Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dr. Todd's Mailbag, 30 July 2008

Dr. Todd's Mailbag

Its been a while since I answered questions, and I've gotten quite a few. Here is this month's edition of the Mailbag.


I have an old bambo fly rod. It is a Noris Kamerad with the number 214 on it. I would like to find out about the history and the worth of this rod. Everything I find on the computer is about Thaddeus Norris. Could you please give me information about how I can track down info on my rod. (Note: The rod name is spelled with one "r" in Noris and Thaddeus Norris' name is with 2 "rs".

Jerry K.

After some digging around, and with the help of the folks over at Clark's, it appears that Noris was a German company (the "Kamerad" should have been a bit of a dead give away). Noris was in fact purchased by Shakespeare in 1965 and used as its European branch for retailing tackle. I own a couple of snelled hook packets with the Shakespeare/Noris branding on them. Apparently the rods are solidly built but don't bring high prices in America. More information can be found in the Clark's board thread by clicking here.


Dear Dr. Larson,

I'm wondering if you can assist me in identifying the approx. production date of a South Bend No.29 . The rod was my late father in law rod which was hung on the wall in his wood shop.

It is a 2/1 , 7 1/2', w  D  or HCH markings. It has the comficient handle w/ grooves, however, the reel seat was some type of plastic which shriveled. Unfortunately the finish  was heavily alligatored; however, the  ferrules are in excellent condition--still has the nice pop which taken apart. All of the labels are intact, the main label is oval(yellow/red) w/ the name South Bend Bait Co., quality tackle. The rod was recently restored w/ all of the labeling intact. It's a  very nice rod.

Any information would be appreciated.


F. Chin

Dear Mr. Chin,

You own a very cool rod. The Model 29 appears in the 1940 South Bend catalog, as well as the 1941 Trade Catalog. It was a single built rod of 7 1/2 feet, with welted and serrated ferrules and an attractive orange and black jasper silk wraps. Definitely a nice rod and well worth the restoration. Here is a pic from the 1941 catalog:


No subject inspires more questions to my mailbox than that of G.M. Skinner. Here are three recent ones:

Dr. Todd,

My name is Dave B____ and I have recently acquired a small collection of early Skinner baits. One in particular has a stamp of 1874 on it and is in fantastic condition. The blade is similar to the Abbey and Imbry, though it appears to be early "buck tail". I do not believe it to have been used very much, but that is besides the point. I am having trouble finding history of the lure as well as adequate values for the lures. I can find no information on Skinner before 1881. Can you help please?

Dr. Todd:  My nephew has a lure in mint condition that is a #7 pat. in U.S. and Canada.  It looks like the picture of the one in the catalogue with the black and white speckled feathers.  It is a GM Skinner and has the year 1874 stamped on it also.  Could you please tell me more info on it?  I read the story you had in your May posting about GM Skinner and how a book is in the making on him.  I would really like to find out about this lure but am having a hard time contacting the right people.

Dear Dr. Todd Larson,

I have recently found an old spinner in my collection. The spinner blade is marked "G.M. Skinner" with "Clayton. N.Y." underneath it. On the other side of the blade reads "Pat. U.S. & Canada 1874." The Spinner is a size 4 (with a small "4" in the middle of the blade). The Skirt is a turkey pattern, with one treble hook.
Enclosed is a picture of the lure. Any information surrounding this lure would be greatly appreciated!

Thank You,


Dear Skinner Owners,

Ah yes, the famed Gardiner Mills Skinner fluted bait! No other lure has sent more collectors, pickers, and dealers' hearts into a flutter than the Skinner Spoon Hook, as it was popularly known. This is because nearly every blade ever stamped (and there were probably twenty million sold over the years) carries the same marking:

On the left side of the blade is stamped the words "G.M. Skinner, Clayton, NY" and on the right side of the blade is "Pat. U.S. & Canada, 1874." This, of course, leads many to (understandably) believe they are holding a very old and very rare piscatorial piece.

The truth, however, is that even into the 1970s, G.M. Skinner blades were stamped exactly the same as they had been 90 years before. Combined with the fact that the Skinner Spoon Hook might very well be the most popular American fishing lure ever made, it means that the standard nickel-plated blade with these stampings is very, very common and not worth very much ($5-$10 in good shape).

Based on Skinner's 1874 patent for "flutes" that would reflect light in a better way, it spawned a mania and was (and is) one of the most effective lures ever made. For this reason every tackle box had to have a handful, and nearly all of them were nickel plated models.

There are, however, variations of the Skinner spoon hook that are worth more. For example, the blade was made in Sizes 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 4 1/2, 4 3/4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 (and 9 and 12 in Willow Leaf pattern). The smallest Size 0 can bring $50 or more, as it is much harder to find, and the #1 and #2 bring more than the middle sizes. #7 and #8 blades are still purchased by smart musky and northern anglers, and thus are usually worth a bit more as well.

Additionally, the spinner was made in a number of metals: nickel plated, brass, copper, gold plate, and enamel. All Skinners that are NOT nickel plated are usually worth 2-3X more than their common cousins. The rarest are the German Silver models, which we will get to in due time.

Most Skinner spinners are found without packaging, but if you happen to find one on an original card or in an envelope, it certainly increases value by as much as 10x. The vast majority of Skinner Spoon Hooks were sold on the common wire form body, but some (pre-1940) were sold on wire and gut leaders. These, too, command higher prices.

The rarest Skinner spinners come from the 19th century. Originally produced in Canada, if you find a spinner which on the left side reads "Gananonque, Ontario" you have a really, really rare bait and one that is now pushing $500-$750 if you can find one. These are the earliest baits and date from the mid-1870s. Not long after the patent was issued in 1874, Gardiner Mills Skinner moved across the river to Clayton, New York, and the blades began to reflect this move almost immediately.

The earliest Skinner blades marked "Clayton, NY" are relatively easy to spot, if you know what to look for. The size marking number (i.e. 7) on most blades is always found in the middle of the spinner. When you find a Skinner with the number stamped at THE TOP of the blade, you have a pre-1895 G.M. Skinner spinner. Additionally, for a time the firm produced blades in German Silver, which can be spotted by its unique tarnish and patina. These early Skinner blades are valued from $75-$100.

But even these pale in comparison to the rarest of the G.M. Skinner fluted spinners. If you find a Skinner Spoon Hook with a patent date of 1891 on it, you have a real gem. This date represents the moveable clevis that Skinner patented that year in an effort to keep a monopoly on his fluted spinner patent (which expired that year). It didn't work AT ALL and was quickly pulled from the market. These 1891 patent blades are worth $300-$400 if you can find one, but in some senses these are badly underpriced. They are 30 times rarer than an equivalent Turkey Foot or Turkey Wing (two of Skinner's variants, one shaped like a kidney blade with flutes and the other with a design resembling a turkey foot) that sell for twice as much.

The very latest blades can be found with a clevis connector, instead of a soldered one. Believe it or not, these are pretty scarce and I would say valued twice what a normal blade is worth.

The Skinner Spoon Hook is my all-time favorite lure. I have nearly 600 of them, including three full sets of nickel plated blades and I am desperately working toward full sets of copper and brass (if anyone has a Size 0 in either drop me a note!). G.M. Skinner made other lures--the coveted Turkey Wing, Turkey Foot, and others--but it is the Spoon Hook that is his lasting contribution to the world of fishing. Long live the Fluted Spinner!

-- Dr. Todd


Anonymous said...

Did Skinner ever produce unmarked spoons?

ScottR said...

Great info....thanks for taking the time to post!