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How to Date a Traditional Bear Bow

In the world of archery, "Bear Archery" is a brand manufacturer from the USA which was started by Fred Bear. The company has been around for decades - since 1939.

And as such there are quite a few antique / vintage Bear bows kicking around. I have one in my collection, a Bear Grizzly Static, from 1949.

The problem with these old antique bows is that collectors sometimes have difficulty dating them. Thus you end up with websites like:

Bear Bow Models, Older Models sorted by Year

You know, as a way to try and differentiate and figure out how to date a particular bow. Find the particular model from the list of bows, and then check the following to narrow down what year a Bear bow was made:
  • The Serial Number
  • The Coin Medallion
  • The Patent Mark
  • The Decal stamped on the bow.
  • Whether there are wood laminations or not.
  • Does it say "Bear Archery" or "Bear Products"
  • The location, eg. Grayling, Michigan or Gainesville, Florida
There is another way to do it too, but it involves going through old Bear Archery Catalogs - assuming you can find them - and trying to find your bow using old colour / greyscale photographs that have dulled with age. This method isn't particularly recommended because:

#1. You probably won't even see your bow model in the catalog, as it pretty random what was in a catalog from a particular year.
#2. Even if you did manage to find the catalog from roughly the same year, you could still be guessing as to whether the year is a match or not.

There is another way to date old Bear bows too. If you are willing to spend approx. $39 to add it to your collection...

Jorge Coppen with Arnold Schwarzenegger, 1979
Jorge Coppen, a federal wildlife biologist for 25+ years, lifelong bow hunter, Bear Archery enthusiast, and author, has written a book  on the topic:

"Bear Archery Traditional Bows: A Chronological History"

$38.95 on Indigo.

The book is essentially an informative, illustrated guide book and handy to people who like to collect Bear Archery bows (I only have two myself, I prefer to collect antique bows from many different companies, not just one company).

Here is what the publisher has to say about the book:

" To the Bear Archery traditional bow enthusiast and to the archery community at large, this book "Bear Archery Traditional Bows: A Chronological History (1949–2015)" represents a singular compilation of the chronological history of Bear Archery traditional bow production through the Bear Archery Company’s full timeline. This illustrated reference manual not only preserves the history and heritage of Bear Archery traditional bow production since 1949, it serves as a helpful reference to any and all archers interested in collecting and dating their vintage Bear Archery traditional bows. Each chapter covers a detailed chronology of factory production specifications for each specific bow model or group of related models. It includes photos of bow models for almost every year. The best part is this: at the end of each chapter, there is a table that allows readers to search out the characteristics of their bow by year, AMO length, riser material, medallion, limb glass colors, overlay colors, limb tip colors and where applicable, the two-digit serial number prefix. "

Yada yada. Basically the book is for people who are "Bear Archery Collectors" - the same type of person who would get a portrait of Fred Bear tattooed on themselves.

Photo on the Right: No offense to Fred Bear, but that is a damn ugly tattoo.

Who gets that tattooed on their back? Seriously. Only the true Bear Archery fanatic would do that.

And while I do like Bear bows and consider myself a fan of their bows (and antique bows in general), I don't see myself shelling out $39 for a book when there is a website (the one mentioned further above) which does a very good job of dating the bows. I guess I am just not a super fan.

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