By Larry Dablemont
We had to skip the Grizzled Old Outdoorsman’s swap meet last year because of the coronavirus, but for about 10 years before, we had held it in late March at a church gym in Brighton, Mo. We didn’t charge admission and all vendor spaces were free.
Therefore we had lots of tables and lots of people and the gym was always packed. And we always raised a lot of money for the youth projects of that church. But then they got a new preacher. And since the whole thing wasn’t his idea, he nixed it!
I figured that might be the end of our swap meet, but not one to give up easy, I found a big church in Bolivar, Mo. ,that had a gym twice the size of the one we had been using. This year we will have our Outdoorsman’s swap meet there, in a space of two end-to-end gymnasiums that will easily hold a thousand visitors and 75 or 80 tables. It has a small café attached to it where folks can sit and talk and eat breakfast or dinner.
And once again while having a great day, we will raise a lot of money for the church and other charity projects. Best thing is, unlike other such outdoor swap meet events, ours will again be free. If you have stuff to sell, call me and I will hold you an eight-, 10- or 12-foot space and it won’t cost you a penny.
In the past there has been a bunch of antique guns, antique fishing gear, modern day fishing lures and equipment, knives, camping gear, outdoor art, canoes, fishing boats, outboard motors, mounted fish and deer heads…you name it. I always give away copies of my magazines and sell my 10 outdoor books at discounted prices.
I want to get some vendors that have stuff for ladies too, so all the spaces won’t be outdoor items. We may have a space or two with baked goods, jewelry, women’s clothing, etc.
One year at our swap meet an elderly lady brought all the tackle from her husband’s hideaway. There were some antique lures there worth 40 or 50 dollars and some old rods and reels made in the twenties and thirties. She was selling the lures for three dollars each. She couldn’t understand why she had become so popular with dozens of male visitors.
Best buy I ever found at one of our swap meets was a double barrel shotgun that was 150 years old. Antique outdoor gear of all kinds is becoming more popular each year, especially fishing lures. Certain collectors pay into the hundreds of dollars each year for just one lure.
My friend Dennis Whiteside told me he was contacted by a neighbor lady in the late ’80s who had an old lure she wanted $25 for. “I had no idea if it was worth anything,” he says, “but it was in the box and looked like it had never been used, even though it was really old. I stood there thinking, ‘Holy cow, how can I pay 25 dollars for a fishing lure.’ But I did! And that was several times more than I had ever paid for a lure.”
Whiteside heard of a local restaurant owner where he lived in northwest Arkansas who was a big time lure collector, so he took the lure to him. “When he saw it, he was really fascinated with it, so I knew I hadn’t wasted my money. Then he invited me to his place to see his collection. I didn’t know it then, but I was looking at what amounted to a million dollar lure collection in that guy’s basement.”
The restaurant owner got him into a group known as the National Fishing Lure Collector's Club, an organization that actually sent out newsletters and magazines informing its members about collectible fishing gear. He said that he saw then just what a big business old fishing lures were.
Dennis recalls seeing one lure sell for $3,500. Today, that old lure he bought from his neighbor who thought she was getting a really good deal, is worth about a thousand dollars. Neither of them knew what it was worth at the time. I have saved a lot of lures and now have about a thousand in my basement that I am going to bring to the swap meet.
Most are just good ol’ lures that will still catch fish…but I have some weird old lures from my grandpa’s time. I might sell trade one for an old magazine, or an old gun. I will talk more about the coming swap meet in future columns, but I want to let everyone know my outdoor magazine and my Ozark magazine will be mailed around the tenth of this month. Let me know if you want one. I might trade you one for a real good topwater lure!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Larry Dablemont is an outdoor writer from Bolivar, Mo.