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Thursday - May 12, 2011 - Live Weather Conditions from the Amelia Island Online Weather Station

Collecting Old Penn Reels - The Short Course

I collect old Penn reels. Why, you might ask. Well, I don't really know why. For some very strange reason, I just like to pick up an old Penn reel and turn the handle. I look at an old Penn reel and wonder how many really nice fish it could tell me about if it could talk; who fished with this old reel, where did he fish, what did he catch... Maybe I'm nuts; my wife sure seems to think so. This fall I plan on catching a few really big fish with a really old Penn reel.

I'm not an expert, I don't belong to any associations of old reel collectors, and I probably have a few reels in my small collection that aren't worth anything to anybody but me. I haven't read any how to collect books, and I haven't been to collector's school.

So this isn't going to be a how to course. It's going to be a how NOT to course, based on my mistakes and what I've learned in my short career as a Penn reel collector.

After my encounter with Old Freckles, which you can read about here, I decided that not only did I want an Old Penn Reel, but I wanted a few different ones, and I wanted some really nice shiny ones that were very old, but still had all the chrome in places where chrome was supposed to be. I don't do yard sales. Too early in the morning. I've already cleaned out the local pawn shop. So off to the internet I went...

I found a really nice Penn Peerless #9 reel for sale on eBay. It looked BEAUTIFUL in the pictures, and it had ALL it's chrome, unlike my first Penn reel, Old Freckles. But I didn't have an eBay account, so I couldn't buy it. I called one of my friends, who did have an eBay account and told him to buy it for me. He couldn't log on - his account was suspended for reasons unknown - and I had only a few hours until the end of the auction so I had to move fast...

I don't have a problem with computers - I worked in the computer field all my life. I don't have a problem with the internet, I've been using it since Dan Quale invented it. I pay my bills online. I buy all my stuff online. But I never trusted the eBay concept or the company and I never wanted to go anywhere near eBay. But now I had to. Because I REALLY needed that Penn Peerless #9 reel with all the shiny chrome on it so I could hold it in my hand and turn the crank. So...

I went and signed up for an eBay account. I placed my bid and waited for the end of the auction. I got an email. From eBay. It read something like "Dude. You're a LOSER. You didn't get your Penn reel. Next time, don't be a LOSER, bid more and be a WINNER". Well that sucked. But no problem. eBay is a hotbed of old Penn reel activity, So...

I decided I'd go find another one. Piece of cake. Anybody can buy an old Penn reel on eBay, right? So I found another nice shiny one with all the chrome still there and placed my bid. Next day, I get the same old LOSER email from eBay. Now I'm mad. I'm gonna buy an old Penn reel on eBay and nothing or nobody is going to stop me. So I bid on another one. And I get another LOSER email from eBay. I needed to figure out what's up with all this loser stuff, so...

I started watching auctions for old Penn reels in the last few minutes and I noticed a trend. Seems like three or four guys bid over a period of the week that the auction is going, but then in the last 10 seconds, some guy who hasn't bid at all shows up and wins. What's up with that deal? So I went and asked my friend Google...

And I found out about snipers. And sniper software. You buy some sniper software, and it bids for you automatically in the closing seconds of an auction and you win. So it wasn't a PERSON showing up with 10 seconds to go in the auction and outbidding me, it was a damn computer. I fixed computers for a living for a lot of years. I'm smarter than a damn computer, so I can beat one in a simple auction, right? Right.

I figured out how to beat the snipers. I won my first old Penn reel. I got an email from eBay, but this time it was a WINNER email. Man, did that feel good. So I went back and beat it again. And again. And again. After I had beat that sniper software about six times, a thought hit me. I never trusted eBay, the concept, or eBay, the company. But now I was buying things from people I didn't know and paying them instantly and then going back to buy some more. The only old Penn real that I had in my collection was Old Freckles; all the other ones I bought on eBay were "in the mail". Maybe. So...

I told myself enuff is enuff. No more reels. But the next night I said Ok, one more. And so I won two. And the next night I said one more, and I won two. I had to transfer some more money from my bank account into my Paypal account so I could keep buying old Penn reels. But then the mailman showed up one day with a stack of boxes, and things changed...

The fact that everything I have purchased on eBay has arrived restored my faith in humanity. I haven't been scammed by anybody selling me an old Penn reel and not delivering it. I even got so many good brownie points from people I bought old Penn reels from saying that I was a super fast payer that some lady named Meg from eBay sent me an email telling me I'm a Super Star and I earned a certificate with a GOLD STAR that I could download and print! Wow. This is fun. But then...

