Scheduled to be published at the end of the month by Schiffer Books, Kieny's work is one that has been noticeably absent from the collecting world for over two decades. Back in the late 1980s an author (a doctor who's name escapes me) wrote a nice article in the NFLCC Gazette lamenting the fact there had been no significant research on folk art lures, while folk art spearing decoys and duck decoys were thriving. Little was done to fix this glaring problem in the ensuing 25 years.
Our complaining can stop now, as Kieny has given us exactly what we have needed for decades: a comprehensive and attractive overview of all things related to folk art lures. Starting with a detailed definition of what exactly folk art is, he delves into the details necessary for this category to mature: identification, evaluation and pricing. Just because something is old and hand-made does not make it folk art, nor does it make it valuable.
Yet one of the things I admire most about this category of lures is that beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder. Jeff shows off a veritable smorgasbord of wonderful lures, reproduced in full color and often to exact size. From tiny fly rod lures to massive musky baits, the ingenuity and originality of the artist are on display at all times. Anyone who's read his book Patented Hooks, Harnesses and Baitholders knows that Jeff is an excellent researcher, and this, too, is evident throughout the book.
I honestly believe that this book belongs on every tackle collector's book shelf, not just because I want the book to do well so Schiffer will publish other books on vintage tackle, and not just because Jeff is a friend. Every collector should get a copy because it will remind them that the items they own and covet in their collections were owned by honest-to-God unique individual human beings, who sometimes modified their lures (there's a whole chapter on fishermen modified baits), tried to make their own if they couldn't afford one or if they thought they could improve it, or just wanted to try something different.
I only have two small quibbles. First, there are a lot of lures shown from one particular folk artist, Burt Errett. I would have liked to have seen his lures (scattered throughout the book as they are) organized into a single chapter. Second, I wish there was a list of known fishing lure folk artists and their region or state of origin so we would have a starting point for trying to ID unknowns found in the wild. But these are tiny problems in the ocean of delight that is Jeff's book.
You see, fishermen in their own ways are all folk artists, to various degrees. Jeff Kieny's book reminds us of this, and implores us--for the first time--to appreciate and celebrate their art.
Vintage Folk Art Fishing Lures and Tackle is a full size, 240 page hard cover book containing over 700 full color photos. Schiffer Books is projecting a late June release. Signed copies of the book should be available at the NFLCC Nationals from Jeff, or you can contact Jeff at jeffsfishin AT sbcglobal DOT net. It may also be pre-ordered directly from the publisher by phone (610) 593-1777 or electronically via their website for $49.99 plus shipping.
-- Dr. Todd