Antique Fishing Rods: Identification & Price Guide (2023)

If you are a sports freak, you must have tried fishing! After all, it’s the only sport that gets you money on a catch. But do you know that you can earn millions for the old thin fishing tool, too? Well, if you have any antique fishing rods in your shed, it’s time for resale!

But yes! You won’t get money just because your fishing rod is old and handmade. There have to be some special features that make it unique and truly vintage. And today, I’ll explain all these features and more in this antique fishing rod identification guide.

Key Takeaways

  • Antique fishing rods with hand-cut grooves and tempers are the most precious ones! So check your rod for lacquers or wax polishes.
  • Get fishing rods with bone, clay, wood, or hide handles for an old make. Similarly, look for split screw or stapled joineries!
  • Pick rare or branded fishing rods with gold or silver carvings for high returns.
  • You can get three types of fishing rods – spinning, ice, or surf fishing. Of these, the deep sea spinning or surf fishing rods give the best returns.

How Do You Know If Your Fishing Rod Is Old & Antique?

Antique Fishing Rod made in Bamboo

Take your fishing rod and hold it parallel to the ground, at arm’s length. If it stands straight, it’s old and antique, costing $500 – 600. But if it sags and bends, it might be new and cheap, costing $20 – 30. Next, look for split wood screws and pegs!

But if you don’t see them clearly, look for the following features:

  • Equal wood sections with no bumps and machine varnish
  • Metal/sheet tempered tips, grooved rings, and bulged grips
  • Shiny lacquer, rope guides, and grooved handles
  • A 6 – 8 feet tall with a 2-feet grip and equal rings

How Did Antique Fishing Rods Evolve?

Ever seen the old stone age-era tools in museums? You always get them in wood, bone, and stone. Well, it’s the same with antique fishing rods! In fact, you’ll see crude shellac and bamboo weaves with the ancient 1700s models, which are highly precious!

It was in the 1800s that woodworking tools like the crosscut and handsaw entered the market. So, makers used them to shape hazel or oak branches for thick and light fishing rods. But they were really inflexible and broke easily. So, down went their demand!

The 1900s were more of machines. So, you can see machine-shaped steel, iron, or zinc rods in this era. These are pretty light and portable, but you can also get them easily! So, they are really cheap, and you can price one up to $40.

3 Types of Antique Fishing Rods & Their Value

Did you know that in ancient times, people used different rods for river and sea fishing? Yes, and each type had different parts and features that now impact the cost. Let’s see how!

1. Spinning Fishing Rod

Old Spinning Rods from the 1700s

Spinning rods are long, ductile fishing tools to catch deep, saltwater fish. So, they are more flexible and have less friction than others. You’ll also see 5 – 8 steel guides and rounded tips with them.

And, if you want to know if your spinning rod is old, check its reel. If it sits below the central rod, your piece costs $100 – 150. If not, $50 – 60 is good!

2. Ice Fishing Rods

Antique Ice Fishing Rod with a $40 value

You might have seen the short, curved fishing rods with Disney toons! Ice rods look the same but have solid wood handles and guides. You can even see some rope guides, opposing hooks, and short, 10-inch grips with them. So, they are cheaper, at $40 – 50.

3. Surf Fishing Rods

If you see an oversized fishing rod with 10 – 14 feet long handles, it’s a surf fishing rod. Made with coated metal or wood, these rods weigh about 6 -7 lbs, perfect for catching fish in the rough seas. Plus, most have durable lead grips and baits, costing $100 – 200.

6 Factors to Identify & Value an Antique Fishing Rod

Did you figure out your fishing rod’s type from the list above? If yes, let’s see what factors affect its resale and value below!

1. Antique Fishing Rod’s Age

Old Thin Steel Fishing Rod from the 1900s

It’s pretty obvious that old bone or bamboo fishing rods are the most precious. But today, you can find them only in museums and galleries. So, if you want a rod for your collection, get the wooden 1800s ones. And if you want them in steel, the 1900s models are perfect!

But what if you get a composite fishing rod? Yes, it’s quite possible. So, here’s how to track the age of those:

How Does a 1700s Fishing Rod Look?

Most of the 1700s fishing rods were handmade. So, they were really heavy and had local bone and hide handles. They were also short, 2-3 feet long, and bent in the rough seas. Also, look for tied rope guides and stone reels! If you see them, your rod costs $300 – 400.

How Do You Know If Your Fishing Rod Is from the 1800s?

Look for seasoned or lacquered wood fishing rods to spot these! You’ll also find some mechanical tools like spinning reels, locks, and keepers with them. Most will also have bark strips, iron or copper guides. So, you can price your piece for $150 – 250 as per the material!

How Do You Check a 1900s Fishing Rod?

Check if your fishing rod has thin steel sections, rollers, and wire guides. If yes, it’s a 1900s rod! You can also check for logos, patents, or brands on its handle. And, if you see split cane handles and reels, price the piece at $100. Otherwise, $70 – 80 is okay!

Here are some fishing rod patent numbers for help:

YearAgePatent NumberAverage Valuation
1887136 yearsUS359153A$150 – 200
198835 years4874140$60 – 80
198043 years4899953$90 – 100

Get rods with traditional silver, graphite, or silver fittings for an old make.