I started opening the boxes that the mailman brought. Somehow, in my head, I pictured that shiny red Penn Peerless #9 was as big as a 12/0. But it wasn't. It was as big as an Abu 6500. Somehow in my head I had pictured that a Penn Longbeach 65 would be much bigger than a Penn Longbeach 60, but it wasn't. It was the same size. And some of the reels I got were exactly as advertised. But some of them were not. So...

I started trying to figure out why. eBay has a "feedback" system, right? It keeps everybody honest, right? The feedback system is baloney. Here's why. After I started buying stuff on eBay, I figured that I might as well clean out the closets and sell stuff too, get rid of some junk. But if I'm going to be a SELLER, I have to be VERY careful not to get any bad feedback, or nobody will trust me. What's fastest way to get bad feedback? Give somebody else some bad feedback - you're guaranteed to get some back. So should I raise hell because this reel isn't as advertised, or should I shut up and take my lumps. I decided to shut up - Fast Shipping, nice item. Thanks. Which is what I imagine 99.7% of the other people on eBay also do.

What You Should Know About Collecting Penn Reels - I did some more hunting with my friend Google. There are several big fishing tackle/reel collectors clubs with web sites. They don't even mention Penn reels. They collect stuff from before Penn existed. I can't find any Penn reel collectors clubs. I doubt at this point there are any. Just because I can't find them doesn't mean they don't exist, but...

There are a few basic flaws in the concept of collecting old Penn reels:

Old Penn Reels are just like New Penn Reels - the parts are interchangeable.

It's IMPOSSIBLE to verify how old an Old Penn Reel really is.

Here's a picture of my Jigmaster, Old Freckles, from the pawn shop (10 bucks) next to my late 80's Jigmaster from eBay, brand new in the box (way more than 10 bucks).

Freckles, on the left, is obviously older, because it's got burgundy vs. bright red side plates. There's also some writing on the old reel's left side plate, while the new one is flat - nothing on it. Parts are interchangeable. Want a brand new in the box OLD Jigmaster - just take the side plates off the old one, and put the old side plates on the new one and bingo, you have a vintage brand NEW old Jigmaster. Is a brand new OLD Jigmaster worth more money than a not so old brand new one? Some people sure seem to think so.

You can't judge a reel by it's box. Just because the BOX is old doesn't mean the reel inside is old..

People are selling empty Penn reel boxes on eBay every day. So you buy an old box, stick a new reel in it, and that makes an OLD reel? I don't think so.

What You Should Know About Buying Penn Reels On eBay - Remember I said the thrill disappeared when the boxes started showing up in the mail? Here's why. On more than one occasion, I got scammed by the seller. Here's some things you need to know about Penn reels and eBay.

Pictures are VERY deceptive, and if you give the camera to somebody who's intent is to be deceptive, then they can be even more deceptive. Here's an example. I bought an old reel, looked OK in the pictures. Seller sounded OK in the listing, had a lot of good feedback brownie points. Had only one picture of the reel. He was selling a bunch of old Penn reels.

This picture is much more close up than the actual eBay picture. The top half of the picture is the angle the reel was photographed on Ebay. You can see some very slight pitting/brassing in the chrome. Bottom half is the same reel, photographed from the other direction. There's no chrome left on the trim ring on the right side plate.

What's wrong with this reel? It's not a reel that Penn made. It's a reel that somebody else made using a bunch of parts from other reels that Penn made. After you've seen six old Penn reels, the corrosion pattern is pretty obvious, and very standard. Top and bottom of the reel foot corrode first - you can't wipe them off. On a reel that's been fished and not cleaned regularly, the inside of both side plates corrode, the inside of the spacer bars corrode and the reel foot corrodes. On a reel that gets dunked in salt water and never cleaned (like Old Freckles), everything corrodes.

How can you fish a reel and only get ONE side trim ring all wet to the point it completely corrodes all the chrome off while the other side trim ring remains shiny? You can't.

The other give away on this reel was the spacer bars - two corroded on the inside (normal) and two corroded on the outside (not paying attention when the reel was reassembled).

A lot of eBay Penn reel sellers are also Penn reel collectors - look at the feedback. They sell the same thing they bought a week or two earlier. Why? They needed to swap a few parts from the one they bought to the perfect one they are building for their collection. The more a reel gets circulated thru the eBay Penn reel system, the worse it's condition becomes as bad parts from other reels are added to it while good parts are removed.

A lot of sellers don't know squat about Penn reels but they are trying to jump on the band wagon by describing things as "brand new never been fishing still in the box" when they don't know enuff about a Penn reel to tell if it's been fishing or not. I've seen Squidder's go for over $400. New old stock (supposedly) still in the original box. So everybody is hoping to get $400 for any Squidder they can find that's got a box.

