Goal: See if I could get a bunch of vintage fishing lures that I could fish and report on for the Lure Love Podcast AND for it not to cost me any money.
Result: I bought 1,118 fishing lures in the past four months and sold 606 of them, leaving me with 512 lures and a $113 profit. And the 512 lures I kept have an estimated value of $916!
The concept was that if I bought 10 lures for a dollar each, a total of $10, and could sell 5 of them for $2 each, I would still have my original $10 AND I would also have 5 lures to fish. I was shocked that it worked so well.
Listen to the podcast episode about buying lures on e-Bay!
The key was that my goal wasn’t to collect the most expensive lures or to sell lures for the highest price I could get. In fact, I wanted to sell lures I didn’t want as quickly as possible so I could get my money back and buy more lures. I bought and sold all the lures through eBay and Facebook Market Place.
Why are lures priced so low?
There are a lot of reasons why people sell fishing lures for less than they are worth. First, they may have a huge number of lures and just want to get rid of them. One guy sold me 325 lures for $300. That’s only 92 cents per lure and many of them were brand new! He was older and couldn’t fish anymore and just wanted to get rid of them. He was thrilled to sell them all at once and I was thrilled to buy them.
Other people are selling full tackle boxes at a garage sale and just want to get rid of the tackle box. One guy I met buys storage lockers. I bought a full tackle box from him that was part of a storage unit. His goal is to sell the contents of the storage unit for more than he paid for it, but he didn’t have time to maximize the price he got on every item. He wanted to quickly unload it.
Another guy I met buys huge lure collections at estate sales and even buys the inventory from tackle shops when they close. He had thousands of lures to sell, so his prices were very low. He had inventory to move and he bought the lures at such low prices, he could sell the ones he didn’t want for a dollar or two and still make a profit.
The pros and cons of eBay and Facebook
With Facebook Marketplace you can find lures close to home so you can go look at them before you buy. Because there’s no shipping cost, you often get better deals on Facebook. On Facebook you’re more likely to find lures that people are just trying to get rid of, or where they don’t know or care about lures.
With eBay you have a shipping cost most of the time. If you buy a lure for $5 and you are charged $4 shipping, you really bought a $9 Lure. So you always must look at the shipping cost. Some people charge ridiculous shipping with a low lure price to try to trick you. For example a $1 lure with a $14 shipping cost is a $15 lure, not a $1 lure.
How much is a lure really worth?
There used to be a lot of published fishing lure price guides. But, in general, you’ll find that a vintage hard bait—crank bait, jerk bait—is worth about $5. It’s certainly not a hard and fast rule but most are worth about what a new lure would cost.
Spoons and spinners are worth a lot less. In general, spoons and spinners are worth 25 to 50 cents each, and often less. Plastics, hooks, bobbers and other tackle typically have little value. Of course, there are expensive collectible lures but as a general rule, this has been my experience.
The truth is that a lure is worth what somebody is willing to pay for it. So the real question is how can I tell what somebody is willing to pay for it?
To determine a current sales price, go to eBay and search for any lure. I use terms like “vintage fishing lures” or “vintage lure lot” if I want to see a broad range of lure types but you can also search for a specific lure type like “vintage Zara Spook”. If you are going to pay shipping, you might as well amortize the cost over a bunch of lures, so I usually look for bunches of lures rather than individual ones.
Click on “filter” and select “sold”. Then you’ll see what people actually paid for a specific lure or lures. While there will be a price range based on color, condition and other factors, you’ll get an idea of what other people are paying for that lure or lures. And since these are recent sales, it’s the best way to determine what a reasonable price is for a lure.
Another eBay trick
Here’s another eBay trick. Uncheck the filter’s “sold” button, click the “sort” button and select “ending soonest”. This will show you all eBay auctions that are about to end. Look for lures with no bids and notice their prices. If nobody has bid on an item—and most auctions are 7 days long—then you know the minimum bid is too high. If the seller is accepting offers, I sometimes make an offer lower than the minimum bid when there are just a few hours left on the auction. Sellers are often motivated to sell at that point.
Full tackle boxes
In all, I made 26 purchases with an average of 43 lures per purchase. Many of the purchases were full tackle boxes. With a full tackle box, you need to use gut instinct because you may not be 100% certain that you can flip the lures for a profit.
One rule I use is that if I can buy hard baits—crank baits, jerk baits—for a dollar or less, I can easily flip them. So if I see a tackle box with 50 hard baits and the price is $40, it’s pretty low risk. If the price is between $1 and $2 per lure, I need to see something of higher value that I can easily flip. If the price is $2 or more per lure, there’s a lot more risk unless I know the real value of many of the lures.
For example, I saw on Facebook that a guy was selling 15 lures for $20. But I noticed there was a vintage Bill Norman Weed Walker lure in its original package. That’s a $15+ lure, so I paid the $20 and sold that one lure for $19. That was like getting the other 14 lures for a buck!
When I sell lures, I’ve found people will pay the most for similar lures. So you might sell 4-5 Hula Poppers together or 4-5 River Runts. Collectors are typically looking for the same type of lure. If the buyer wants to fish a certain type of lure, they’ll be looking for just that certain lure.
