$101K fishing lure sets world record
This fishing lure was made by Riley Haskell in the 1850s
By Richard Lodge / Metro West Daily News
November 11, 2003
BOXBOROUGH -- A South Carolina construction worker and his family paid
more than $100,000 for what he called "the Holy Grail" of fishing lures
last weekend, setting a world record for the highest price paid for a
fishing collectible at an auction.
Tracey Shirey and seven other bidders -- including several bidding by
telephone -- parried back and forth before the price of the rare
10-inch copper Haskell Minnow topped out at $92,000 during Lang's
Sporting Collectables' fall auction at the Boxborough Holiday Inn. With
the 10 percent buyer's premium added, the lure, made by Riley Haskell
of Painesville, Ohio, in the 1850s, cost Shirey $101,200.
"I'm on top of the world," Shirey said in a telephone interview
yesterday from South Carolina. "That's the Holy Grail of fishing lures,
I do believe. That's the best piece of tackle known to man. I've had
hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of lures and none of those adds
up to what that one piece means to me."
Shirey, a lure collector for just seven years, and whose wife, Connie,
son Blake, and daughter Carley share the passion for lure collecting,
also won the bidding for a smaller version of the minnow-shaped lure
Of the larger minnow, which came in a sliding top wooden box and is
believed to be one of a kind, Shirey said, "I was willing to go about
$150,000. I expected not to get it."
The final six-figure winning bid set a world record for a piece of
fishing tackle, but John and Debbie Ganung, who own Lang's Sporting
Collectables in Waterville, N.Y., said the high price shouldn't come as
"Was this a fair price? Absolutely," the Ganungs said in a statement
posted online. "Not only is this Haskell Minnow an important American
first in several ways and 150 years old, but in the world of sporting
collectibles of this rarity, quality and caliber, this seems actually
"John and I have always felt that American fishing tackle was way
undervalued," Debbie Ganung said. "If this had been a duck decoy or a
gun of the same (rarity), it would have realized 10 times that
price....If tackle collecting becomes mainstream, these prices will
seem cheap in a decade."
In a telephone interview late yesterday, John Ganung said he was
pleased that Shirey won the bidding to add the large and small Haskell
Minnows to the family collection.
"He is a very serious collector, as you can tell," Ganung said. "Not just anybody could spend that kind of money."
The top-dollar minnow is the only one of its size, in a box stamped "R.
Haskell" on one end. About a dozen Haskell Minnows in smaller sizes
have turned up in recent years. In 1988, one sold at Lang's auction for
$22,000 setting the world-record lure price at that time.
Tracey Shirey said his next goal is to add Haskell Minnows in three
other sizes to his collection, which would make the quintet of copper
fishing lures as rare and unique as paintings by van Gogh, which often
command far higher auction prices.
Debbie Ganung said she and her husband believe the Haskell Minnow
"certainly has the potential to be sold for much more in the future,"
if it again comes to auction.
They also believe the record won't stand forever, since tackle
collections started decades ago will eventually come up for auction,
possibly yielding some equally rare and valuable lures.
Lang's auction catalog had put a $35,000 to $45,000 pre-sale estimate
on the Haskell Minnow, but the "hammer price" of $92,000 underscored
the interest tackle collectors had in the lure.