Nothing has grown so fast and furious in the hobby of Archery Collecting anywhere near the growth that collecting Bear Archery memorabilia has. It doesn't seem to matter what the item is, be it broadhead, bow, catalog, or even LP record albums of Fred telling hunting stories, if it says Bear Archery on it, someone wants it bad!
In this article, I will present an overview of Bear Archery, and give you just a taste of the different items which you should be looking for. Then in later columns, we can get into the details of particular items. But for now, sit back and enjoy our time capsule of the most famous archery company of all time.
Begun in 1933 in a small shop in Detroit, the company was first known by the name Bear Products Company. Archery consumed only a small corner of this new business whose main line was silk-screening and other advertising work for the major automotive makers. Although Fred made bows for himself and friends, it wasn't until 1938 when Fred hired a very skilled woodworker from Detroit by the name of Nels Grumley that the Bear Products Company line expanded to include bows.
According to compound done by Al Reader of New Jersey, who by the way is considered by most to be the most knowledgeable Bear collector alive, serial numbers work very well for dating Bear bows, but only for the years when the first archery of the serial number is the year of manufacture. For example, a grizzly lookup of 6Z would be a bow. Founded by the iconic father of modern archery, Fred Bear in 1933, Bear Archery® continues to produce legendary bows with the same focus on reliability and technology. Shop Bear Archery compound bows, traditional bows, crossbows, and accessories. My problem is that I cannot find a serial number for the bow anywhere on the bow. I need the serial number for two primary reasons: (1) for insurance purposes, and (2) for reporting to law enforcement should the bow be stolen. I would appreciate any help from you guys in locating that serial number. Use this form to search PSE bow serial numbers. Enter your serial number in the space provided and click the Search button. Thank you for purchasing PSE!
By 1940 the archery line had grown to the point where Fred decided to sell out his part of the advertising business to his partner and continue to pursue his hobby/business as the Bear Archery Company. Times were tough, but Fred was a very good business man, and the business continued to grow until the move from Detroit to a brand new plant which Fred had completed in Grayling in 1947.
Fred sold the company in 1968 to Victor Comptometer so that he could raise the needed capitol to grow the company even more. Even though he was not the owner any longer, Fred stayed on as President of Bear Archery Company under Victor. The Bear Archery Company thrived in Grayling until 1978 when a strike at the plant forced the owners to move operations to Gainesville, Florida where the company remains today. Fred stayed active with the company that bears his name until his death in 1988 at the age of 86.
Now that we know a little about the Companies roots, let's take a look at some of the more popular products which have been produced by Bear over the last 65 years.
Without a doubt, Bear Archery Company has produced more traditional bows than all the other traditional bow companies combined. In fact, in one year alone (1975), Bear Archery made over 360,000 bows. Why then, if there are so many Bear bows out there, are they so valuable? Wouldn't it make sense that other bow companies who made fewer bows would be rarer, and thus command more value? Well, remember that we are talking about bowhunters here, ever worse than that we are talking about bowhunters who collect. Enough said?
Seriously, Bear bows were the best marketed bows in the world for over 50 years. Most all of us who grew up in the days before compounds saw Bear ads and promotions everywhere we turned. And as a result, many of us grew up with Bear bows in our hands for a good part of our lives.
Bear Recurve Serial Numbers
Fred’s first bowyer back in 1938 when the fledgling Bear Products Company first began commercially producing bows was a remarkable man by the name of Nels Grumley. Nels was a fantastic craftsman, and his skills show in each and every one of his bows. The pride in his craftsmanship is demonstrated in that each and every bow which Nels made is either stamped or signed with his name, along with the words 'Bear Products by Grumley' or 'Bear Archery by Grumley'.
Beginning in 1938, Grumley bows bore the stamped mark of the maker, sometime in the early 1940’s, the stamp was broken and all bows after that date bore the written mark of their famous maker.
Why the different means of signing the bows? Well, when Nels first began making bows for Fred in 1938, he used a sort of branding iron to stamp into the wood his mark 'Bear Products by Grumley'. Then somewhere in the early 1940’s, the brand was dropped and broken and instead of buying a new one Nels simply began writing his name on the bows.
Note: Remember that the company was known as Bear Products until 1940, so the 'Bear Products by Grumley' bows were obviously made before those marked 'Bear Archery by Grumley'.
Nels left Bear in 1948 when Fred made the decision to begin mass production of bows at the new factory in Grayling. Nels felt strongly that bows should be individually crafted, and not made by machine. So Nels left, even though Fred tried to convince him to stay with some handsome financial offers, and struck out on his own to make bows. However, his private venture into the bow making business lasted only two years before he took a job in an appliance manufacturer as a model maker. These 'Grumley by Grumley' bows are marked with a simple stamped signature 'Grumley' either on the limb or on the riser, and are very scarce and excellent collector items.
Not all Bear bows made in these early years were made by Nels. There were dozens of other bowyers who made Bear wooden bows, mostly the lower line lemonwood models such as the Ranger. These bows were simply marked 'Bear Archery' in a written form. However, in late 1948 Bear began using what later became known as the small 'Running Bear' decal, and thus some bows built beginning in 1948 may have this decal instead of the written brand.
Serial Number Lookup For Guns
Models of Grumley bows
Bear Archery Serial Number Search
Nels made 4 basic styles of bows: