Interview with fishing collector Max Hand

Q. How long have you been a collector and how did you get started?

A.  I have been collecting antique fishing tackle for about 12 years. I developed a love of antiques in general many years ago, and collecting older fishing items was a natural offshoot of my collecting nature. A friend of mine asked me to go to a fishing lure show, and I was fascinated by the variety, colors and prices for the lures. Then I went to Lang’s auction up in Mass. and that did it. I was overwhelmed by the quality and beauty of Edward vom Hofe reels, and that was it.

Q. Did you fish a lot as a child? Did you grow up in a family of anglers? Do you still fish?

A. We fished mostly in the summertime and loved to catch catfish and bass. My father was not an avid fisherman but thoroughly enjoyed it when we went. I fish occasionally now, but golf is my main passion.

Q. Which antique fishing gear/category do you mainly collect? What was your main attraction for specializing with these?

A. My main area of interest is early reels, both saltwater and freshwater. I love the reels of the vom Hofe brothers, Edward and Julius. Edward was a demanding perfectionist that arguably made the best saltwater reels around the turn of the century. Julius was innovative and unafraid to go in new directions. He made great fly reels, baitcasting reels, and others. The quality of their reels is astounding, and they are almost like works of art. They maintain their allure even today. I also collect NC Hunting and Fishing licenses. These celluloid pinback “buttons” were made from the late 1920s to 1940 in North Carolina. North Carolina- issued metal stamped licenses in the late ‘30s. One is even shaped like a fish! Very few other states went to the trouble of issuing metal licenses, so the North Carolina ones are quite collectible. Since I live in NC, I wanted a smart of history which is represented by the license badges.

Q. Are their other fishing categories in your collection besides the above? If so, what?

A. Yes. I also collect Fish & Game Warden badges. I have bamboo rods (mostly vom Hofe), creels, and lures. The lures are mostly Shakespeare, and I was drawn to them because of their names. Dopey, Grumpy, etc.

Q. Which antique fishing gear is most popular among collectors today? How has this changed since you began collecting…or has it?

A.  Without question, the most popular fishing collectible today is lures. Some years ago, people started collecting lures made of wood. Heddon, Pflueger, South Bend and Shakespeare were among the favorites. Many remembered lures they fished with as youngsters, or enjoyed getting together with fellow fishermen or collectors. The NFLCC (National Fishing Lure Collectors Club) is by far the largest club relating to fishing tackle. Today, lures are still the most popular, but collecting has branched out to lures made of plastic, fly rod baits, early metal baits, traps, almost anything related to catching a fish. I think it is more popular today than when I started because more young people are interested. The bulk of collectors, however, are still over 50 years old. I’m sure leisure time and disposable income are factors.

Q. For novice collectors, what would be the most reasonable to start collecting? Which are more expensive? What should they be aware of?

A. Lures of a more recent vintage (1960-1980) are the most reasonable in price. The beginning collector should look for lures in the original packaging or box, and the more scarce colors and styles. Attend one of the shows put on by the NFLCC, CATC (Carolina Antique Tackle Collectors), or FATC (Florida Antique Tackle Collectors. Members are generally very helpful, and have a wealth of information on the hobby. The amount of stuff you will see is mind-boggling. Once you establish an area of collecting that appeals to you, try and find the best examples available. I always say it is better to have one great example than several mediocre ones. Condition, rarity, color and original packaging are the things to focus on. One of the best ways to learn is to buy something and then research it. Knowledge of the lures or tackle will help immeasurably as your collection grows. The amount and variety of stuff you will see is simply amazing, and buying, selling or trading at the shows is half the fun.

Q. Do you buy on-line? If not, why not? Where do you mainly purchase?

A. I purchase from a variety of sources; auctions, private sales, etc., and I do buy on-line. The internet brings tons of “fresh merchandise” out of the closet or garage, and provides the collector with the opportunity to see, learn about and buy many more things than ever before. Of course you have to be careful, and you WILL get burned or make mistakes. Just try and limit those bad experiences. In the final analysis, you may find things for your collection that you have been searching for a long time. I think it is worth the risk. That being said, there is nothing like the camaraderie, fun, and hands on experience of a show or live auction. To me, that will be tough to replace. I think a good analogy is playing golf. Fun outdoors with friends, or sitting in front of a screen punching buttons — hmmm

Q. How do American-made fishing collectibles compare in prices and/or availability to European made?

A. Over the years, I have seen very little in the way of imported tackle make much headway with collectors in the USA. Hardy Bros. in England is a very well known name, and their stuff is very sought after by fly fishing aficionados. Other than that, I don’t see much vintage tackle for sale, or sought after, that is other than American-made.

Q. How many active members in your Carolina Antique Tackle Collectors Club? Of those members, approx. what percentage are women? Overall, is there any difference between what women mainly collect and what men collect?

A. We have around 125 active members in our club. Women make up about 5% of that total. There are also a number of spouses involved in the club who are not dues paying members. So, the total number of women who collect tackle and attend shows is around a dozen. To the best of my recollection, very few women collect something other than lures. Those that do collect are fairly avid, and you don’t want to get in their way if they spot something they want. (I guess we are all like that, really). Among men, lures are by far the leading collectible. Other areas include reels, bamboo rods, fly fishing related items, medals & awards, pin-back licenses, and advertising.

Q. I’d like to do a side-bar about your club. Please provide me with 6-10 sentences about your club for this purpose. Also please provide the web site info.

A. The CATC’s mission is to: Enhance and promote the collection and preservation of antique fishing tackle and memorabilia; Provide a channel of communication for collectors in the region; Further interest in the hobby through interaction with the public; Promote and host collector meets twice a year. We try and raise awareness by offering free appraisals at our meets, and providing information on reference material to any who seek it.

We currently do not have a web site, but encourage anyone interested in more information about the Carolina Antique Tackle Collectors to contact one of the current club officers:

Max Hand, President – (704) 365-3653 or

John Walker, Vice President – (803) 256-2912 or

Steve Barrow, Sec/Treas – (252) 492-7356 or

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