2. Vintage Fishing Rod Handle Materials

Antique Fishing Rod Handle Materials

Get a tape and measure the handles’ thickness. If it’s 16 – 20” in diameter, you might have stone, bone, or clay handles. And you can price such pieces for $200 – 300.

But, if it’s less than that, you might have a wood or metal fishing rod. So, strike it with an old hammer, and check the ringing sound. If the handle rings, it might be steel or fiberglass, costing $10 – 20. But, if it dampens the sound, it might be a wood rod, valuing $50 – 60.

Want to know more details about each material? Here’s a list:

Old Fishing Rod Handle Materials Average Valuation
Sliced Stone, Bone, Hide$100 – 120
Clay, Ceramics$80 – 90
Bamboo, Weaved Grass$70 – 80
Wood – Hickory, Juniper, Snakewood or Medlar$50 – 60
Cast & Alloyed Steel$30 – 40
Zinc & Stainless Steel$10 – 15
Plastic & Fiberglass$2 – 5

Pick fishing rods with split screw style reel seats and stapled joineries for the best returns.

3. Old Fishing Rod Guide Materials

Old Steel Guides on Vintage Fishing Rod

Now, you might think fishing rod guides come only in wood and metal! Yes, they are definitely a sub-type. But antique fishing rods have so many guide materials – clay, thread, and bamboo! So, you can get these natural guides if you want a handmade finish.

But, if you want more usability, go for the new wood or metal ones. It’s just that they are machine-made and cheaper.

Here’s a table to give you an idea of each guide material’s value:

Old Fishing Rod Guide Materials Average Valuation
Clay, Ceramics & Thread$80 – 90
Bamboo & Willow$50 – 80
Wood Bark – Hickory, Red Oak, Beech$30 – 50
Ductile Iron / Steel$15 – 20
Fiberglass, Stainless Steel or Titanium$8 – 10

Pick guides with a brown, gray, orange, or reddish stain for high returns.

4. Vintage Fishing Rod Brands

Branded Antique Fishing Rods worth $1000 - 1200

Tired of checking the fishing rod’s age and material? Well, just rotate the handle and see if you get any logos, brand names, or signs to confirm the brand and price your piece! You can also look for gold or silver carvings to hike the costs!

Here are some famous brands and their values for reference:

Old Fishing Rod NameManufacturerAntique Fishing Rod TypeAverage Valuation
MELO6Lyle DickersonBamboo Fishing Rod$3500
Pinky RodH.S GilliumSpinning Fishing Rod$200 – 250
Contact 2 Fly RodThomas & ThomasAluminium Fishing Rod$800 – 900
4 / 5Marty KarstetterBamboo Fishing Rod$1200 – 1500

Pick fishing rods with etched or embossed signs as painted ones might be fake and cheap.

5. Rare Fishing Rods

Rare, difficult-to-get models obviously fetch a high value at any auction! So, if your fishing rod comes from a premium collection, you can raise its cost by 20 – 25%.

Similarly, if it’s of royal or historical origins, it costs $1000 – 1200. And if it’s a limited-edition hunting rod, its value goes up to $3000.

Here are some rare fishing rods for your collection:

Rare Fishing Rod’s NameYearValuation
Paul H. Young Short Taper Fishing Rod1949$5500 – 6000
G.H Howells Bamboo Fly Rod1900s$5400
H.L Leonard Fly Rod1980s$5000
Wright & McGill Granger Bamboo Fly Rod1937$1000 – 1200
Ed Fody Bamboo Fly Rod1990s$1500 – 2000

Check if your fishing rod has a 5:5 or 6:4 bending ratio to spot the rare ones.

6. Antique Fishing Rod’s Condition

If you want thick, high-demand fishing rods, ensure they don’t have any chips or cracks! That’s because if your fishing rod has any flaws or faded parts, it loses its value by 10 – 12%. Similarly, you won’t get more than $100 if your rod has caught mold or rust!

Rinse your fishing rods with anti-rust solutions or white vinegar to get rid of the mold.

Do Old Fishing Rods Have Value?

Yes, old fishing rods fetch about $1000 – 2000, depending on their age and materials. So, look for old bone or wood rods, and check their logos and any flaws before purchase.

Does the Color of an Antique Fishing Rod Matter?

No, you can get fishing rods in bare wood or metal finishes for good value. But, it’s better to avoid the painted or polished ones as those might be new and cheaper.

How Do You Clean Antique Fishing Rods?

Soak your fishing rods in lukewarm water and dab them lightly to remove the mold and fungus. You can also scrub them with non-abrasive dish soaps and baking soda to restore the shine.

Obviously, you won’t get good returns for any fishing rod! For that, you must check your rod’s age, handles, and condition! Also, look for any logos or brand marks to hike the cost! And thankfully, we have covered everything above. So just check the details and add the costs!

And if you want to value other antique items like ‘vintage marbles,’ ‘vintage teddy bears,’ or ‘vintage sleds,’ I’ll be happy to help!

Judith Miller
Judith Miller

Judith is an antique expert with nearly 20 years of experience in the field of antique identification and valuation. She has reviewed over 30 thousand vintage items and has worked with numerous antique shops. She enjoys seeing new places, attending antique shows and events, and sharing her knowledge with people! Know more about me

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