Vintage Fishing Reels: Treasures of the Fishing World

Vintage Fishing Reels

There is something almost magical about old and vintage items. From cars to old vinyl records, it is nice to have a piece of history.

Modern things may have better features; however, old items can still be used today, sometimes for the purpose they were made for, and sometimes for display only.

It is the same with vintage fishing reels. Some anglers like to collect them, and some even use them today. From cheaper models to really rare ones, you can buy yourself a piece of fishing history. There are many brands and models of different value on the market.

There are actually shops, both online and regular, which specialize for reselling such items. If you have one at home, you can even get it appraised.

Of course, before you decide to buy one, you should know how to recognize good features and see if the price fits.

If this sound interesting, keep on reading to find out everything you need to know!



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What exactly are Vintage Fishing Reels?

Vintage fishing reels are basically old reels made in a different way than those today. From materials used in their construction, to their looks and inner parts, a lot of it significantly differs from today.

Historical reels originate from China, from the times of Song dynasty, and the ones similar to todays were developed in the second half of 18th century. A bit later, fly reels developed, and a well-known name, Charles Orvis, designed the first one in 1874.

If you can get your hands onto reels from that time, I envy you!

But, for a reel to be vintage, it does not have to be from the first series ever designed and produce. There are equally interesting reels from the beginning of 20th century too, or even younger, that are easier to get and far more affordable.

Vintage Fishing Reels - Rare

How Old Do Fishing Reels Have to Be Considered as Vintage?

So, let`s try to define how old reels must be to really consider them vintage.

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer here. Some even make distinction between vintage and antique.

For the reel to be vintage, it should be from the first half of 20th century or older, as that was the time when spinning reels started rapid development (and they were the last among popular types).

This basically means that there are no antique spinning reels. For a reel to be considered antique, it must come from much earlier times.

But the year is not the only thing that makes a reel valuable as a vintage reel. What is even more important is the condition it is in, and how rare the model really is.

What are Some Popular Brands of Vintage Fishing Reels?

Among old fishing reel brands there are many we know today too ...

Some are relatively easy to get your hands on, some are almost impossible to find. I will dived them into type categories here:


Fly reels are the simplest, with smallest number of moving parts, and they are the oldest reel type. Among the most popular brands are:

  • Hedon
  • Hercules
  • Orvis
  • Hardy
  • Sheakspeare
  • Heddon
  • Pflueger

As you can see, some names are well known today too, and the same companies make modern reels too. That is excellent because if you get for example vintage Shakespeare fishing reels or vintage Pflueger fishing reels, you can have both new and old versions.

Vintage Fishing Reels - Worth Money


This is the second type of reels developed in history. Among the most popular brands are:

  • Bradley
  • Meek
  • Waltonian
  • W. De Forest
  • Chamberline Chartrige
  • Hardy Bros

If you are a young angler, some of these names you may never heard of. But all of these have some very nice vintage reels that every collector would like to have!

When it comes to popular companies like Penn, I have to mention that vintage Penn fishing reels are collectable, and the company started with casting reels, however it is not among the oldest.

Vintage Fishing Reels - Old


And lastly, here is the newest reel type in history, the spinning one. From vintage Mitchell fishing reels to some other popular brands, here is a list:

  • Chippendale
  • Leighton
  • Fin-Nor
  • Seamaster
  • Taggart
  • Hardy Bros
  • Mitchell

If you are wondering about other types like casting reels, those may not be the most popular reel type out there, but they have some advantages, and also some really nice old ones exist. From vintage Johnson fishing reels to some other less famous brands.

Vintage Fishing Reels - Spinning

What are the Best Vintage Fishing Reels? [Models Worth Buying]

This greatly depends on your personal preference among reel types and preferred brands, as well as your budget. More about the cost I will tell you in the next chapter.

Among the most collectible vintage fishing reels are the spinning ones. They may be the newest, but that makes them easier to find on the market and they may be in better condition. Price is also less than some really old, antique models.

If you are a beginner collector, I would advise you to start with spinning reels. Mitchell models are very popular here, as well as Hardy. Have you ever seen a Hardy Altex vintage spinning reel with a leather case for storing? It would look absolutely beautiful in anyone’s collection! Brands mentioned here a relatively easy to find on the market and are old fishing reels worth money.

If you are looking for a specific age when it comes to collectable value, models from late 19th and early 20th century are very popular.

Specific models that are very desirable besides mentioned ones are also:

  •  Hardy Perfect MKII Salmon Reel
  • Hardy Viscount 130
  • S Allcock & Co Duplex Reel

... and many more from the beginning of 20th century.

How Much Do Old Vintage Fishing Reels Typically Cost? [Are They Worth Money?]

Rare vintage fishing reels can reach huge prices, but majority of them is affordable, at least in terms of vintage items. Let’s be honest, collecting old items requires a certain budget.

Most of them cost anywhere between $200 and $600, but some items may go up to a $1000, or even more.

Vintage fishing reels value can sometimes exceed the appraised cost, especially at auctions. Some people are ready to pay as much as necessary to get that one item missing in their collection.

Here is an interesting fact: There was a reel sold for more than $40 000 at an auction, but it was really one of kind. An archetype of first patented reel in the American continent, made by William Billinghurst.

