3 Reels

Determining The Value Of Your Reel

What makes a reel valuable?

There are several factors that figure into this equation but the four most important factors are, AGE, SCARCITY, QUALITY, and CONDITION.

Below is a brief synopsis of each factor and how it relates to collectible reels and also some insightful examples of why these rules do not always apply.

Also below is a "Reel Grading System" for determining the condition of your reel and a list of "Reel Makers Whose Reels Tend to be More Valuable".

Vom Hofe Edward 501 9-0 Early 05

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See how age affects value

In most cases, the older the reel is, the better chance it has of having more value as a collectible.  Although this is not always the case, the older the reel is, the better chance it has of being handmade of quality materials and most likely produced in smaller quantities.  A low output of reels would make the reel hard to find today which increase the chances that the reel would be potentially valuable.


How available is it?

If a reel was made for only a short period of time or so long ago that there may only be a few examples left then this reel has a better chance of being valuable as a collectible.


Is it Handmade?

Handmade reels are, for the most part, more desirable as collectibles than mass-produced reels.  Older reels are generally handmade, while conversely, most contemporary reels are mass produced.  Quality materials were more often used in handmade reels.  Handmade reels also tend to be scarcer because they are usually made by one craftsman, therefore, a smaller output of reels.  Continue scrolling down the page for a list of "Reel Makers Whose Reels Tend to be More Valuable," or use the button below to jump to that section.

Click on this button to jump to the "Reel Makers Whose Reels Tend to be More Valuable" section.


What shape is it in?

The condition of the reel, as with any other collectible, is very important when determining the reel's value.  A reel in fair or poor condition is generally worth only a fraction of what a reel that is in very good or excellent condition is worth.  It is also very important that all the reel's parts are original, replaced parts hurt the value of a reel.  Continue scrolling down the page for the "Reel Grading System," or use the button below to jump to that section.

Click on this button to jump to the "Reel Grading System" section.

Insightful Examples

Examples of how the above criteria are not always the case

Age Example

"This reel belonged to my grampa"

You have a reel that was made in 1930 or perhaps earlier which would qualify it, by almost anyone's standards, to be considered an older reel.  Now assume that this reel was well made and caught a lot of fish.  The cost of the reel was reasonable and the company enjoyed sales of their reel into the many thousands.  Today this reel would be well known because of its once enjoyed great popularity.  Chances are good that there would still be a large number of these reels still available for collectors.  There were a lot of reels made, which means there are a lot of reels to be found today.  Although this reel is quite old the cost of the reel to today's collector might be quite low simply because of supply and demand.

Scarcity Example

"I've never seen this reel before"

You have just acquired a reel that bears the name of a maker you have never heard of before.  You might think "This is a scare reel, it might be valuable".  Not necessarily true, the reel may only be a few years old and there may not be anyone interested in collecting a reel this contemporary.  On the other hand, the reel may be old as the hills but poorly made or in rough condition hence there would be no demand for the reel and therefore little value associated with it.

Quality Example

"This reel is built like a swiss watch"

You have a reel that runs smoother than anything you have ever held in your hands before, a true techno-marvel.  Perhaps this reel was made only five years ago and they are still making them today.  If someone wished to collect them they could open up a catalog or go online and have one sent out overnight.  Although the reel may be pricey there may be no collectors' value associated with the reel.

Condition Example

"This reel is old, well made, and scarce"

A reel may have all the factors mentioned above, age, scarcity, and quality but if it is in poor physical or mechanical condition, or has replaced or missing parts, the value of the reel can drop dramatically.

See the "Reel Grading System" section for more information.

Putting Age, Scarcity, and Quality Together

The four important criteria together increases value

Only when you start putting these important factors together does the value of a reel start to increase.  The more of these factors that a reel possesses, the more its chances of being valuable increases.  Handmade reels took more time to make and were usually the products of small shops that did not have a high output but instead, made high-quality reels.

The materials used by these shops were generally of better quality and, because they were handmade of fine materials, the price was consistently much higher.  The higher the prices, the more people were precluded from purchasing the reels, therefore, making them scarcer.  Usually, when the reel-maker decided to stop making reels the shop closed down with him.

So, to sum it all up - A limited output of high-quality reels produced for a short duration, many years ago. This is the formula for a valuable reel!  Keep in mind that the condition of the reel still plays a large role in determining the value independent of these other factors (see "Reel Grading System" below).

See the "Reel Grading System" section for more information.

Common traits

Traits of reels that command higher prices

  • Reel was handmade and not mass-produced.
  • Reels was made of high-quality components.
  • Reel was manufactured to precise tolerances.
  • Reel was manufactured prior to 1942.
  • Reel possesses unusual or unique features.
Kovalovsky Big Game Reel - Hollywood Cal - Type 1

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The Collectibility Factor

How collectible is your reel

This is the most difficult factor to peg.  Who is to say exactly what it is that makes a collector gravitate towards one reel over another?  One collector must have a particular reel while another collector might not even give the same reel a second thought.

Some people are fascinated by reels with outrageous gismos while others drool over a reel with sleek, simple lines.  Some collectors look strictly for vintage fly reels while others look only for older spinning reels.  Some collectors look for reels as big as your head while others are seeking reels as small as a lemon.

Although market values are set for most reels there are times when one, or a combination of wonderful features, has turned a collectors head around which throws the whole "Value Equation" askew.   For obvious reasons we can't use the "Collectibility Factor" in our formula for determining value as it is a wild card.

Does your reel hold a wild-card?  CONTACT US AND FIND OUT!

