Broadhead Collecting – As Easy As A.B.C.C.
There are few areas of archery collecting which have had as much historical research and organization as the area of Broadhead Collecting. In fact, as far as I know broadhead collecting is the only facet of the hobby which has an entire organization formed around it!!
Is there anything new? These broadheads show that bowhunters have tried just about everything over the years to make a better mousetrap. From left are: Geronimo Solid Ferrule, Ply-Flex Barbed Fish Point, Red Bow Star Point (mechanical broadhead from 1953), Pioneer Game Tamer (a.k.a. – Pizza Cutter), and Mechanical Killer.
So why do broadheads command so much attention and what some might consider borderline fanaticism among collectors? Maybe it’s because next to the bow, broadheads truly capture the spirit of the bowhunter, sharpened by his own hand, carefully placed on his arrows, and well cared for in the field. In the non-bowhunting world, you often hear people say that you can tell a lot about a person by the company that he keeps. But in bowhunting, I believe that you can tell a lot about a bowhunter by the kind of broadhead he shoots. Broadheads capture the spirit of the hunt, the personality of the bowhunter. They have sex-appeal and class. They represent the best and the worst of their designers and their users knowledge of the sport. Broadheads are just plain cool.
What Kind Of Broadheads Do People Collect?
Generally, broadhead collectors concentrate on heads that were commercially available. Another way of saying this might be that we want heads that were advertised with the intent of being a business. This is not to say that we don’t keep homemade heads also, especially if the head can be traced to a famous or important maker, it’s just that typically these heads don’t command as much interest or value as those that were commercially available.
Explain The Different Types Of Broadheads
There are many different kinds of broadhead styles, including mechanical, replaceable blade, small game, big game, fish points, etc. However, collectors typically break the heads down into two main categories, 1) Glue-Ons and 2) Screw-Ins.
Glue on heads are simply those that are attached to the shaft via a hot melt epoxy , pinning, pressing, or similar method. Screw-ins is as the name implies, screwed onto the shaft using one of the many types of inserts available on the market. Most collectors much prefer the glue-ons and consider the screw-ins to be second priority or worse.
Some collectors don’t even keep the screw-in heads. Is this a wise choice on their part? Only time will tell. I can see their point that the screw-in heads don’t have the history, or the sexiness that the older glue-ons have.
But I can’t help but relate this to a story from my stamp collecting days. Back in the 1930’s everyone collected stamps because President Roosevelt was a stamp collector and he would promote stamp collecting often in his Fire-Side radio chats to the public. As a result, stamps from the 1930’s are pretty common.
However, after that generation had moved on, the next generation forgot about stamp collecting and as a result stamps from the late 1950’s – early 1960’s are actually much harder to find than the older stamps from the 1930’s. Does this mean that screw-in heads will be worth something someday? Probably not, but it’s an interesting thought.
How Long Have People Been Collecting Broadheads?
The first Broadhead collector was undoubtedly Roy Case of Racine,WI. Roy began manufacturing broadheads in the middle 1920’s, and as a means of keeping track of his competition began collecting examples of all the competition’s heads. From this, Roy started to enjoy this as more of a hobby than a business effort and kept up with his hobby until his death in the 1970’s.
Roy had few people to share his hobby with until the 1960’s, when due to the exposure that Roy was getting from showing his collection around at fairs and sportsman’s exhibitions several other bowhunters got the “Broadhead Fever”. Eventually, in the early 1970’s, a new magazine on the market called Bowhunter Magazine ran an article about broadhead collecting, and the author (Larry Bamford) suggested that maybe it was time to begin an organized club dedicated to the research, identification, and collecting of broadheads. The time was right, and the American Broadhead Collector’s Club was founded in 1974
Page from Roy Case’s personal copy of “YE SYLVAN ARCHER” magazine, November, 1927 issue. Until the Peck & Snyder advertisement was recently found, this was thought to be the first broadhead advertisement ever. Notice Roy’s handwriting at the top of the page.
When Were The First Commercial Heads Manufactured?
You must remember that bowhunting is a relatively new sport. The first recorded attempts at using a bow and arrow for sport hunting were not until the Thompson brothers magazine articles appeared in the periodicals of the mid-1870’s. Prior to this time, hunting was a matter of putting food on the table, and firearms allowed for a much more certain meal than did the bow and arrow.
