MITCHELL 300 REELS
I am a big fan of Mitchell spinning reels and related products and am always looking for more information on their history as well as technical data and other info. My main interest is in reels bearing the stamp "Made in France," and manufactured between the 1940s and the early 1980s. It is my intention, with this portion of my website, to share with you some tidbits I have learned over the past few years of collecting, fishing, and repairing Mitchell spinning reels. None of this is gospel and if you find any of this information to be incorrect, please let me know. If you can add to any of this or maybe have some good reference material you would like to share I would be very interested. Thanks, Tim
Mitchell 300 spinning reels are probably my favorite. As a kid, I always wanted one of these popular and versatile fishing reels but never seemed to have the (approximate price in mid to late 1960s) $17 it took to own one. My Dad had a great round body 304 on an H&I Mohawk spinning rod that I was allowed to use occasionally. Good old Dad never mastered the art of spin fishing and would always hold the rod with the reel on top. I guess he was more of a baitcasting and saltwater reel man. Over the past few years I have obtained quite a few 300s with the exception of some of the harder to find versions such as the DL and Gold series. For more info on DL and Gold models as well as company history visit Mitchell Collectors International. I have thumb nailed all the pictures so that you can click on them if you would like to see a larger image.
The reel you see above is a first version Mitchell 300. Note the cool Rosewood knob and the round anti-reverse switch. These were first made in 1938 and are among the rarest of all the Mitchell reels. The second version differs mainly in the aluminum knob and the trip plate for the half bail system. I want to thank Don "Mitchell" Edge for this great photo layout on the first version.
The 1950s saw the half bail version of the 300 give way
to the full bail model. The metal spool canister gave way to a plastic one and
the internal gearing changed. A flat paddle type plastic knob replaced the round
knurled aluminum number. The round anti-reverse knob of the second version was
changed to a boomerang shaped design.
The older half bail models have a very slow rate of
oscillation, as the gearing is different from later versions. If you remove the
side plate from one of the first three versions you will notice quite a
difference in the main drive and transfer gears from that of the later models.
As far as I know (please correct me if you know different) the majority of
internal parts of the 300 are interchangeable starting with the fourth version
in the 1950s through the last classic 300 versions in the late 1970s. There are
some slight design differences that we will discuss as we go along.
Although Garcia was the sole distributor for Mitchell
reels during the 1950s, the Garcia name was not engraved on the reel until
somewhere around 1957. Instead, a yellow sticker was affixed to each reel with
the inscription “A Garcia Product.” These stickers are a bit rare as most
were either removed by the owner or have come loose over the years. I am not
sure whether all of the early 300s imported by Garcia had this sticker on them
as I have seen what appear to be unused reels in the original box without any
sticker. I own a mint condition third version that has all of the paperwork and
looks almost untouched yet there is no sticker on it. Dennis Roberts in his fine
book on Mitchell reels, Mitchell Collector’s Reference Guide,
notes: “Most of the yellow stickers were attached to reels having the number
300 next to Mitchell.”
The selling price for a 1950s era 300 was close to $30. Boxes were two piece cardboard, blue in color. Earlier boxes seem to have a lighter blue color than the later ones and no paper label was affixed to the early box. Sometime in the early 1950s a paper label was added listing the price of the reel. Early boxes will generally have “Fair Traded” stamped on the bottom section. Later Mitchell came out with a two piece cardboard box with a red bottom and black top with the letters in script.
Thanks again to Don Edge for this fine layout of the third version of the 300 that Mitchell produced in 1949. This reel has the newer style anti-reverse lever that some collectors refer to as a "boomerang" lever or switch. Prior to this, 300s had a button type anti-reverse. Please let me know if you have one of the first two models for sale or trade. This version has a half-bail and metal knob on the crank handle. Few of these older reels still have the black paint on the knob as the pictured one does. The back side of the spool is aluminum and the release button is quite a bit longer than those found on later models. There is an extra spool in an aluminum canister that has been painted black. The warranty card that came with this reel lists the address for Charles Garcia & Co, 53 Park Place, New York 7, NY. The Garcia Corporation was the sole distributor for Mitchell reels in the U.S. from 1947 through 1978.
Above we have the full bail version of the 300 that came out around 1953. This is probably about the fifth version as I believe the fourth version may have still retained the round aluminum knob. This reel sports the full bail arm and has a flat plastic knob on the handle. My reel has a plastic backed spool with a shortened release button. The second picture shows three early boxes prior to Mitchell affixing a paper label to the outside. The third and fourth picture show two later blue boxes with the label and Garcia's new address at 268 Fourth Avenue in New York .