What are Some Key Features to Look at When Buying Vintage Fishing Reels?

The best vintage fishing reels have certain qualities that make them more valuable.

Those qualities are:

  • Rarity
  • Condition
  • Brand
  • Material
  • Age
  • Collectability

To be able to really recognize all of these, you should educate yourself a lot about vintage fishing equipment, maybe even get a book about the topic.

Vintage Fishing Reels - Casting

Here are some basic guidelines:

  • Wooden reels are truly old because wood as a reel material was abandoned a long time ago.
  • Brand name that doesn’t exist anymore usually makes reels more desirable and pricier but the same goes for the most popular brands and popular models that can cause high price increase.
  • Rare brand name means that the reels are also rare.
  • Condition should be as good as possible but don’t ever try to “make it better” yourself (please, take it to professionals before you destroy its value)!
  • Older reels are usually more valuable.
  • Bigger reels are usually more valuable.
  • Functional reels are more valuable.
  • Do proper research before every purchase because every model is different.

Where Can You Buy Vintage Fishing Reels?

Vintage reels can be found in many different places, and if you are in a search for a specific one, especially if it is a rare model, you may have to wait for it to appear on the market.

Here is a list of possibilities:

  • Vintage stores – what is good about stores is that you can see and inspect the item before purchase.
  • Online – there are many sites where you can find such items, but the downside is that you don’t see them in real life before you get them.
  • Auctions – auctions are available both online and in person. Sometimes, you can get an item fairly cheap here, while in other instances you can see that the prices go up significantly.
  • Local fishing clubs and other collectors of vintage items – some anglers will firstly offer their vintage item to friends.
  • Adds and listings – you can find these items listed anywhere from local newspapers to famous sites like craigslist or even social media.

Vintage Fishing Reels - Most Collectible

Other FAQs about Vintage Fishing Reels:

If you have never had vintage fishing reels, you may overthink a lot. In case that you are still unsure about these items, here are some answers for you!

What Materials Were Vintage Fishing Reels Typically Made From?

From vintage wooden fishing reels to metal ones, you can find different ones on the market. Wooden ones are very old and owning such item would be amazing. Some reels originating from Aasia were made from bamboo.

Metal ones appeared on the market a bit later, but they are still valuable and collectable. Reels from a hundred years ago weren’t plastic as some models today.

Copper was also a material used in production of vintage reels.

Are Vintage Fishing Reels Still Functional for Fishing Today?

YES, especially newer and metal ones. However, using them may reduce their collectable value. The fact that the reel is working can increase the value, but keep in mind that using it may cause it to rust or break due to old age and that is not something that should be done to collectable and rare items.

But these reels are not as specialized as those today and have far less features.

Are There Any Advantages to Using Vintage Fishing Reels Compared to Modern Ones?

This question is very hard to answer, and anglers and collectors have different opinions on this.

Todays reels are more specialized, and you have a reel for every fishing technique, of different speeds, line capacities, and similar. When it comes to efficiency, new ones are better. Also, modern materials are more resistant to corrosion.

On the other hand, old reels don’t have weak plastic parts, and are solely made from metal (don’t even think about using wooden ones). Besides, they have less parts and that means there is less things to potentially break down.

How Can I Identify the Age and Model of a Vintage Fishing Reel?

Well, unless you are an expert on vintage reels, you won’t be able to recognize it by appearance only.

Some of those reels have brand names on them, some come with original boxes, and others are sold in auction companies, so you will have to trust that they properly identified it.

If you find a reel you are not sure about, get it appraised by experts who will tell you what kind of reel it is.

What are Some Common Maintenance Tips for Vintage Fishing Reels?

I would not advise you to use rare types of reels, but if you do, you will have to maintain it like you would maintain modern reels.

If you have these reels for display only, you should keep them away from direct sunlight and high heat, in dry conditions. Usually, collectors have some kind of showcases for such items.

Make sure to remove dust and dirt and take it out at times if the reel is in working condition and crank it a few times to keep everything moving.

Are There any Collectors or Enthusiasts Who Specialize in Vintage Fishing Reels?

Whether is it vintage fly-fishing reels or any other type, you can find a lot of enthusiasts worldwide who are collecting them. Some are brand loyal and have collections of specific brand names, while others are reel type oriented. Many of those enthusiasts will gladly collect any vintage reel they can.

If you are in a search for such group of people, I would advise you to check it out online and see if there are some groups in your area.

Can Vintage Fishing Reels be Used for Display or Decoration Purposes Only?

If you are wondering what to do with old fishing reels and are they good for display only the answer is YES! These reels are best to be used as decoration. Imagine having a big glass showcase in your living room and everyone who comes to visit you would be fascinated with beautiful historical items!


Even if you are not collector of vintage fishing reels, it is beautiful to observe a piece of fishing history. You can even see them in some museums around the world.

Those who would like to have one at home should firstly educate about their features before making a purchase. Age is not the only thing that determines the value of such items.

And here is an idea – vintage reels make incredible presents for anglers you love so think about getting one for next holidays!

About Me

Slo-fishing - About Us


I am Siniša Pintar (friends call me Sina), the guy behind This site is base camp for fishing enthusiasts from all over the world. I love fishing and want to share all my stories, knowledge and my experience with any and all potential anglers. Read more ...

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