Collectors fishing for information

By Terry Maurer, What's It Worth?April 6, 2014 

Now that Spring seems to have arrived, our outdoor activities resume in full force. For many, that means gardening; others turn their thoughts to fishing.

As ice leaves Washington's lakes, tens of thousands of anglers check their tackle and make plans.

Today we look at two fishing items owned by What's It Worth? readers. One comes from what could be called the most famous tackle company on the planet; the origins of the other, an Eastern Washington family-run firm, are barely known.

Q. This fishing reel came from a yard sale. I bought it because it looked interesting, even though it was filthy with dirt and grime. After cleaning, a maker's mark showed up and it was made by Hardy in England. Did I get a treasure? -- Ralph in Richland

A. Many collectors feel that anything made by the famous English firm of Hardy Brothers is a treasure. This 3 1/2-inch-diameter trolling reel would be no exception.

Founded in 1872 and still in business today, Hardy Brothers began as gunsmiths and knifemakers. It wasn't long before the company started specializing in fishing gear.

By the late 1870s, Hardy had become the leading maker of quality fishing tackle. Their premier products were fly reels.

Ralph's reel is a bit different from the company's usual production, in that it is was particularly designed for trolling and not casting.

This is the "Longstone" model, from about 1930. It was made of an anti-corrosive metal alloy and designed for use in salt water. Hardy advertised the reel as being ideal "for casting, trolling and general river or sea work."

This diameter is the smallest size Longstone made. Introduced in 1925, it was produced until 1936.

This reel shows quite of bit of surface wear and there is also minor pitting, evidence it was used for saltwater fishing.

Hardy trolling models are not as famous, sought after or valued as highly as the company's single-action and multiplying fly reels of the same era. In excellent condition, the price would be $300 to $400. In this condition, somewhere in the $200 range could be expected.

Q. These little lures came out of our grandfather's old tackle box.

They were in small plastic boxes and the paperwork says they were made by the Republic Fishing Tackle Company of Washington State. Ever heard of them? -- Jenny in Kennewick

A. It seems most American tackle companies started in some avid fisherman's garage or basement. That is certainly the case with these "Vibrating Minnow" lures made by a Republic family.

In the early 1950s, brothers Everett and Robert Wisener came up with the idea and eventually took out patents in the United States and Canada.

It was a family operation, with one person painting the plastic heads, another attaching the spinners and "bucktail," which was actually made of nylon.

They tested their products in a little aquarium equipped with a small kitchen mixer motor to simulate what trolling behind a boat would do to the lures' action.

The brothers and their families were successful -- for a while. The "New Action" lures were advertised heavily and sold around the world. Then came the Korean War.

"The nickel silver for the spinners was hard to get," family member Dick Wisener told a newspaper reporter in 2003. "If we didn't buy it, we were told it would all go to the war effort." After purchasing the raw materials, there was no money left for advertising and the firm folded in the early 1950s.

Originally sold for $1.35, the Vibrating Minnow came in six color combinations. The Bucktail Minnow came in four color patterns.

Today, there is some collector interest in these regional fishing collectibles.

In this kind of excellent condition, you could expect a price of about $10 to $15 each. There is no difference in value between the two models or among the color combinations.

-- Terry K. Maurer, Tri-Cities personal property appraiser, is a member of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America. For possible use in a future column, direct questions on your antiques and collectibles to What's It Worth? by email to

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