But when I end up with a lot of lower value lures, I bunch those together and sell them at about the same amount I paid for them. The most lures I sold at one time was 95 baits for $108. These are pretty easy to sell on Facebook Market Place, especially if they are in a tackle box.
Highest price sales
I sold a Marathon Musk-e-Munk for $26. There were four other lures I sold for $25 each. Those four I bought for less than a dollar each. Hard baits are where the money is. Spoons and spinners have little value, even though they are great to fish. Not as many people collect them, so you can buy a lot of nice spoons and spinners for 25 cents or less. The same is true for most soft plastics. A 50-year-old rubber worm isn’t usually worth much. But even for hard baits, some aren’t worth very much and it surprised me which ones.
Which ones weren’t worth very much? For starters, Rapalas. I love their look and they are great to fish, but even the older ones in good condition don’t get high prices. It might be because there are so many of them out there. Flat fish are another category that don’t get high prices. I like Lazy Ikes but people aren’t willing to spend much on them. So if I see a tackle box full of Rapalas and flat fish, I pass on it.
What I kept
Even though they’re not worth that much, I kept a bunch of nice spoons and spinners. I still like to fish them. For spinners, I kept some traditional Mepps as well as Panther Martins and Rooster Tails. For spoons, I kept everything from an Al’s Goldfish to a Hopkins Spoon to a Kastmaster to a Wob-L-Rite to a Wright & McGill. I also kept quite a few Little Cleo and Dare Devle spoons.
I kept some blade baits including a few Heddon Sonar blades. I also kept some Heddon Torpedos from the Teeny size on up. I kept a bunch of Rebel Craws, which is one of my favorite crankbaits to fish. I kept some classic ice fishing lures including the Swedish Pimple and the Rapala Jigging Rap.
The Jigging Rap is cool because the line tie eye is on the top middle of the lure. Each end has a fixed single hook pointing upwards and then there is a single treble hook hanging down in the middle. It’s known as an ice fishing lure, but it can be cast and retrieved as well. It’s a classic!
I also kept some very large lures. I kept an 8-inch Cisco Kid musky bait that has a metal lip and dives. It has three large treble hooks on it. I also kept a musky size Jitter Bug in a frog pattern that has a large treble hook on either side and one in the rear. It weighs a full ounce. I kept a 7-inch black baby duck lure with yellow feet that spin when you retrieve it. It weighs in at 2-1/2 ounces! I haven’t fished for musky before but they’re in our area and I’m looking forward to giving it a shot.
Then there were the classics. I kept quite a few different South Bend Orenos. I kept a Fly-Oreno, which is a one-inch long wooden popper meant for fly fishing. It has a double hook hanging the middle of the bottom. I kept an entire factory box of Trix-Orenos, which is a 1/20 oz. tiny trout spoon that comes with several small white plastic trailers. I kept a Fish-Oreno, which is a wooden plug with a metal head so it dives deep. It has an amazing look to it with the wood and metal combined.
From Heddon, I kept some great crank baits. I kept some Heddon Tad Pollys, some River Runts, a few Migit Digits and a Firetail Sonic. But the best Heddon I kept is a mint condition Heddon Meadow Mouse, which is a floating gray crank bait with a fuzzy mouse-like fur coat and a leather tail.
I kept a few nice Creek Chubb Pikies, too, a lot of Bomber crank baits, and some Chugg Bugs. The list goes on and on!
Some strange lures
Firs, I kept a few electronic lures. One is a Lureking USB rechargeable lure that twitches after it hits the water. Another is an eyeball shaped lure with a single treble hook. When activated, the eye glows green. It looks like it was meant for deep water and/or ice fishing. I don’t know the brand name.
Then I have a lure from the Real Bait company. The lure looks like a brown chili pepper, but it is actually a real minnow encased in plastic. It yellowed over the years. They ran a thin wire through the minnow to a single treble hook in the back.
Finally, I got a Whiptail Minnow made by Brokaw Industries in Cleveland, Ohio. It looks like a long plastic leech and is 5-inches long. It has two large treble hooks pre-installed with one facing forwards and one backwards. Your line goes through the eye at the head of the lure then to the back of the lure where you thread it right through the plastic tail and then it ties to the eye of the second treble hook. The idea is that you can control the lure like a puppet. There are actually a few different guide holes in the tail of the lure. When you twitch the lure, it is supposed to look injured. I can’t wait to test that one!
There are always more lures to buy! Right now I’m in search of a relatively inexpensive Doug English Bingo lure (so if anyone out there wants to send one to me, shoot me an email). They tend to run $20 to $30 and come in a huge number of colors. Doug English was from Texas and the lures are super collectible. The Retro Bassin YouTube Channel did an amazing episode on the Bingo.
I also want to get a package of vintage Mann’s six-inch grape Jelly Worms. They were one of my favorites as a kid, and would love to fish them again.
So while the Lure Love Podcast motto is “Why buy one lure when you can buy 103,” perhaps we should change it. “Why buy one lure when you can buy 1,1118” seems more appropriate.
If you have lure buying or selling questions, feel free to contact me.