25 Vintage Fishing Lures Worth A Fortune
Are They in Your Tackle Box? If so, get ready to be blown away by what some of the prices these vintage fishing lures have sold for in the past.
Do you fish, or better yet did your Dad, Uncle or Grandpa used to fish? If so do you remember where that old tackle box is? Probably sitting around in a garage or attic gathering dust. Well, maybe if you are real lucky you might just have one of these gems below sitting in that dusty old tackle box. After all there's probably a better chance of that than the lottery ticket we buy from time to time and it can be a heck of a lot more enjoyable as well. I can tell you from experience what makes this hobby so great is the history involved in all of these old vintage fishing lures and the excitement of never knowing what might pop up next.
Read on and see what these 25 lures have sold for in the past and then maybe it's time to go looking for Grandpa's tackle box. Just don't tell your brother...
Giant Copper Haskell Minnow:
This is the one that started it all. When you hear about the high prices of vintage fishing lures this is the one everybody is talking about. It's been a few years now but this one sold for over $100,000 at auction. It's the most expensive fishing lure in the world to ever be sold. Reportedly there is only one of these known to exist in this size. Haskell minnows in general are extremely rare and historic. Being one of one simply adds to that. A beautiful example of early American fishing history. Produced by Riley Haskell with an 1859 patent date. Check your tackle boxes for this one and you would truly hit the jackpot if you found one. This lure sold at auction in 2003 with a final price of $101,200 becoming the highest price antique fishing lure ever sold.
Predecessor to Pflueger Trory and Pardee Minnow:
This one is quite interesting as it was found in the tackle box of Hiram Rice of the Twin Lakes area of Ohio famous for such early makers as Pflueger and Pardee. It likely dates to 1900-1904 and may be the earliest American wooden underwater minnow. At the time of the auction in 2006 it was not attributed to any specific maker. Despite that it sold for an astounding $42,500. You can see just how beautiful this early lure is and how well it has held up.
Rare Haskell Musky Minnow:
We are barely into this article and you can already see a trend. Haskell Minnows are rare and valuable. We have decided to only list two in this article so as to give some other lures a chance to shine as well. This one is truly a gem though. Measuring 7 1/2" in overall length and finely crafted down to detailed scales and fins this is a true work of early American craftsmanship. Patented Sep 20, 1859 this lure sold at auction in 2007 for over $32,000.
Musky Charmer Minnow:
The Charmer Minnow Company has many collectible baits that sell for quite a bit but this one definitely tops the list. The Musky bait at just over 5" long is the rarest of the Charmers and this one in Excellent condition is quite desirable. There are only a few Musky sized Charmers known to still exist today and this is the only one known with a striped tail making this one of utmost importance. This lure sold for just over $25,000 at auction in 2018.
Heddon Black Sucker:
This wooden beauty is almost 6" long with large glass eyes, has a front spinner and an intact tail. It is extremely rare and in beautiful Natural Scale finish and probably is the nicest known example of the very few of its known kind. This lure was produced by Heddon out of Dowagiac, Michigan and comes with its matching box. This lure sold for approximately $19,000 in 2006.
Shakespeare Wooden Minnow:
Here is an early Shakespeare fishing lure. Dating to 1907 this minnow has a high forehead body style, A-notch props, see through gem clip hardware and comes in Excellent condition. Comes with a correct matching maroon picture box. Box is also extremely rare and also in Excellent condition. One of the nicest examples known of this fishing lure. Sold at auction in 2012 for $18,700.
Jeanette Hawley "Mohawk" Minnow:
This rare beauty dates from around 1905 and is believed to be the only known example of this bait with a matching wooden box originating from the Mohawk, Florida location. Lure is in spectacular condition and the box is in fine shape as well. Of great importance is the complete paperwork that comes with this bait which helps date and confirm the significance of this find. Check out the photo below to see what this rare specimen looks like. In 2013 this lure fetched $18,400 at auction.
Little Wonder Minnow in Box:
From the Clinton Wilt Manufacturing Company in Springfield, Missouri. This lure and box combination dates back to 1910. It is the only known example of a complete two piece cardboard box for this lure to exist. The box and lure are both in nice shape as well. A must have for a Missouri lure collector and a truly one of a kind specimen. This lure and box combination sold for over $18,000 at auction in 2019.
