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Not your ordinary minnow bucket

A Falls City oversized "sucker bucket" in good condition next to a standard size container. Photo by - Mark Greenig

For the next two articles we will be discussing vintage metal minnow buckets. This week, let's talk about what is often referred to as the sucker bucket. It is this style of old metal minnow container which seems to be the most difficult to find and obviously worth more than the traditional bucket. A great advantage for us are the many lakes in the area, making these relatively easy to locate. What distinguishes the sucker bucket from the more common container is its size.

We have all heard the phrase, "They don't make them like they used to." That is certainly the case with minnow buckets. Makers of old metal buckets included My Buddy, Sport King, Fenwick, Falls City, Old Pal, Hiawatha, Montgomery Ward and more.

Of all those names the most common one I come across in metal bait buckets is Falls City. It is this company's "sucker bucket" which appeals to me the most. Its size is compelling, and when filled with about five gallons of water, is quite a load to carry. The name sucker bucket is appropriate for its dimensions when compared to the common standard size. Consider this item has an exterior circumference of 40", 9 3/4" high and 13.5" wide. The immense proportions allowed the owner to transport larger sucker minnows with less concern of bait dieing due to the increased volume of water in the container. The wise owner would often throw ice in the water for more oxygen and keep the bucket out of direct sun to further insure longevity of the bait. Make no mistake, you will immediately recognize this bucket because of its size. It actually looks odd and out of place.

It is worth mentioning metal containers are still being made today for the sentimentalist. To insure you are selling or purchasing an old item let me share some "indicators" to look for. Older buckets are made of heavier galvanized metal. Visualize how chipboard looks. The metal pattern on old containers looks a great deal like that, and should be a dull slate grey. Some rust is good and can often validate an older collectible. Metal handles will be heavy with a center piece for the hand made of wood. It is common for handles to also have some rust. Later styles will be constructed with lighter metal in all aspects and have a plastic hand piece for carrying.

To be sure we are all on the same page, these bait containers are two piece. An outside metal bucket with an interior metal container full of holes. Those holes allow water flow thru this item when in water. It is most common to have holes only in the sides. However, there are a few models with those same holes in the bottom of the interior metal liner.

Older buckets, for whatever reason, often have a generic pattern stamped into the bottom of the exterior bucket. A great indicator of age is located on the inside rim of the interior piece. Look carefully under the rim and see if the floatation material is covered with metal and soldered. Newer metal buckets will simply have uncovered white Styrofoam evident, which keeps the inner container afloat when in water. Generally speaking, the more durable the item seems, the older it will be.

As usual, I did a quick Internet search on vintage metal minnow buckets. No sucker buckets were found which did not surprise me. After studying what the common standard size is selling for, I would expect a Falls City sucker bucket to be worth $40 to $50 depending on condition. A truly mint piece will bring noticeably more. Until next time, may all your searches be successful.

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