Seek fishing lures that are made by top companies, that are known for attention to detail and quality. The following is a list of companies that made quality fishing lures that are sought after by collectors: Al Foss, Ans Decker, Arbogast, Bite-Em Bate, Carter/Dunks, Coldwater, Creek Chub, Hastings/Wilson, Heddon, Jamison, Keeling, Moonlight, Outing Manufacturing, Paw Paw, Shakespeare, South Bend, Pflueger and Worden. Identify the type of lure by researching it in catalogs and showing trusted collectors the find.
Once identified, the lure must be graded. Grading is the process whereby the collector establishes the condition of the lure. The process of grading can be subjective; what is rated as pristine by one collector may be rated as less desirable by another.
Start by establishing what the item would look like if it were in mint condition. Often pictures in reference books will display pristine examples of the collectible in question. An antique lure in mint condition is likely still in its original packaging and has never been used. A mint condition collectible is in the exact same condition as they day the product was shipped from the factory.
The next classification under mint is excellent. When evaluating fishing lures, excellent condition means the lure has no hook pointers that ding its painted surface, no scrapes, no imperfections on the belly paint, and no chips in the paint or varnish. A fishing lure in excellent condition is almost new. Look for pictures that illustrate the difference between mint and excellent to confirm the classification.
Excellent lures have two subclassifications: excellent plus and excellent minus. A lure in excellent plus condition has no hook pointers or scrapes in the paint. While the paint finish may be aged and some crazing can exist, the overall finish should remain shiny. Excellent minus lures may have minor defects in the varnish or tiny chips in the tail or belly paint, but there are no hook drags and the hooks are consistent with the overall paint finish.
Hooks in other types of conditions, such as good, average or poor, are of minimal quality to a serious collector. If just beginning in this hobby, these hooks may be acquired, until more pristine quality items can be obtained. The value of the lure ultimately is based on what another collector will pay for it, and how much sentimental value it has to those wanting it.