Interesting Attic Find: Pristine ZEBCO 600 Fishing Reel
It's easy to see why television programs like PBS's "Antiques Roadshow" and History Channel's "American Pickers": Americans love nostalgia.
I was charged with cleaning out the attic of a former coworker. She was elderly and, she claimed, no one had been in her attic in at least 20 years.
When she asked me to clean it out to prepare the home for sale, I agreed, expecting to find old luggage, maybe some Christmas decorations, a bunch of dust, and not much else.
I certainly didn't expect to find a pristine piece of angling history.
It's not uncommon to find lots of cool things in an attic, especially someone else's attic. There were several pieces of fishing gear up there, but this one box was the coolest of them all.
The return address on the box reads "ZEBCO/Consumer Division, P.O. BOX 270, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 71401.
I don't know if you can make it out on the box, but the post date on the stamp is September 1, 1971.
Also, on the box, in bold blue letters: THIRD CLASS MAIL.
Anytime it says THIRD CLASS MAIL, you can assume that it came from a company and is used for marketing and advertising.
The box was addressed to the late husband of my former coworker who, I understand, was an avid outdoorsman. I found several fishing poles in the attic, along with a box of hand-made duck and goose calls, and even a hand-carved duck decoy.
Inside the box (which was still sealed, by the way) was nestled another box, this one featuring the big, bold "ZEBCO" logo.
I brought my find downstairs to show to my former coworker and that's when she told me how much of an outdoorsman her late husband was.
She said that he would keep hand-written details of each of his hunts and his fishing trips. I saw some of those notes, and it was true: dates, times, locations, names of those accompanying him on the hunt, weather conditions, and their bag and/or creel for the day.
The gentleman was so much of an outdoorsman that he was trusted as a tester for the Zebco company. And that's what brings us to this box.
As you can see, inside the box was a pristine, brand new, never-been-opened Zebco Model 600 spinning reel.
Along with the reel came literature pertaining to the reel.
The literature included operating instructions, disassembly instructions (for repair/cleaning), and a complete parts list (need a new crank handle? $1.00. A new body for the reel? $4.50).
I know, all of this is cool, right? It gets better, though.
Folded up in the box, on top of the reel, was a letter from the ZEBCO company.
You might not be able to make it out on the screen, so let me tell you what the letter says.
Dear Consumer Test Panel Member:
A new test! This time we're testing a new process for finishing out metal reels. Please use the 600 in the normal fashion, put it in your tackle box and, in general, give it the "fisherman's" treatment.
As a tester for the ZEBCO company, my coworker's late husband was sent new reels from ZEBCO from time to time to try out.
After using the reel for a while, he was to report back to the company on his likes/dislikes regarding using the reel.
Sometimes ZEBCO would instruct the tester to return the reel to them (they wanted to see for themselves where the reel would wear/get damaged through normal use), and other times they would allow the tester to keep the reel just for giving their feedback.
The 600 has been in the line for sometime (sic) so we felt it a good one to test a new finish on. When you return it, our engineering department will evaluate how the finish holds up compared to what we now use.
So this reel was supposed to be sent back to ZEBCO for evaluation, but our outdoorsman never even opened this package. As to how/when/why it was put in the attic unopened, we may never know.
The letter continues:
We'll send a questionnaire with the box and postage to return the reel on or about November 15th.
A full 2 and 1/2 months to use the reel before sending it back. I assume that the feedback from actual fishermen was valuable to the company.
As a member of the team we'd like to share with you the good news that at the fishing tackle trade show in Chicago August 8-11 Zebco won prizes for having the best display booth and for consumer packaging.
(I know that my grammar isn't perfect, but that run-on sentence/paragraph was tough to read.)
Hope you've had an enjoyable summer and got some fishing and camping in.
M. R. MaKenny
So, how valuable is this still-in-the-box, never-been-used Zebco 600 Spinning Reel? Well, according to a quick search on the eBay: a whopping $21.25 (on the high end!).
What's the value in hearing about this man's love for the outdoors, his time on the Zebco testing team, and spending time chatting with his widow? Priceless.
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