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Finding treasure in a tackle box

A collection of old lures may turn up a gem or two on the collectibles market.
by Ed Godfrey Published: March 16, 2014

Fishing lures are designed to attract fishermen and not fish.

I didn’t make up that line, but I wish I had. It’s nearly as true as “all fishermen are liars.”

My future father-in-law always instructed me that when I showed photos of the big bass that I had caught in his farm pond, tell people I caught them in a bar ditch.

I did as told, because I wanted to keep fishing in that pond and keep dating his daughter. The fact that she had access to a pond with big bass certainly didn’t hurt the relationship.

Old fishing lures can be quite valuable. Last week in Florida, someone paid $125,000 for a set of 89 vintage Heddon lures.

Heddon advertises itself as the world’s oldest lure maker, having started in 1894. The company was started by James Heddon in his family kitchen in Dowagiac, Mich.

Heddon is credited with inventing the first artificial fishing lure made of wood, and eventually a factory was built in Dowagiac. In 1983, Heddon was sold to Pradco of Fort Smith, Ark., and legendary lures like the Heddon Spook, Lucky 13 and Torpedo are still being manufactured today.

Recently, a friend of mine had an elderly aunt pass away. Her uncle had died many years earlier and had an old metal tackle box with a few fishing plugs in it.

Having no interest in fishing, she gave them to me. Most of them were unmarked, but a couple had identification.

One was an old-looking Heddon. Well, you know the first thought that popped into my head: Could this be some hidden treasure?

Had I discovered a hidden treasure like a Honus Wagner baseball card?

I told her that some of these might be worth some money. She told me to take them anyway, and, if they turned out to be anything of great value, we could split the bounty.

The Heddon lure in the tackle box was a black-and-gold Midget River Runt. I called Karl White of Luther, the world’s utmost authority on antique lure collecting, to learn what information I could about the River Runt.

White writes a column for Bassmaster Magazine on lure collecting, and he published a series of books on fishing tackle and collectibles.

Part of his collection once was displayed at the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks, but he removed it and is searching for a museum to house his entire collection, more than 50,000 pieces, which is valued at $5 million.

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by Ed Godfrey
Copy Editor, Outdoors Editor, Rodeo, River Sports Reporter
Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more...
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