – The device functions well, but you can expect that complete adjustment is probably impossible. Brake pressure is often below the maximal level.
  • M7 grade – This reel shows expected signs of wear after years of use.
  • M6 grade – Although this device works fine, it is pretty worn. It often comes without a pawl, and the gear can be noisy.
  • M5 grade – This group includes reels in working condition but with some difficulties. The brake or click probably is not functional, and the gear is worn out or broken.
  • M4 grade – This device will be in working condition only after replacing some parts.
  • M3 grade – Such a reel comes with significant functional problems because of irreplaceable missing or broken parts.
  • M2 grade – This grade is reserved for reels with too many mechanical problems.
  • M1 grade – This piece has no mechanical value.

Rarity

Fishing reels made by makers who operated only for a limited period or genuinely old pieces are typically rare nowadays. Therefore, their price is high in the current antique market. If most experts and collectors have never seen your device or it has an unknown marking, it can be rare and valuable.

Unfortunately, it is not always the case. Most collectors don’t recognize modern models and are probably not interested in unknown items. In most cases, the condition is crucial, and only rare reels in top-notch condition will be pricey.

Quality

The rule of thumb is that hand-made fishing reels are more quality and made of superior materials than mass-produced devices. Those features make them more collectible. Plus, they run smoother and look better.

Desirable traits

All things considered, fishing reels with particular traits will always come with higher prices. For instance, the most precious and collectible devices will be:

  • Hand-made pieces created of high-quality materials and components
  • Precisely manufactured reels
  • Those produced before 1942
  • Devices with unique and unusual features

 

The Most Valuable Fishing Antiques

Believe it or not, some fishing equipment, including reels, can be worth tens of thousands of dollars. Experts know about their existence, but some listed items haven’t been seen for years or even centuries.

The most valuable fishing equipment

Year Piece of equipment Price
1876 Abbey and Imbrie gold reel $100,000
1893 to 1919 Dr. James Henshall’s reel collection $50,000 to $75,000
1859 Giant Billinghurst reel $40,000
1874 Charles F. Orvis fly reel’s patent $10,000
1876 Winans & Whistler fishing reel $5,000

A list of the ten most desirable fishing items for collectors is worth over $400,000. The best thing is that some of these pieces could be hidden in your attic!

Abbey and Imbrie gold reel
Abbey and Imbrie gold reel
Dr. James Henshall’s reel collection
Dr. James Henshall’s reel collection
Giant Billinghurst reel
Giant Billinghurst reel
Charles F. Orvis fly reel’s patent
Charles F. Orvis fly reel’s patent
Winans & Whistler fishing reel
Winans & Whistler fishing reel

Summary

Antique fishing reels can be beautiful gifts for dedicated fishermen or collectors. You can even use well-preserved pieces while fishing if you are prepared to set aside $300 to $500 on average for this satisfaction. Be careful when buying one since only old devices in excellent condition are worth your money.

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