The first commercially advertised broadhead was the Peck & Snyder company broadhead which was first advertised in 1878 (the same year the Maurice Thompson’s book The Witchery of Archery was published). Advertised as the Will Thompson Arrow and Broadhead, this head went undiscovered until Joe St. Charles and I found 2 of them back in the early 1990’s. Since that time, no other Peck & Snyder’s have been uncovered. But rest assured that they are out there, it’s just a matter of someone knowing them when they see them!!!
This is the Peck & Snyder broadhead first advertised in 1878. This head is now recognized as the first broadhead ever manufactured for sporting use.
The next advertised broadhead was not available until the early 1920’s. In 1923-24, the California By-Products Company of California was contracted by Saxton Pope and Art Young to begin making broadheads for them to use on their expeditions to prove the bow & arrows effectiveness as a hunting implement. No longer able to make enough heads by hand to keep themselves supplied, Saxton and Art provided CBP with the design for these heads.
About this same point in time, the Sportsman’s Archery Company in Wyoming began producing a large barbed head very similar to the CBP. Heads of this era are known for the sturdy design, and frequently are barbed since no laws yet existed outlawing the use of barbed broadheads.
Early broadheads from the 1920’s. From left: California By-Products, O.A. Norland Yeoman, Small Sportsman’s Archery, Large Sportsman’s Archery, Stemmler Lancet, and Case Kiska.
Other early broadhead makers included The Archer’s Company, Stemmler, Ace, O. A. Norland, and Case.
All through the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s you could almost count the number of broadhead makers on your fingers. Then came the 1950’s and the increased publicity for the sport provided by Howard Hill, Fred Bear, Ben Pearson, and others. This period in time saw a significant increase in people attempting to make a living selling archery equipment, and as expected the number of broadhead makers and models increased significantly as well.
Broadheads from the 1930’s, from left Stemmler Practice, Stemmler Deerslayer, Easton Forged, and Bitzenburger Wavey Edge.
But the greatest increase in broadhead makers came with the explosion in the numbers of bowhunters brought about by the introduction of the compound bow in the early 1970’s. It seemed that there just could not be enough new models, styles, and gimmicks to keep the market happy. Broadheads were being offered that were both good basic designs, and, to the other extreme, obviously devised by someone who knew nothing about the sport or how a broadhead did it’s work. It was a time when some archery companies began to look like businesses rather than bowhunters trying to make a living at their sport.
Some radical new broadhead designs from the 1950’s. From left are the Roper’s Indian Arrowhead (cast), Mohawk Swivel Action, and Ex-Calibre .50.
How Should I Go About Beginning My Collection?
Without a doubt, the best thing that you can do as a new collector is to join the American Broadhead Collector’s Club (ABCC). Annual dues of $20 will provide you with a very well done quarterly newsletter, an updated BROADHEAD MASTER LIST once each year, and a list of the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all the other broadhead collectors that belong to the club. The club also holds an annual meeting at one of the larger traditional shoots each year, and the collections on display at this meeting are a site to behold!!!
To join the ABCC, email Greg Schwerer at: email@example.com
I call the process of looking for heads from my collection “Prospecting”. I like the sound of this word. It adds some sense of adventure in some way. Begin your prospecting by making a list of all the old timers that you know who bowhunted at one time. Make an appointment to talk with these people and show them samples of your collection, and maybe some pictures. These people will most likely really appreciated the opportunity to talk with someone with similar interests. Even if they haven’t shot a bow for years, they will probably have something tucked away as a momento that you might just end up owning. Whether or not you offer money for these items is up to you. In many cases the old bowhunter may feel better about someone having these items who will care for them than someone who too quickly sees these items as money. This is an art that is learned only through experience.
Remember though that honesty is always the best policy. You should never try to cheat someone out of something. Be up front with them about your intentions. Many times I have seen an old-timer who started a conversation by saying “someone has already beat you to all my stuff”, only to have that same old-timer “remember” that he has a few more things salted away after he gets to know and trust you better.
Don’t forget to ask the old-timer to think back and remember who his shooting buddies were. You might be one referral away from the jackpot, and asking the fellow this simple question just might be the ticket to the mother load!!
One of the best “prospectors” of all time was Glenn Parker of Houston Texas. Glenn passed away a few years ago of cancer, and at the time of his death had what was probably the best private collection of archery memorabilia in the world.