1905 Wiggletail Smith Minnow:
Here is a true classic early American minnow. Complete with a tail mechanism and fin design that clearly helps it stand out from others. This bait was patented in 1905 by Charles Smith of LaGrange, Indiana. Less a dozen examples are known to still exist today. A true classic and must have for an early American fishing lure collector. The example pictured is in very good condition and sold in 2015 for slightly more than $17,500 at auction.
Shakespeare Musky Minnow:
Here is another early Shakespeare fishing lure making this list. This one comes complete with its' wooden box with sliding top. I always like seeing these early slide top wooden boxes. I always picture these somewhere out there undiscovered in some little old ladies house filled with spare buttons or safety pins and nobody knows what they have. You just never know what might be at Grandma's house.
This Underwater Musky Minnow is in Excellent condition probably never seeing the water much less a fish. Box is in nice condition as well with a note that less than a dozen of these boxes are known to exist (maybe double check Grandma's next time). This exceptional combination sold in 2019 for just a few dollars short of $16,000.
Hardy Interchangeable Casting Minnow:
Patented in 1904 by William Hardy. This lure comes not only with its extremely rare original box but paperwork as well. This lure combination is one of the rarest miscellaneous early baits and was made by the Artificial Bait Company out of Monticello, Indiana. The combination of the lure, box and paperwork made this a must have at auction, fetching a price of just over $15,000 in 2018.
Hosmer Mechanical Frog:
Frog lures of all kinds are quite collectible in the fishing lure community. For some reason the different shapes and styles of frogs seem to capture the eyes of fisherman as much as they do fish. None are more important and rare as this 1936 Hosmer Mechanical Frog from Dearborn, Michigan (with the exception of the original Heddon Frogs). The frog is painted bright yellow with hand painted spots and mouth and is in excellent condition. The box is complete with the paper label and instructions on how to fish the frog lure. Very few examples of this bait are known to exist and rarely do they come up for sale. This one sold for over $13,000 at auction in 2007.
Comstock Flying Hellgrammite:
In my opinion one of the coolest looking baits on this list. Patented January 30, 1883 by H. Comstock. The patent information is stamped on the wings of this lure adding to the allure. Wooden body with red glass eyes that help add to the bug appearance. There are very few known examples of this lure. Very rare and extremely desirable. Considered by many to be the first "wooden bait". Extremely important in the history of American fishing tackle. This lure seems to always be on the list of most expensive fishing lures or rarest fishing lures even though prices fluctuate at auctions through the years. Recent sales place the value at auction of around $10,000.
Jersey Expert Wooden Minnow and Box:
Here's another early lure and box combination that is extremely rare. Dating to 1909 out of Morristown, New Jersey this early lure is one of the all-time early American classic baits. Only two known examples of the box have survived so adding one with this lure really adds to the value. The lure is "Jersey rigged" with 3 single hooks to be compliant with New Jersey law at the time. A truly magnificent combination here. Sold at auction in 2008 for around $9,500.
Michigan Life-Like Minnow:
This lure is always a favorite of collectors. Patented February 25, 1908 by Jacob Hansen and Adolph Arntz of Muskegon, Michigan this lure features several sections in the tail end of the minnow to give it a moving, life-like swimming appearance as it was retrieved through the water. Quite a concept for 1908. This lure came to auction in 2018 complete with a seldom seem box and fold out paperwork. The final sales price was just over $9,400.
Heddon Night-Radiant Moonlight Bait Box (Box Only):
Yes, you read that right. Box only. I actually watched this auction take place live, well online via webcam live. It was exciting to watch this one climb higher and higher, way out of my price pay grade. When it was all said and done this one ended at just short of $9,400 in 2016. What makes this box so special?
Well this is one of the rarest of all Heddon boxes, one of only five known examples left in the world. This box dates to 1910 and being one of five would make this rare by itself but it's in nice condition with no repairs. If you are a collector of early Heddon lures and their boxes this is a rare and must have item. Remember to check for boxes in Grandpa's old tackle box as well as lures. Who knew?
Heddon Dowagiac Casting Bait with Picture Box:
Another early Heddon makes the list. This time is a 1902 lure in a white pasteboard box (in possibly the best known condition of this box). The box comes complete with a four hook Slopenose Expert minnow in blue and white color with a gold tail cup. The combination is extremely rare and highly sought after. Sold at auction in 2017 for just a little over $8,400.
