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.
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
- Hardy Bros.
- Chamberlin Cartridge Co.
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:
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.
- Imperial Montague
- Ohio Tool Co.
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:
- Hardy Bros.
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|
|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)
|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)
|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)
|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)
|Brass Farlow fishing reel||1 inch (2.5 cm)||Width – 1 inch (2.5 cm)
Depth – 1 inch (2.5 cm)
|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)
|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|
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.