Grice & Young Matchmaker & Plastic Avon Royal 3
Sometime in the late 1970s Grice & Young started manufacturing reels with a moulded plastic backplate. This probably happened around 1979 and continue until 1983/84 when Grice & Young ceased trading. These reels live on today as the Shakespeare Eagle 2900 400.
The ones sold in UK were marketed as the Matchmaker.
The ones sold into Australia were marketed as the Avon Royal. The boxes for these usually marked as Avon Royal 3 for the 4.25 inch version. There was also a 3.5 inch version marked as the Avon Royal in a box with Avon Royal 2 marked on the box.
Photo is of the Avon Royal 2 (Sticker missing but used to say Avon Royal) note the deep arbour in the smaller model, also painted plastic backplate)
Photo here is the front and rear of the Avon Royal 3
They have a plastic backplate and the characteristic vented spool of the earlier Golden Eagles. Matchmakers usually have a black spool and Avon Royal 3s usually have a silver spool..
They have a button operated ratchet switch and reversible 2 position lineguard, on the matchmaker this is usually all metal.
Like the Golden Eagles they have the characteristic G&Y roundel with Christchurch/Dorset marked.
Unfortunately G&Y saw fit to finish these reels with a sticker rather than engraving and many that you see are missing said sticker.
The reels are a typical 4 3/8" spool diameter, 9/16" spool width and 3 5/8" arbour diameter.
They weigh 260 grams, compared to the earlier metal Gypsy D'or which weighed around 300 grams
I have seen a lot written about these reels being cheap and nasty, but as a luderick reel, they are excellent. I have a matchmaker and it is in excellent condition and I must say it is a beautiful reel to use, runs very freely. The only thing I don't like about it is the modern handle design with the scoops in the sides and the lack of a cup for the handle plastic to sit in. This can allow line to get caught in the handle.
As of 2012, I don't know if the Shakespeare Reels can still be purchased new, but there are certainly Matchmakers, Avon Royals and Shakespeare Eagles that come up for sale on EBAY. Prices can vary and are a little dependent on condition and whether or not they have the original box and paper work. As a general guide a Shakespear Eagle will cost GBP35-45, Matchmaker in good condition GBP50-90 and Avon Royal 3 in good condition AUD150-200. The Avon Royals are much sought after in Australia, and this is reflected in the higher EBAY prices.
Don't pay more than GBP50 for a mint Shakespeare Eagle 2900 400, these are still available new in some places and certainly come up for reasonable prices on EBAY UK. They are certainly not rare, so don't be fooled by EBAY sellers that suggest otherwise. Some EBAY sellers also suggest the Matchmaker is rare, but you see them come up very often on EBAY. The Avon Royal 3 in plastic seems to be genuinely quite rare, probably because there were a smaller number sold into Australia.
Photos are of the Matchmaker, this reel is almost identical to the later Shakespeare Eagle, note the modern and inferior handles
This is a good reel for saltwater conditions and very light, one of the lightest of the Grice & Young reels in this size which I think is an advantage.