Creek Chub Plunker "Special":
The Creek Chub Bait Company out of Garrett, Indiana made some of the most beautiful lures ever assembled. They continue to gain in popularity with collectors and have a seemingly endless supply of "special order" colors that were made that have collectors emptying their wallets to complete their collections. One of these "special" baits is this Creek Chub Plunker. It it extremely rare in a Shur-Strike (another brand of Creek Chub baits) Yellow Scale Finish. The lure and matching box are both in Excellent condition. As you can see in the photo it is a beautiful example of the type of work that went on in Garrett, Indiana. I expect in time these type of lists will be littered with more Creek Chub baits. This one sold at auction in 2019 for a little over $8,000.
South Bend Truck Oreno:
The South Bend Bait Company out of South Bend, Indiana makes the list with a beautiful early Truck Oreno bait. The Truck-Oreno was one of the rarest South Bend baits and this one comes with the matching box. The Truck-Oreno was actually a combination of their Whirl-Oreno and Surf-Oreno baits. The Truck-Oreno was only made from 1938-1939 adding to the rarity of this lure. Both the bait and box are in nice condition. This one sold at action in 2006 for just over $7,000.
Detroit Minnow Bait Cage and Box:
Sometimes early baits are fun to look at as we can imagine what the creator was thinking when he designed the lure. This one is no exception. The Detroit Minnow Bait Cage was just that, a cage meant to hold a minnow inside so as to attract a fish. One can only imagine what a fish would think of this caged minnow that would make them want to inhale it, cage and all. Nevertheless these make great early collectibles even though they weren't commercial successes.
This bait is very rare circa 1915 and comes complete with its correct 2 piece Patent Pending picture box in near excellent condition and an unfaded clear paper illustration. Only a few complete and original Detroit Minnow Bait Cage packages are known to exist. This one sold at auction in 2012 for $6,700.
Miller's Reversible Minnow:
No list like this would be complete without the Miller's Reversible Minnow. When I first started collecting lures this one seemed to be the holy grail. Everybody was looking for this one and prices were inflated even higher than normal for these tough to find antiques. The lure was made in 1916 by W.H. Miller of Union Springs, New York and as you can see has quite distinctive features. The one pictured below is in Excellent condition in the classic yellow with gold spot color and came with a matching box. It sold at auction in 2006 for around $6,200.
Keeling Musky Expert Minnow:
Here's a circa 1915 minnow from Fred Keeling's Water Street shop in Rockford, Illinois, rescued from the shop before its sale. One of Fred Keeling's personal examples. This significant lure is believed to be the only of its kind and fetched a little over $6,000 at auction in 2017.
Ewert's Artificial Bait:
Walter Ewert of Los Angeles, California filed his patent for this unique lure in 1919. A beautiful example in bright yellow with red and black spot finish and complete with the unmistakable side "paddlewheels" used for creating surface turbulence. Only three known examples of this lure exist today making this quite the rare treat for a collector of unique and desirable early American baits. This lure sold for $5,900 in 2015.
Rarely seen for sale, this Moonlight Dreadnought is a beautiful example in the classic red and white finish, with brass washer hardware and twin unmarked spinners. It has some wear but despite that it sold at auction in 2006 for $5,900.
Immell Musky Chippewa Minnow:
A very popular lure right now with collectors is the Immell Bait Company Floating Musky Chippewa Minnow (Blair, Wisconsin). The wood body with red painted center spinner, marked with the Nov 1, 1910 patent date, make this unique bait a centerpiece for many musky lure collectors. This lure is in very good condition and in a stunning color. Sold in 2008 for $5,100.
There you have the complete list of twenty-five amazing lures (and some of the most expensive fishing lures ever sold) and the amazing prices they brought recently at auction. Time to go digging through those old tackle boxes and see what you can find. Who knows maybe you can get lucky. There are still treasures out there to be found.
Want to learn more about collecting old fishing lures? Come check out our page on Collecting Fishing Lures. We have lots of resources for new collectors. The only way to truly find out which lures are the most valuable is to spend time in the hobby learning everything you can.
A special thanks to our friends at Lang's Auction. We appreciate the use of their images and their help in the hobby in general. It's nice to have friends like them in the vast internet.
Related Articles / Pages:
Collecting Fishing Lures: An Introduction to a Wonderful Hobby. A background on the hobby, where to start, books, resources, what to collect, appraisals and more.