More Valuable Reel Makers

Smaller Manufactuers whose reels tend to be more valuable

'This list is by no means a complete list of manufacturers whose reels are considered valuable.  Some reels are not marked with the maker's name and instead, are marked with a retailer's name or simply a model name, I have added these reels to this list as well.  Many of the large manufacturers are not listed here because the bulk of their reels are not considered terribly valuable, these companies are listed further down the page.

Abbey & Imbrie
Allcocks, S. & Co.
Appleton & Litchfield
Atalanta - Errol Bullen
Bate, T.H. & Co.
Bernard, J.
Bogdan, S.E.
Bradford & Anthony
Bradley Reel
Catterson Reel
Chamberlain Cartridge Co.
Chubb, T.H. Maker
Clerk A. & Co.
Clinton, C.M.
Coates, A.
Coxe, J.A. - L.A. California
Crook, J.B.
Dame Stoddard &Kendall
Deally, J.
Dreiser, J.
Emery, John
Farlow, C.F. & Co. Ltd.
Felton Harrison
Flint Reel Co.

Folsom Arms Co.
Foss, Al
Fowler, A.
Garey, George
Gayle, G.W. & Sons
Guthrie, D.
Hardy Bros.
Hart, Ari T'
Hoesel - Hallen Co.
Holzman, Ernest
Horton Meek
Kovalovsky, Arthur
Kentucky Bluegrass Reelworks
Klein, C.R.
Knowles Tuna Reel
Imperial Montague
Leonard, H.L.
Liberty Bell
Long, John
Makoora Reel
Marlin Reel
Master Kaster
Mcintosh & Heather
Meek & Milam

Did you find your reel on the list? If you have a reel that you need more information about, or a reel that you would like to sell, PLEASE CONTACT US.

Less Valuable Reel Makers

Bigger Manufactuers whose reels tend to be less valuable

There have been several companies throughout the years that have manufactured many thousands of reels with dozens of different models.  Many of these companies even manufactured under several different trade names.  For the most part, these reels were mass-produced in large numbers and a greater number of these reels are still easy to find today.  Because these reels were so popular then, they may command a large following of collectors today, however, because there are still so many of them around they tend to be less valuable.  Although most of the reels made by these companies are easily accessible and quite affordable, there are exceptions to the rule.  Some of the earlier models of reels made by these makers were handmade or manufactured in limited quantities making them hard to find and more valuable.

These larger companies are listed below.  I have capitalized in bold letters the "REEL GIANTS."

COXE, Bronson Mich.
Dam Quick

Higgins, J.C.


Did you find your reel on this list?  If you have a reel that you need more information on, or a reel that you would like to sell - PLEASE CONTACT US.

If you did not find your reel on this list, please try the "Reel makers whose reels tend to be more valuable," section.

Determining Your Reel's Condition

Use the reel grading system to help you determine condition

The 1 to 10 scale, reel grading system provided below was established to help both the collector and non-collector determine the condition of their reels for purposes of ascertaining the value.

Please note that there are two categories to take into account when evaluating the condition of old reels. The appearance grade is determined by the reels outward aesthetic condition. The mechanical grade is determined by how many of the reel's functions still operate and how smoothly they still operate.

Note that this scale only determines aesthetic and mechanical condition. Other factors that determine the reels value such as age, condition, scarcity, and collectibility, can be found above.


MINT - Original factory condition never used.

A10 - Looking mint but no guarantee that it was not used.

A9 - Hard rubber still polished; Edges sharp; Machining marks crisp; Plating intact; No corrosion, pitting, chips, or scratches.

A8 - Occasional light scratches, minor, normal plating wear; Rubber edges may not be sharp; Minor foot imperfections; Clean; Crank knobs tight.

A7 - Small chips; Some plating wear; Screw slots obviously used; Light cleaning required; If recently polished, some surface defects.

A6 - Chips; Small dents; Scratches from normal use; Light corrosion; Foot filed heavily or bent severely; Some screw heads buggered.

A5 - Large chips and/or scratches; Heavier corrosion, light pitting, slight bends in pillar, crank; Knob pins bent or loose; May need small replacement parts such as a screw, nut or bearing cap.

A4 - Has significant problems; Heavy corrosion; Buggered screws; Cracked rubber plate; Small broken part; Missing major part(s), such as pillar, line guide, click button; Foot badly damaged.

A3 - More serious problems; Broken foot or other frame part; Bent or badly dented plates.

A2 - May be useful for parts only.

A1 - No aesthetic value.


MINT -  Original factory condition, never used.

M10 -  All functions work perfectly, no wear.

M9 -  All functions work well, though some wear is apparent; Spool fully adjustable; Strong click; Strong brake; Smooth level wind.

M8 -  All functions work well, though complete adjustment may not be possible; Slight spool dinging; Some click wear; Brake pressure may not be maximal.

M7 -  Normal use and wear; Spool sloppy; Click weakening; Level wind slight wobble.

M6 -  All functions work, but some may be fairly worn; Some gear noise; Click may slip or be very weak; Needs new pawl.

M5 -  Functions work, but with some difficulty; Click or brake not functional; Level wind jams; Broken gear tooth or worn gears.

M4 -  Functional problems requiring replacement to make operable.

M3 -  Major functional problems, possibly due to missing or broken parts that are not easily replaced.

M2 -  Major problems.

M1 -  No mechanical value.

Need help determining condition or originality?

If you have a reel that you need more information about, or a reel that you would like to sell - PLEASE CONTACT US.