There are obviously a few hard core, willing to pay big bucks Penn reel collectors on eBay. And there are also a few who obviously have more money than brains.

Should You Buy Penn Reels on eBay? - sure, why not. If you are an aspiring collector, like me, don't think you're going to find any super clean brand new in the box sixty year old reels for 20 bucks. You won't. Can you get some good deals? Sure you can. At the beginning of this quest I wanted the best. There are two schools of thought on collecting old reels, according to the guys who collect REAL old reels. One school says if it's rusty, leave it rusty. The other says refurbish it. I've lowered my standards. I want to collect a few NICE old Penn reels, that I didn't pay a lot of money for, vs. a few old PERFECT old Penn reels, which don't exist.

Check The Seller's Feedback Out - never mind if he's naughty or nice - if he's selling 25 Penn reels a day, stay away from him. If all his other items are Penn reels, forget he exists.

Ask The Seller Questions - is there any CORROSION or BRASSING on the chrome? If he tells the truth, you won't buy a reel like the one in the picture above, like I did. I've asked a couple sellers "Is there any corrosion on that BRAND NEW IN THE BOX REEL you're selling" and I get back a "Well, there's a little bit of green stuff" for an answer. It only gets green when you get salt water on it, and it don't get green in the box.

Don't Try To Buy A Penn Reel Collection in a Week - Every reel you buy on eBay you can buy another one like it next week for less money. Focus on what you want - perfect reels, or perfect deals. Decide if you want to collect perfect reels, or you want to collect old reels. Purchase accordingly. Do you want to put the reel on the shelf and look at it or do you want to fish with it? If you want to fish with it, get a reel with a METAL spool - unless you've got 300 yards of 1940 braided line laying around. Mono can cause the plastic spools to break - they weren't made for mono. Plan on finding some new drag washers someplace if your old Penn reel is going fishing.

Do You Care About Chrome? - If you want to buy an old Penn reel to fish with and you aren't worried about the fact that some chrome is missing, you can find some great deals. Look for the green ones. Rip them apart, clean off the corrosion, and put them back together. I've bought two reels that I thought the guts were totally destroyed - one felt like it had broken gears it turned so rough. What it had was 40 year old hard as a rock grease in it - when cleaned up and lubed, it worked like new. I don't think you can destroy the guts in a Penn reel.

Did I Get Totally Screwed Out of Lots Of Money On Ebay? - No. I didn't buy any "collectors items" for big bucks. I got deceived a few times; once or twice by accident, couple times on purpose I'm sure. The reel pictured above - trick photography.

One I bought was advertised as "brand new old reel in the box, never been used". So I asked the seller how's the chrome. He told me perfect. I got the reel. He told the truth, the chrome was perfect - the reel looked like it'd never been used. But EVERY SCREW in BOTH side plates (12 screws total) and the screw that holds the free spool lever on were destroyed. Have you ever seen a screw after Bubba slips a couple times with the wrong sized screw driver? Slots all twisted up. If the reel was REALLY brand new never used, why was it taken apart in such a fashion that destroyed all the screws? Not worth losing any sleep over, but obviously something funny going on.

I bought a couple of reels I don't really want - nothing wrong with them, just nothing special about them. I bought them because I didn't have one of that model. I'll probably stick them back on eBay and get rid of them - after I steal all the good chrome off them, of course.

I got one reel from a yard sale lady. Works great, the listing said, turns nice. It does. Turn nice. You can turn the handle nice in both directions. You just can't put it into free spool to cast because half the guts are missing. Probably not her fault. She might have sold it to a Penn reel collector who stole the guts and then sent it back to her. I'll use it for parts.

Did I Get Any Good Deals on eBay? - Sure did. Got a really nice Squidder cheap. And some new drag washers and springs for it for about six bucks. And a Newell drag conversion for another six bucks. This fall I'm going to catch a REALLY big red drum with it.

I bought a SUPER clean Mariner #49 for about half of what they normally go for, and I didn't even have to use my sniper tricks to get it.

The good deals make up for the bad ones...

Before you go spend your hard earned big bucks for any collector's item Old Penn Reels, ask yourself this question: Is there really any such thing as an "Old" Penn Reel?

Don't forget yard sales, flea markets, estate sales, and Uncle Fred's garage. You never know where you'll find a brand new old Penn reel that somebody hasn't changed all the chrome parts on and buggered up the screws.

And if you plan on surf fishing with a Squidder or a Jigmaster, don't forget the one other piece of Penn gear you won't want to be without. You can buy them on eBay too...


A bad day of fishing is much better than a good day of cutting the grass.
Thursday - May 12, 2011 - Live Weather Conditions from the Amelia Island Online Weather Station
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