In the late 50s Mitchell went to a black and red cardboard box (Above) and at some point had the word Garcia etched into the side cover of the reel. These boxes came with a neat little standup card that described the basic features of the 300. Second and third picture show the two piece cardboard boxes that came out later in the 1950s.
The reel above is somewhat of an oddity in that it is a rare manual pickup version of a Mitchell 300. The manual pickup for this reel was sold as an option it the 1950s. I have seen very few of these. If anybody has an original brochure on this option they wouldn't mind making a copy of for me I would be most appreciative (will happily pay you for it).
Two of the main changes made during the 1960s seem to
have been the type of box and the price. Unfortunately, I have little
information on pricing for the 1960s so I don’t really know when the price
began to decline. If someone has some catalogs from a mail order house with
pricing from this era, perhaps they could share that info and I will add it to
these pages. The 1969 Sears catalog lists the 300 at $16.44. A roller bearing
version came out with the designation 300C. The first mention I find of this
reel is in the 1969 Garcia Annual. The 300C had a slightly different appearance
with a fish emblem on the handle and a rubber bail stop like the 410. In
addition, the anti-reverse lever was changed to a single lever style like the
410 or earlier high speed 350. The line pickup was switched from a fixed
tungsten cone to a roller style.
During the late 1960s Mitchell came out with a plastic
red and black box sometime referred to as the clamshell box. This box came with
a cardboard sleeve type cover which is difficult to find as most were discarded.
On the inside was a yellow plastic insert used to separate the spool from the
reel. These are also somewhat scarce as most people didn’t want to be bothered
trying to fit the reel back into it.
Note: There is a trick to getting Mitchell reels into their original form fitting boxes. I first make sure the anti-reverse is off, next I crank the reel so that the spool is as far inward as it will go. Reverse the handle so the knob is facing inward. And turn the bail so that the wire hoop is facing upward. Sometime it is necessary to loosen the handle by cranking it backward with the anti-revrse engauged or by holding the rotor cup. This way you can position the handle in a manner that will allow you to close the box lid. This is tougher with the plastic box than the older cardboard ones. One of the reasons the bottom section on many of the older cardboard boxes is torn up is because the owner didn’t feel like taking the time to figure out how to fit all the stuff back in.
I believe the red and black clamshell box first came into use in the late 1960s (above).
Here is a reel in it's plastic clamshell box. This one still has the yellow insert which is hard to come by. These boxes came with a cardboard sleeve that slides over the box. This sleeve is even harder to find than the yellow insert. I have seen these reels go for over $100 on Ebay if they are in new condition and come complete with all of their paperwork, etc. This particular reel is probably one of the first models to find their way into the clamshell box. It is correct according to the serial number and has the boomerang anti-reverse.
Here is the 300C sporting the new style anti-reverse lever. The 300C has roller bearings on the rotating cup shaft and on the drive gear.
The 1970s saw lots of changes with the 300. During this time the boomerang anti-reverse was replaced with a single lever type. The older spool was changed to one with a three point drag knob. Later in the decade (1978) came the 300A. The first 300A models were fairly similar to the standard 300 in appearance except for the addition of a red gasket on the side cover and an unpainted aluminum spool. The handle was also slightly different. The letters on the side cover are raised. It appears that the 1978 and 1979 models utilized the same bail as the 300C having the roller pickup.
The left hand picture above was loaned to me by Stick (Sticks Reel World) and and shows a beautiful Garcia Mitchell from the late 1970s that was a transitional piece. The white spool makes this reel a rare find. The boxes in the second picture are from a 1971 Mitchell 300 and a 1980s Browning Mitchell 301A. Browning's involvement with Mitchell lasted a few short years from 1980 - 1983.
This was the last of the original 300 reel before switching over to the A series. Notice the box with removable insert that could be used for several different models just by changing the card. The bottom portion of the spool canister is clear.
This transitional model 300 came with a red gasket to help keep dirt out and the new M8 gearing which increased the retrieve ratio to 4.2:1. The bail on this model is the same as the older 300s. The aluminum knob on the end of the handle is of a slightly different design than the older version. Later models would use a different bail and have a plastic knob in place of the aluminum one.
This 301A sports the plastic handle reversing knob, newer style bail, and unpainted aluminum spool with a blue reducer bushing on it. The model in this picture was made during the Browning era.
Modern Day 300s
This is a nice European version of the 300 called the 300X Pro. It comes with a silver finish and a titanium line roller and titanium lip on the aluminum spool.