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Collecting Old Reels

Most of us have enjoyed fishing at one time or another, so we can sense the mystique of an old fishing reel that someone once used to haul in fighting fish. The earliest reels were fairly simple hand tools, capable of winding in and storing line and sometimes equipped with primitive devices to slow or prevent spool rotation.

During the nineteenth century, as fishing itself became more specialized, so did the rods and reels used by increasing numbers of sport fishermen. Reels, especially, underwent a fascinating evolution as inventors experimented with new devices that made it easier for anglers to control their casts and to catch ever-larger fish without breaking their lines. Many of those old reels were crafted by the hands of artisans with both great beauty and great precision.

Tackle collectors hunt for reels at the same places that other collectors search for antiques:

yard sales
estate sales
antique shows and shops
auctions
thrift shops
flea markets

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Over the last decades, a great many more people have become more knowledgeable about tackle collecting, and prices have risen accordingly. Auctions have hyped the hobby in press releases, the publication of books on the subject has accelerated, and increasing numbers of antique dealers are selling tackle. Therefore, the tackle collector's best weapon, as he begins his quest, is knowledge.

Perhaps the best way to get started in reel collecting is to read a little bit on the subject. Any of the books listed in the bibliography should stimulate interest in some aspect of collecting. Then you should focus on some type or types of reel that you find interesting. This is the only way to avoid shelling out lots of your hard-earned dollars on a lot of items in which you'll soon lose interest but that may clutter your house for years to come.

Here are some types of reels in which some collectors specialize (Some of these are defined in the glossary.):

    Casting reels/Kentucky reels/level-wind reels
    Fly reels
    Big-game reels
    Spinning reels
    Automatic reels
    Indiana reels
    Raised-pillar reels
    Rod-and-reel combinations
    Innovative and/or patented reels (my specialty)
    New York-style reels/ball-handle reels (another favorite of mine)
    Ice-fishing reels and tipups
    Home-made reels
    Wood/nickel-silver/hard-rubber/brass reels
    Reels of specific manufacturers
    Reels from specific areas

    Although the value of angling equipment has risen lately, so much of it has been made for so long that anyone can easily assemble an interesting collection that fits his budget.


Copyright by Steven K. Vernon. All rights reserved. Redistribution or republication of text and/or illustrations from this site in any form without permission is prohibited.