Fred Bear Bow Serial Number Lookup

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This serial number works very well for dating Bear Bows from 1965-1969 when the first digit of the serial number is the year of manufacture. For example, a serial number of 5L212 would be a 1965 Bow. Prior to 1965, the serial numbers for all Bear bows were started over every month, making these bows almost impossible to date by serial number alone. Fred Bear Bows Serial Number Prior to 1965, the serial numbers for all Bear bows were started over every month, manufacture these bows approximately impossible to date by serial amount alone. The 'K' series of serial numbers (for example Kz9672) were started in 1970.

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.

A Brief History of the Bear Archery Company

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.

Fred Bear Bow Serial Number Lookup

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.

The Bows of Bear Archery

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.

The Pre-Grayling Era Bows of Bear Archery

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.

Models of Grumley bows

Nels made 4 basic styles of bows:

Since we have the chance to sell a lot of dissimilar items through our eBay Drop Off Store, positive things start to stick out that seem to sell extremely well. One item that sticks out are the vintage Bear Recurve Bows.

Recently on an out of town trip we stopped by an old store like we ordinarily do and saw this recurve bow in the corner. Since we were already somewhat well-known with how well bows have sold from selling them for a client we naturally gravitated to it. It looked to be in perfect condition and came with a quiver and 3 dissimilar sets of arrows. The asking price was 0.00 and we finally got all of it for .00.

Draw Ranger

Based on the dating procedures listed below we determined that this was a Fred Bear Kodiak Recurve bow from 1965 in perfect condition. It was a 60' bow with a 44# pull.

How To Date Your Fred Bear Bow

After we got the bow to our store we noticed that inside the big quiver was a smaller particular quiver. Based on a light embossed marking on this smaller, leather quiver that we pulled out we were able to date it to the late 1940's.

We decided to break this up into 3 dissimilar auctions and started all three at .99. The results of the auctions are listed at the end of this article.


Dating Your Fred Bear Bow

There are some features and changes that were made to the bear bows over the years that will help narrow the age of your bow or your potential investment.

1. The Serial Number: These bows ordinarily have, what appears to be a hand inscription on one of the limbs that gives a serial amount along with the distance and pull weight of the bow. This serial amount works very well for dating Bear Bows from 1965-1969 when the first digit of the serial amount is the year of manufacture.

For example, a serial amount of 5L212 would be a 1965 Bow.

Prior to 1965, the serial numbers for all Bear bows were started over every month, manufacture these bows approximately impossible to date by serial amount alone. The 'K' series of serial numbers (for example Kz9672) were started in 1970.

2. Patent Mark: Most of the Bear Bows we have sold have the logo and the Us Patents printed on it along with the date of Canada 1953. This date that is printed on all bows made in the middle of 1953 and 1972 is naturally the date of the patent for a working recurve limb and has nothing to do with the actual model year.

3. Decals & Silkscreening: In 1948 the small Running Bear decal was first and then was substituted by the large Standing Bear decal in mid-1953. The large Standing Bear decal also has the words 'Glass Powered Bow' under the Standing Bear.

The large Standing Bear decal was used until 1955 when it was substituted with silk-screening the identification on the bows. By 1956 the silk-screening appeared on all bows.

4. All Wood vs Laminate: If your bow is All wood (no laminations of any kind) then your bow had to be made before the mass productions starting in 1949.

  • If the All wood bow has a stamp that reads 'Bear Products' in some form it would have been made before the early to mid 40's.
  • If it is stamped 'Bear Archery' it would have been made After the early-mid 40's and Before 1949.
  • Also wooden bows with a small 'Running Bear' decal can be dated to 1948
5. The Leather Grip: All Bear bows had leather grips until 1959. In 1959, the Kodiak special removed the leather grip and in 1961 the Kodiak did the same, as well as the Grizzly in 1964.

6. The Coin Medallion: starting in 1959 all Bear bows had a coin medallion of one type of metal or another. Below are the approx date ranges for the type of coin used.

Copper Coin - 1959

Aluminum - 1960-1961

Pewter - 1962

Brass - 1963 - 1970

Nickel-Silver - 1971-1972

All coins were flush with the wood until 1972. In late 1972 the coin was raised above the covering of the bow and came in both gold and chrome covered plastic and are still used in Bear bows today.

7. Maker Location: in 1978 Bear moved all manufacturing and offices to Gainesville, Florida. If your bow shows Gainesville on it then it was made after 1978

8. Model Of The Bow: Check the Model of the bow. Below is a each year output chart for the most favorite Bear Bows.

Wood cope Take-Down 1969-1972
Wood C-Riser Victor institution 1973-1975

Magnesium cope Take-Down A-B-C 1971-1978

Kodiak Static Recurve 1950-1953

Kodiak Recurve 1954-1966

Super Kodiak 1967-1976

Fred Bear Bow Serial Number Lookup Model

Grizzly Static Recurve 1949-1957

Grizzly Recurve 1958-1978

Fred Bear Bow Serial Number Lookup Free People

Super Magnum 48 1966-1976

Kodiak Magnum 52' 1961-1977

Kodiak Hunter 58' and 60' 1967-1977

Tamerlane 1962-1968

Tamerlane Hc-30 1965-1967

Tamerlane Hc-300 1968-1972

Kodiak special 1955-1967

Temujin 1968-1970

Tarter 1968-1972

Victor Patriot 1973-1977

Victor 1972

Polar (recurve) 1957-1970

Alaskan (leather grip semi-recurve) 1959-1961

Alaskan (recurve) 1966-1970

Tigercat 1964-1978

Fred bear recurve bow identification

Bearcat 1964-1971

Black Bear 1972-1978

Little Bear 1965-1978

With this information you should be able to get really close to dating your Bear Bow if not pin-pointing it to the year.

If you are looking to price your bow I would propose first logging into your eBay catalogue and do a Completed Auction quest on the normal keywords that match your bow, i.e. Bear Grizzly Recurve and see what has sold in the past 30 days.


Our eBay Results: Within 6 hours of listing our 1965 Bear Bow by itself starting at .99 it had already reached 2.50 which was interesting but based on our investigate not surprising. What was surprising was that it stayed at 2.50 for the next 6 days. On the last day with 8 minutes left it was up to 2.50 with over 40 watchers. ordinarily on these types of auctions we tend to refresh and refresh and refresh the auction all the way to the end to watch the bidding but we got busy writing more listings and forgot. When we did remember to go back and check the auction it was over and had ended at 2.55

The other 2 auctions for the quivers and arrows sold for a total of .00. So our preliminary .00 venture at an old store ended in 2.55 in sales. That was approximately a 0.00 behalf (minus gas and eBay fees of course).

Fred Bear Compound Bow Serial Number Lookup

How To Date Your Fred Bear Bow