Investment grade lures and boxes are those which were preserved or put away to protect them for over eighty years or those which have been in mature collections and are now just seeing the light of day. We are talking about the rarified area of the one thousand to five thousand dollars and up group. It has been speculated on among collectors and dealers that this group consistently involves about three to five hundred individuals at this point. There are others who will step into the circle from time to time, but are not consistent buyers at this level.
First of all, collecting antique lures has absolutely nothing to do with fishing. Yes, some collectors happen to fish, and some got started collecting because of fishing. When you get into the high-end of this hobby, which ultimately deals with the rare and historical, it has nothing to do with fishing per se. It has everything to do with use of specific knowledge, speculation in collectibles, and investing in something which is appreciating rapidly at this time. The key word here is "at this time". If you think you can wander into this hobby, buy a few expensive lures, sit back and wait on the market to lift all boats, then you are in for a big surprise. It isn't likely to happen. Collecting in any area is hard work both physically and mentally. If one gets into it just to speculate in the rapidly rising collectibles market, then someone is likely to get badly burned. If you own something in this area which you think might be valuable, you would be better off selling the article and investing in the stock market. Conversely, if you buy lower grade lures and figure the market will get you out of them at some point without a loss, then you have another think coming and it's not going to be pleasant.
Antique lures basically have no real intrinsic value above five to ten dollars. For some collectors there is an emotional connection to our past or an individual we cared about when growing up with whom we associated fishing. There are those who love beautiful things that are old. In the end, lures are historical artwork that was, in some cases, mass-produced more than sixty to ninety years ago. There are plenty of old lures out there. The real quest is for the special historical pieces or those preserved in new condition.
If one studies the past history of the hobby of lure collecting, it will become evident the first people who collected had no intention of putting together historical or high quality collections. They just like the looks of the lures and collected or gathered for fun, not profit. The gatherers were the guys who wanted as many lures as they could put in a house or barn. It didn't matter what the history was concerning the lures, they just wanted them and as many as they could get. Those guys are still out there and they have massive "collections" of stuff. These are not the people or collections we are discussing here.
The high-end historical collectors, like myself, are generally much more driven and certainly more competitive. They are the ones who usually study and understand the history of the lures they collect. Yes, it takes a lot of financial commitment to collect the older lure material if it is in any kind of condition, but this is the level where "investing" becomes a consideration. If you spend more than a few thousand dollars a year on collecting lures, you are most likely investing either consciously or unconsciously. Of course the "pure of heart" would never stoop to admit they collect to invest. But if you are spending fifty thousand a year on any collecting activity, you best look at it as an investment, understand what you are doing, or you are going to lose a lot of your hard earned money.