Questions about Antique Reels: Spinning and Spincast Reels
Q1: Do you know anything about the value of an old fishing reel that
reads "OCEAN CITY 350?" It was found in my Grandma's basement.
A: The odd little 350 was made in the mid-1950s, perhaps as an attempt
to gain some share of the burgeoning spinning-reel market for Ocean City, which had been
making salt-water reels in Philadelphia since the 1920s. Called the "Spinalong," it was inexpensive then, selling
for $4.95 in 1955 while more substantial reels were selling for two- to five-times that
price. It remains inexpensive, listing at $10 to $20 for one new in its box. The model
seems to be ubiquitous.
The inventor of the 350 was Edward F. Small, who patented the design in 1953. Remarkably, Small patented two other spinning reels that were manufactured by other companies. Perhaps the best known were the products of the Holliday Reel Co., Taunton, Mass. Small's design for the Holliday reels was patented in 1959. In addition, Small's own company produced the side-mounted "Cormorant" spinning reel, which he patented in 1950 and 1952.
Q2: I was interested in any info you may have on the following
spinning reel: "CENTAURE" CFCE. Bte S.G.D.G. MADE IN FRANCE Approximately
6" long 5" high
A: Centaures were among the many European reels imported to the US in
the late 1940s and 1950s until American manufacturers began to make enough spinning reels
to keep up with demand. There were several models of Centaure reels, and some were fairly
popular, judging from the numbers still around today.
Q3: I have acquired a Good-All rod and reel combination, and on the
back of the reel are the Good-All name, Worlds Finest Reels, Ogallala, Nebraska. The line
threads throught the handle to the pole. Any info you have on this would be appreciated.
A: Good-All made at least four models of reels during the late 1940s,
possibly into the 1950s. Your combo was one model, and the company also made two
side-mounted, closed-face spinning reels, with and without a star drag, and a gold-colored
push-button reel with a leatherette trim. I suspect the company was one of many that
started manufacturing reels after the loss of defense work following the end of WWII. I've
seen the combo listed at $30-$50, but, as usual, condition counts a lot.
Q4: I have a Spin-caster reel made by D&S Model Co. for ART
FARGO, Dayton 6, Ohio. When you squeeze a lever on the reel seat, the reel swings around
so you can cast from it. Then it swings back so you can wind up the line. Do you have any
information on this reel?
[I've received many other questions about other American spinning reels with swivelling
spools, e.g., Rite-Angler, Telecast, Colgrove, Flo-Line, etc.]
A: During the 1880s, two British inventors patented spinning reels
whose spools could be swivelled 90 degrees to alternate positions for casting and
retrieving line. One of them, Peter Malloch, included a line guide on his reel, and his
company popularized the idea in Great Britain, making such reels for decades. (See a
Malloch reel in my color photo gallery.)
After Alfred Illingworth invented a reel that used a wire bail to wind line on a fixed
spool (See photo in the black-and-white gallery.), the
popularity of spin-casting spread all over Europe. By the 1930s, spinning reels were being
exported to the U.S.
Following World War II, spinning quickly began to become popular in the U.S., and
American factories began to manufacture spinning reels to compete with the European
imports. The first American company to make them was Lionel Corporation's Airex Division,
which offered several models, including the Bache Brown Mastereel, Bache Brown Spinster,
The increasing popularity of the spinning reel attracted the attention not only of the
larger companies, but also that of a lot of small companies that had found themselves
without defense contracts after the war ended. Jumping on the bandwagon, many small
companies began to manufacture fishing reels in a wide range of designs. Because spinning
was becoming popular, and possibly to avoid patent infringements, some of these companies
produced reels that relied on the decades-old idea of pivoting spools. During the late
1940s and early 1950s, such reels were made in a remarkable variety of designs, differing
mainly in the mechanisms for swivelling the spools or holding them in position.
Collectors encounter these unusual spinning reels frequently, some models more than
others, of course. Their interesting designs make them attractive to collectors;
sometimes, they are hardly recognizable as fishing reels. For example, the Lou Meyer
Flo-Line reel looks more like a pencil sharpener than a reel. Unfortunately, many of the
companies that made them have disappeared in the last half-century, so information about
them requires research. The odds are that if you have an American spinning reel that
relies on a swivelling spool, usually made of aluminum or stainless steel, it was made in
the late 1940s to mid-1950s.
Q5: I bought a spinning reel marked Ru-Mer at a garage sale. Do you
have any info on it like age and history?
A: As mentioned in Question 4, spinning reels were being imported to
the U.S. from Europe during the late 1930s. After WWII, importation continued, and
spinning quickly gained in popularity. As it took some time before American manufacturers
were making enough reels to meet demand, European reels continued to flood the market well
into the 1950s.
The following were among the more common brand names and models of European reels
imported during that period:
ABU (Sweden)- Record
Alcedo (Italy)- Micron, 2/C, Atlantic
Carpano & Pons (France)- C.A.P.
Pezon & Michel (France)- Luxor, Centaure
Ru (France)- Mer, Atlantic, Pacific, Sport
J.W. Young & Sons (Great Britain)- Ambidex
Q6: I came across an older reel at an estate sale the other day, but
have been unable to find anything out about this one. On its face it has Ohio Tool Co.,
and on the side it has Ashaway, Patent applied for.
I have searched for Ashaway, as well as Ohio Tool Company, but have had no luck. Can you
steer me in a good direction?
A: The only reels I know of that were labeled that way are the Ashaway
Slip-Cast reels. They were made in at least three sizes, the largest being designed for
saltwater use, by Ohio Tool Co. for Ashaway. The reels were advertised nationally in the
late 1940s and probably were made for several years.
The Slip-Cast reels were an example of the multitude of various spinning reels designed
in the U.S. shortly after WWII. Unlike most others, they were designed to be mounted
upright on baitcasting rods, instead of being mounted below the seats of spinning rods.
Q7: (Whirlaway, Great Lakes Products, Detroit, Mich. See Question 5 on the "rod/reel combinations" FAQ page.)
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