Orvis glass minnow trap; Make sure it's an original
With the new open water fishing season in full swing, I felt it appropriate we talk about some type of fishing collectible with this weeks article. Obviously there are a multitude of items available for our discussion. After some thought, I hit on the idea of the Orvis Company vintage glass minnow trap. It's a very desirable and sought after item that has all the aspects which make for great home décor.
Some history on the Orvis Company is necessary before we talk about their glass minnow trap. Charles F. Orvis founded the company in Manchester, Vt., in 1856. Its roots are imbedded in the fly fishing arena and they still pride themselves in that on going market. The Orvis Company is the nation's oldest mail order catalog with over 150 years of experience. Annually, this organization sends out over 40 million catalogs. That mail order business to this day accounts for over 70 percent of their annual gross sales.
Charles F. Orvis saw tourism as an untapped potential market in the Vermont area. In 1853 he opened a hotel, which later would become the famed Equinox House. There was sufficient profit in his hotel venture to allow Charles to turn his hobby of bamboo rod making into a business. By 1861 he was established as a solid wood rod maker. His first truly great invention was the ventilated narrow spool fly reel to be mounted up right. So successful was his reel that he received a patent for it in 1874.
By 1890 the Orvis Company had a full line of superfine flies. His daughter, Ellen, became instrumental to the continued success of the company. Her efforts in developing a company fishing fly catalog resulted in the world's first publication of an illustrated classification and standardization of fishing flies.
Better get to the glass minnow trap. The Orvis Company suffered hard times during the depression. Only two employees were working in the 1930s. World War II brought new life to their organization due to production of war related necessities. An example was the U.S. Government's order from Orvis for bamboo ski poles for soldiers. Ironically, due to rationing, orders for glass minnow traps skyrocketed. That popularity carried through the 1960s. This is a big reason for the current appeal of Orvis glass minnow traps.
Here's what to look for to insure your looking at a real vintage Orvis glass minnow trap. First of all, there are a huge amount of fakes in the market today. As far back as the early 1900s, companies were producing "Orvis patterns" look alike glass traps. Real Orvis traps were available as early as 1904 at a cost of $4.50, which was huge money back then. Customers purchased these traps to catch bait, which in turn, caught fish to feed their family. Orvis traps have writing molded in the glass. That's not enough to protect you from fakes though.
Based on my research look for traps with a square carrying handle. Reproductions have round handles. All feet are round on original Orvis traps and point forward. Later reproductions don't. Generally speaking, Orvis traps (as stated in their 1904 catalog) are 12" by 24" with aluminum cover. Cover has hole design that will remind you of a snowflake pattern. Also, look for a small hole near the top on originals. If used, look for scratches on the glass and wear points on the metal carrying frame. All help indicate an old minnow trap.
Ironically, some wear or usage is a good thing on this item. Value for the real ones in good condition with original metal frame and cover will run $90 to $125. Currently, there is an original Orvis glass minnow trap with replacement cover being offered for $75 on eBay.
As always, condition is paramount to value. This is a great collectible, suitable for home décor and guaranteed to be a conversation piece in your home. Until next time, may all your searches be successful.