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You Can’t Take It With You

by WorthPoint Staff (07/11/08).

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Six, even seven days a week, Chris Lucero waits at the door of his South Broadway collectibles shop surrounded by vintage fishing lures, miles from the nearest mountain stream.

Waiting for customers. Waiting for dialysis. Waiting for the day—perhaps soon—when his body won’t allow him to wait any longer.

Lucero, a retired police detective and longtime collectibles dealer, suffers from congestive heart failure. In his late 60s and with few medical options remaining, he decided to make at least one more choice for himself.

When he dies, his heirs would be engulfed by thousands of unfamiliar items shelved to the rafters in his home. Probably, they would sell them in desperation and grief for a fraction of their market value. He’s seen it happen before.

Hey—over the years, he’d found some of his best stuff that way.

Or, he could open another store— which he did, his third in two decades—and sell his antiques and collectibles to other collectors.

“Times are changing for me,” Lucero said. “Hopefully, I’ll help other collectors pick up something they don’t have.”
His store is simply named Antique Fishing. The building is equally plain—less than 1,000-square feet in a dingy prewar building on a block devoted to taverns and auto parts.

It’s a man’s store, and it reflects Lucero’s lifelong interests.

On the wall behind his desk hang dozens of collectible record albums—mostly 1960s rock ’n’ roll, and mostly Elvis Presley.

Little known fact: Elvis owned a home in Denver, and local police moonlighted as his bodyguards and confidants, including Lucero. Today, he deflects most Elvis questions. “Everyone just wants to hear about the bad stuff,” he says. “Elvis was very generous. Once we saw a family broken down on the side of the road, and he bought them a new car.”

In a side room, Lucero displays an intimidating arsenal of weapons—military, hunting, Western, even an Uzi. The surprise is how light they feel. That’s because they are collectible boyhood replicas—air and BB guns.

His favorite: a Daisy Red Ryder from the 1940s. It still features the gold-colored forearm band and a cast-iron lever. By the early 1950s, plastic parts were creeping into the design.

But Lucero’s true passion is vintage fishing gear. Creels hang in bunches. Vintage wooden and cane fly rods line the walls.

Dozens of vintage prewar wooden lures are the store’s real treasures. Lucero has collected a bit of everything . . . Heddon . . . Shakespeare . . . Creek Chib Bait . . . Winchester. Silver flitters, gold flitters, rainbows, injured minnows . . .

They range in price from $15 to several hundred dollars. A 1920s lure with most of its original paint will fetch $300.

The best collectible lures still rest in their original cardboard boxes with their manufacturer’s papers and probably never saw the inside of a hungry trout’s mouth.

“It’s just wire and a hook,” Lucero says, cradling a lure. “But being stamped ‘Winchester’ and being in the box makes it highly collectible.”

In some ways, Antique Fishing is just like Lucero’s previous ventures, which included selling vintage cars and hot rods. He spends his days surrounded by his favorite collectibles, waiting to share his knowledge with anyone who seems interested.

With one important distinction.

This time around, Lucero’s not buying. Just selling.

“I have no choice,” he said. “I have to part with them.”

Joe’s videos with Chris Lucero:

Fishing for Antiques

A Bang Up Job: Gun Collectibles

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