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Mark Greenig: To Dick Carr and the Shakespeare Wonderod

A mint Howald No. 1390, 8’6”, three-piece Shakespeare Wonderod, matching aluminum case and cloth rod protector. Mark Greenig/Record

I was very saddened with the passing of my long time collector friend Dick Carr. Whenever we met, the topic of discussion was sporting collectibles, what we purchased and what we were looking for. Just a few days before the tragic loss, Dick and I had a delightful discussion outside the post office about a duck call of mine he recently purchased. He wanted me to sign it, so plans were made for our annual gathering at the upcoming Perham sporting collectible show next week. You could always find Dick’s booth in the back corner. So to you Dick, my longtime friend, I dedicate this article to you.

In fact, the mint Shakespeare Wonderod being discussed is in my collection and purchased from Dick at a rummage sale of his in June of 2007.

The Shakespeare tackle business was established in 1897. William Shakespeare invented and patented the very first level wind reel. That innovative concept is still widely accepted and in use today. A top end level wind reel nowadays can cost hundreds of dollars.

The first lure he patented was the wooden Revolution in 1901. By 1910, this company had its’ own catalog with a number of wooden fishing lures available to the public.

In 1952 the company was sold to Creek Chub Bait. In 1956 the company was again sold to Pflueger, and continues to operate under the Shakespeare name today.

Although not known for their fishing rods, this company manufactured a multitude of such items and were well accepted in the fishing community. You could find spinning, bait casting and fly rods in many different styles, colors and weights.

In terms of the collecting community, their fly fishing Wonderod seems to be the most in demand. The most rare are the short, light-weight models, but all are deserving in collections. In my research I found chat groups searching for the fly fishing Wonderod. Many bloggers tout the effectiveness of these rods today.

You can often date this rod by looking at the label on the rods’ back section. Some say “Howald Wonderod by Shakespeare”. Others have a large “S” with the words, “Shakespeare Wonderod. They came in different colors, the most common being metallic red or green. All had cork handles. By today’s standards they are heavy when compared to graphite or boron. However, their demand is high due to so many fly fishing enthusiasts choosing to use them. To many baby boomers, it’s a trip down memory lane because they were used by them decades ago.

The early models were made in Kalamazoo, Mich. You’re not likely to find zip codes on the packaging, meaning they were made prior to the mid 1960’s.

Value for common models in at least good condition is $35 to $50. Harder to find models can easily cost $100 or more.

The holy grail of this rod is the package pictured. It’s not necessarily the Wonderod shown, but rather the grouping. The entire set is mint including the only metal case I have ever come across. It is an early Howald No. 1390, 8ft. 6 inch, three piece fiberglass Shakespeare Wonderod, made in Michigan. So mint is this package, the original plastic covering the cork handle is still intact. It has the original cloth rod protector and aluminum carry case.

In terms of value, sorry, this set is not for sale. I’m out of space, but to you Dick and everyone else, until next time, may all your searches be successful.