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Questions about Antique Reels: Spinning and Spincast Reels

Q1: Do you know anything about the value of an old fishing reel that reads "OCEAN CITY 350?" It was found in my Grandma's basement.

A: The odd little 350 was made in the mid-1950s, perhaps as an attempt to gain some share of the burgeoning spinning-reel market for Ocean City, which had been making salt-water reels in Philadelphia since the 1920s. Called the "Spinalong," it was inexpensive then, selling for $4.95 in 1955 while more substantial reels were selling for two- to five-times that price. It remains inexpensive, listing at $10 to $20 for one new in its box. The model seems to be ubiquitous.

The inventor of the 350 was Edward F. Small, who patented the design in 1953. Remarkably, Small patented two other spinning reels that were manufactured by other companies. Perhaps the best known were the products of the Holliday Reel Co., Taunton, Mass. Small's design for the Holliday reels was patented in 1959. In addition, Small's own company produced the side-mounted "Cormorant" spinning reel, which he patented in 1950 and 1952.

Q2: I was interested in any info you may have on the following spinning reel: "CENTAURE" CFCE. Bte S.G.D.G. MADE IN FRANCE Approximately 6" long 5" high

A: Centaures were among the many European reels imported to the US in the late 1940s and 1950s until American manufacturers began to make enough spinning reels to keep up with demand. There were several models of Centaure reels, and some were fairly popular, judging from the numbers still around today.

Q3: I have acquired a Good-All rod and reel combination, and on the back of the reel are the Good-All name, Worlds Finest Reels, Ogallala, Nebraska. The line threads throught the handle to the pole. Any info you have on this would be appreciated.

A: Good-All made at least four models of reels during the late 1940s, possibly into the 1950s. Your combo was one model, and the company also made two side-mounted, closed-face spinning reels, with and without a star drag, and a gold-colored push-button reel with a leatherette trim. I suspect the company was one of many that started manufacturing reels after the loss of defense work following the end of WWII. I've seen the combo listed at $30-$50, but, as usual, condition counts a lot.

Q4: I have a Spin-caster reel made by D&S Model Co. for ART FARGO, Dayton 6, Ohio. When you squeeze a lever on the reel seat, the reel swings around so you can cast from it. Then it swings back so you can wind up the line. Do you have any information on this reel?
[I've received many other questions about other American spinning reels with swivelling spools, e.g., Rite-Angler, Telecast, Colgrove, Flo-Line, etc.]

A: During the 1880s, two British inventors patented spinning reels whose spools could be swivelled 90 degrees to alternate positions for casting and retrieving line. One of them, Peter Malloch, included a line guide on his reel, and his company popularized the idea in Great Britain, making such reels for decades. (See a Malloch reel in Photo Gallery 2.)

After Alfred Illingworth invented a reel that used a wire bail to wind line on a fixed spool (See photo in Photo Gallery 1.), the popularity of spin-casting spread all over Europe. By the 1930s, spinning reels were being exported to the U.S.

Following World War II, spinning quickly began to become popular in the U.S., and American factories began to manufacture spinning reels to compete with the European imports. The first American company to make them was Lionel Corporation's Airex Division, which offered several models, including the Bache Brown Mastereel, Bache Brown Spinster, and others.

The increasing popularity of the spinning reel attracted the attention not only of the larger companies, but also that of a lot of small companies that had found themselves without defense contracts after the war ended. Jumping on the bandwagon, many small companies began to manufacture fishing reels in a wide range of designs. Because spinning was becoming popular, and possibly to avoid patent infringements, some of these companies produced reels that relied on the decades-old idea of pivoting spools. During the late 1940s and early 1950s, such reels were made in a remarkable variety of designs, differing mainly in the mechanisms for swivelling the spools or holding them in position.

Collectors encounter these unusual spinning reels frequently, some models more than others, of course. Their interesting designs make them attractive to collectors; sometimes, they are hardly recognizable as fishing reels. For example, the Lou Meyer Flo-Line reel looks more like a pencil sharpener than a reel. Unfortunately, many of the companies that made them have disappeared in the last half-century, so information about them requires research. The odds are that if you have an American spinning reel that relies on a swivelling spool, usually made of aluminum or stainless steel, it was made in the late 1940s to mid-1950s.

Q5: I bought a spinning reel marked Ru-Mer at a garage sale. Do you have any info on it like age and history?

A: As mentioned in Question 4, spinning reels were being imported to the U.S. from Europe during the late 1930s. After WWII, importation continued, and spinning quickly gained in popularity. As it took some time before American manufacturers were making enough reels to meet demand, European reels continued to flood the market well into the 1950s.

The following were among the more common brand names and models of European reels imported during that period:
ABU (Sweden)- Record
Alcedo (Italy)- Micron, 2/C, Atlantic
Bretton (France)
Carpano & Pons (France)- C.A.P.
Centaure (France)
Fix (Switzerland)
Mitchell (France)
Pezon & Michel (France)- Luxor, Centaure
Record (Switzerland)
Ru (France)- Mer, Atlantic, Pacific, Sport
Staro (Switzerland)
J.W. Young & Sons (Great Britain)- Ambidex

Q6: I came across an older reel at an estate sale the other day, but have been unable to find anything out about this one. On its face it has Ohio Tool Co., and on the side it has Ashaway, Patent applied for.

I have searched for Ashaway, as well as Ohio Tool Company, but have had no luck. Can you steer me in a good direction?

A: The only reels I know of that were labeled that way are the Ashaway Slip-Cast reels. They were made in at least three sizes, the largest being designed for saltwater use, by Ohio Tool Co. for Ashaway. The reels were advertised nationally in the late 1940s and probably were made for several years.

The Slip-Cast reels were an example of the multitude of various spinning reels designed in the U.S. shortly after WWII. Unlike most others, they were designed to be mounted upright on baitcasting rods, instead of being mounted below the seats of spinning rods.

Q7: (Whirlaway, Great Lakes Products, Detroit, Mich. See Question 5 on the "rod/reel combinations" FAQ page.)

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