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Loves Park Man Collects Famed Fishing Lures

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LOVES PARK, Ill. (AP) _ Marty Dinges broke a promise to himself two years ago when he started collecting fishing lures.

Not just any kind of lure, though. Dinges describes Jim Bagley Bait Co. lures with adjectives generally reserved for pieces of art.

"These lures are beautiful," said the 54-year-old angler. "I bought them because I had never seen a lure that looked so real."

He purchased a few. Then a few more. Now he has 1,200 at his Loves Park home.

"It's a hobby that has kind of turned into an obsession. It's funny how it works out that way because I always said I would never collect lures," he said with a chuckle.

Now he searches for them on eBay and lure collectors' Web sites and at garage sales. He's also made friends online who help him on his collecting quest, such as Jonathan Manteuffel of Alabama.

"He is very instrumental in my passion for Jim Bagley's baits," Dinges said. "Jonathan is a Bagley fanatic and has one of the top Bagley collections. His knowledge is second to none."

The lures are considered contemporary collectibles, as the earliest ones only date back to the late 1950s, but their quality attracts collectors. The company's slogan is "The World's Most Treasured Lures."

"You try to limit what you pay for them. I've paid premium for a couple of them, but most of the ones I'm getting average about $4 or $5," said Dinges, who has never collected anything else.

His Bagley collection includes a "very rare" one-inch small fry smallmouth, double-deep diver, which was a "production error." Only a handful were made and just two still exist, said Dinges, who paid $150 to another collector for the lure.

Dinges not only collects Bagleys; he also takes them to the lake.

"I was afraid to fish with them at first," he said. "I had them over a year before I fished with one."

He got a scare on his first fishing trip with his Bagleys, A toothy, 32-inch muskie followed his perch lure to the boat.

"I pulled it out of the water as fast as I could. He would have put teeth marks on it," Dinges said.

Now he has a separate group of less-valuable Bagleys just for fishing.

"They catch fish, too," he said.

While Dinges is a relative newcomer to collecting Bagley lures, Johnny Garland of Johnson City, Tenn., is considered one of the pioneer collectors of the brand. He started in the early 1990s.

"I would go to tackle stores and buy every Bagley they had," he said in a phone interview last week. "I would make a deal and buy them for $2 or $2.25 (about half the retail price), and I was buying 200 or 300 at a time or more."

Serious collectors will pay plenty for those Bagleys today. In the past few months, three Bagley green frog lures sold for $1,100, $1,525 and $2,180.

Garland recently sold a "master" collection of 242 Bagleys for $30,000.

"It shocks me," Garland, 62, said of the prices the lures are fetching. "It's almost silly. There's no reason for those baits to bring that much."

Garland believes the Bagley market might have peaked.

"There are a few (Bagleys) that might go a little higher, but I think there will be several that will go down, too," he said.

Dinges still considers it a good investment.

"The little amount of money I've got into them, I could put that into a boat or other fishing tackle and not get my money out, but with these I can," he said.

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