Collecting archery antiques gaining popularity.
That's becoming the case with archery equipment, as well. Almost unnoticed in the past decade, bow shooters have begun assembling collections of everything from old recurves to broadheads. One logical outgrowth of this interest is increased business in the sale of older, used equipment, just as old guns are traded and sold. Even if you don't see yourself handling this kind of gear, a working knowledge of antique archery equipment can keep bringing customers in with questions about the treasures they find in other places. Increased traffic equals increased sales.
As with guns, old archery equipment has a certain sentimental appeal. My favorite gun is an old Mossberg Model 183-D .410 that belonged to my great-aunt. It's older than I am, but I still use it for squirrel hunting. And as some of the grand old men of archery are leaving the industry, either through retirement or death, many of their early bows and accessories are taking on a great deal of value to collectors.
Beyond sentimentality, old archery equipment tells us something about ourselves and our sport. It reflects a heritage which goes back literally thousands of years.
Recently, Richard Lattimer, president of the Archery Manufacturers Organization (AMO), encountered this heritage in a most vivid way. He attended a program by a scientist working on the "Ice Man" who was found in the mountains between Italy and Switzerland. As you may recall, the people who study such things determined that the man had been frozen for 5,000 years. Both he and his possessions were in almost perfect condition.
"The scientist indicated they'd found a quiver with finished and unfinished arrows in it," said Lattimer. "The equipment was totally intact - the shafts on the arrows were even camouflaged."
Among the items in the quiver was a long cord scientists could not identify. Lattimer took one look at the man's bow, which was much longer than he was tall, and knew exactly what the cord was: a bow-stringer. All of this shows very graphically that much of what we consider "modern" archery equipment has been around for a long, long time.
The primary item collectors want is bows, specifically recurves or longbows. Frank Scott, director of the Fred Bear Museum at Bear Archery in Gainesville, Fla., says there is virtually no interest in compound bows. From the collector's standpoint, Scott indicated, a compound bow is just an accumulation of parts, interchangeable, bland. But there's a great deal of interest in the older one-piece bows which were built without fiberglass during the 1920s and 1930s. Bows from that time were made primarily of yew or Osage orange, and few survive today.
"If you can find any of those and they're in good shape, they're very valuable," said Scott. "They may be worth 10 times the original retail price."
The other two main types of equipment collectors look for are arrows and broadheads. In fact, there's an entire organization dedicated to broadheads, the American Broadhead Collectors Club (ABCC). This group was formed in 1974. If anyone can be credited with beginning the trend toward collecting old archery gear, it's the ABCC.
While some formal collections of archery equipment exist in general museums, they are fairly few. As you might expect, the Smithsonian Institution has a large holding, and the University of Missouri also has quite a bit of material. But at both facilities only a small amount of equipment is on display; most of it is in storage.
Several locations around the country have extensive and well-documented, but less formal, collections which are accessible to the public. One, of course, is the Fred Bear Museum, which houses primarily artifacts associated with Bear Archery and Fred Bear.
Another is the official Pope and Young Museum in Seattle, Wash. Joe St. Charles, owner of Northwest Archery in Seattle, curates and cares for this museum which is located adjacent to his shop.
Yet a third collection is at Chippewa Archery in Mount Pleasant, Mich. There, owner Floyd Eccleston has more than 2,000 broadheads and arrows on display.
Led by Lattimer and the AMO, a group of archery's founders are developing a museum which will help preserve the sport's heritage. Though the museum is still in what Lattimer calls the "discovery" phase, the group already has incorporated and is looking for a location somewhere in the Midwest. This doesn't mean AMO is ready to receive material for the museum. At this point, Lattimer has no facilities for storing anything. But the time is coming when they'll be really to take donations.
If you have customers who are bitten by the archery collecting bug, you need to be able to direct them to resources which will help them place values on the equipment they find. Though gun collectors have a variety of books and other resources to draw on, no printed material is available to help evaluate archery equipment. But a few people around the country can help.
Frank Scott at the Fred Bear Museum says he gets several calls a day from people who want to know what a particular Bear bow is worth. Over time, he's developed a system for arriving at a value. Once he knows the bow's model and serial number, he can go back into company records to find out when the bow was manufactured and what its original retail value was.
Then he assesses the condition of the bow. If it's unused and straight out of the box, he figures it appreciates between 6 and 10 percent each year.
To get an idea of what a highly collectable bow will run, let's take a look at the value of a Bear Super Kodiak. The original price of the bow was $99.95. So if the Super Kodiak you're holding in your hand was manufactured in 1965 and is fresh out of the box, it could be worth as much as $1,000. Scott now, is in the process of developing a "Blue Book" of values for Bear Archery equipment. but he believes it's at least two years away from completion.
Though Scott has a great deal of information about Bear bows, his expertise is limited strictly to the bows built by that company. To find out about bows from anyone else, your customer will need to contact the manufacturer to find out what the company thinks the value of the bow is today.
As far as broadheads are concerned, The American Broadhead Collectors Club has members who may be able to evaluate some of them. Joe St. Charles al Northwest Archery can help with a number of types of bows, including longbows.
Once you get beyond these few resources, you and your customers will have to figure out a value for antique equipment the old-fashioned way: through the free market. In this case, the value of an item is whatever price the buyer and seller agree on.
Archery collecting probably will never be as popular as gun collecting, simply because there's not as much out there to collect. But it promises to be a lasting and increasingly significant segment of the archery business.