Kentucky, Fly, Collectible & Big Game Fishing Reels 

 Lighthouse Point, Florida

Tom Greene

 Phone: (954) 415-2670




According to Tom Greene

We all would like to think our collectible reels are in excellent condition, but the fact remains that very few will actually fall into that category. There is a system which assigns a number from 1 to 10, with a 10 being the highest condition. Two numbers are usually quoted: first the physical appearance and second the mechanical condition.

To be excellent (10, 10) , a reel must:

  • Have near flawless surfaces, no scratches, no dents, no metal worn off down to the brass, sharp edges, plating intact, no corrosion, pitting, or chips.

  • Mechanically, all parts should work effortlessly with no abnormal sounds, no binding, no looseness.

  • All non-metallic parts such as handles, side plates, or bushings should be in original condition. Hard rubber side plates would be polished and dark.

  • No engraving, or initials inscribed whatever other than that done my the manufacturer.

  • Screw heads must not be distorted or stripped from dismantling. Knobs without plier marks from disassembly.

  • The foot which attaches to the rod must not have been filed or altered to fit a rod.

Variations from excellent will degrade the reel proportionally and consequently reduce the value by a relative amount.

To be very good, a reel must display:

  • Occasional light scratches
  • Minor normal plate wear
  • Rubber edges may not be sharp
  • Minor foot imperfections
  • Crank knobs still tight
  • Clean
  • All functions work well, though some slight spool drag may be evident
  • Some click wear

Although I have no interest in reels in less than very good condition, the test for good condition would be:

  • All functions work, but with some difficulty
  • Click or brake not functional
  • Jammed level wind or handle bent.
  • Chips, small dents, light corrosion
  • Foot filed heavily
  • Screw heads buggered and distorted

Rarity is a factor in grading and has to be taken into account when placing a price. This is based on knowledge of the collector and is, as you may have expected, very expensive to obtain. The process of learning about reels usually involves buying large quantities of what you once thought were "excellent" examples, only to learn later that they were trash. The usually process is to collect for a while and upgrade as you learn more and more about what is normal and truly excellent. I've already thrown out my first collection and now I pretty much know what I want to collect to make me sleep well at night.

Reel collectors as a breed are typically very picky about even small points. Being mechanical, reels lend themselves to critical inspection and comparison to previously existing examples. Unlike fishing lures, where much of the eye appeal is artistic in value, reels collectors are more likely to assign value to condition and functionality, kind of like an 'engineer'.

Reel grading according to the ORCA (Old Reel Collectors Association)

In the early 1990s ORCA Director and Honorary Member, Steve Vernon, developed the following system of grading fishing reels. This method has since become the standard for fishing reel collectors.

For reels, ratings should be provided for both “appearance” and Mechanical Condition” and the ratings should be used to supplement complete descriptions.

Grade Appearance

Mint Original factory condition. Never used.
A10 Looks mint, but no guarantees as to whether it was used.
A9 Hard rubber still polished; edges sharp; markings 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 Larger chips and/or scratches; heavier corrosion, light pitting; slight bends in pillars, crank; knob pins bent or loose; may need small replacement part such as a screw, net 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 seriously damaged.
A3 More serious problems; Broken foot or other frame part; bent or badly dented plates.
A2 May be useful for parts.
A1 No aesthetic value.

Grade Mechanical Condition

M10 All functions work perfectly, no wear.
M9 All functions work well, though some wear 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 parts 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.

If you have early fishing reels you wish to sell, please call me:

Contact Tom Greene

(Please note: I do not wish to buy reels by Pflueger, Penn, Ocean City, South Bend, Shakespeare)

Tom Greene's personal antique reel collection 2019


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Last updated: Thursday, November 07, 2019 05:14 PM


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