$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 for $19,000.

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 a surprise.

"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 cheap.

"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.

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