Glenn had a knack for looking through old magazines and making a list of all the names and cities where people lived that were mentioned in the magazine. It might be as simple a notice in the magazine as one line saying that Joe Smith of Nashville, IN won the Rosebud Archery Tournament in Brown County last month”, but Glenn would make note of this and then go find Joe Smith of Nashville, IN or his relatives and by-golly did he ever find things!! I don’t think anyone has ever been better at prospecting for archery collectibles than Glenn Parker was.
How Do I Recognize A Good Head?
It is really quite easy to recognize some of the early heads, even if you don’t know what they are yet. First, look for heads that use a bullet jacket for a ferrule. Most all of the early heads used these bullet ferrules instead of custom made ferrules as the later heads used. These bullet ferrules were often simply slotted to allow the blade to slip into the ferrule where it was then sottered in place.
Another clue to a head being of early manufacture is the blade design. Barbed broadhead designs were used by many of the early manufacturers, as it was thought that the broadhead should stay in the animal rather than today’s thought that a broadhead should be able to be removed easily by the animal if the hit was not fatal. Barbed broadheads were outlawed in most states by the 40’s-50’s, so if you find a barbed head, it is probably an older one.
As you become more aware of what to look for in your broadheads, you will want to begin to know more about them, like their manufacturer, the model name, date of manufacture, etc. By far the best way to do this is to purchase the ABCC’s 4 volume set called THE BEST OF BROADHEAD. These publications are simple xerox copies of articles that have been researched by club members in the previous issues of the quarterly newsletter, and subsequently compiled into these volumes. A new volume is published every 5 years. Included in the articles are descriptions of the heads, and the companies that made them. Often included are very interesting interviews with the manufacturers themselves. To order these books, contact the ABCC at the email address that I gave you earlier.
Is My Collection Worth A Lot Of Money?
Your collection will be priceless!! Seriously, if you think that you want to get into broadhead collecting as an investment, I would suggest that you look elsewhere. I don’t mean that your collection won’t be worth money, or that you won’t see your collection appreciate in value. What I mean is that this is a hobby in it’s purest form. Increases in value should not be counted on, then your kids won’t be disappointed when they inherit your collection.
The real joy from collecting broadheads should come from the feelings of holding a part of the history of this great sport in your hands. From looking at the file marks in a broadhead and thinking of the bowhunter who years ago made those marks while waiting for opening day. Broadheads should be seen as more than just metal, they are the spirit of the sport. If you can feel this excitement when you hold a broadhead, then you will love broadhead collecting.
Having said this, I will add that there have been some collections which have sold in the past few years for some pretty fantastic sums of money. I don’t have a problem with this. Someday my kids or my wife might decide that they need to sell my collection and I want them to have this opportunity. I just hope that they wait until I am gone before they do it!!
The Rarest Broadheads?
There are several broadheads that can fit this description. Among the rarest of all the broadheads are:
Peck &Snyder 1878 2 known The first commercial
Bear Pinned 1953 around 6 exist The Razorhead prototype
Bear Giant 1959 3 known
Kreiger 1930’s very few in collections Different models
Geronimo Super 1970’s Only 8 made Were a Special Order
Geronimo 4 vent 1970’s Only 24 made Die broke before many made
Bitzenberger Wavey 1930’s Maybe only 2 dozen Made by Henry Bitzenberger
Barbed Zwickey 1939 Only 2 dozen found Has to be more out there
Hinged Fang 1960 Only 1-2 dozen known Early mechanical failure
Of course there are many more broadheads that could be listed here as being extremely rare, but in the interest of time I have only listed a few to wet your appetite.
The Most Desirable Broadheads That Can Realistically Be Acquired?
Rarity is not the only criteria for desirability. A desirable head may be rare, but it also may have historical signifigance, it may have an unusual design, or it may simply be sexy. I would classify the following broadheads as “Must Haves” in anyone’s collection because of one or more of these criteria:
Pioneer Game Tamer (Pizza Cutter) 1970 Round Wheel Design is unique
Geronimo (any of the models) 1960-70’s Opening on impact “Wings” are sexy
Case Kiska 1927 Barbed design, Roy’s first broadhead
Hillcraft 4 Barbed 1944 Real Sex-appeal!
Ropers Indian Arrowhead 1953 Cast Aluminum, a real eye-catcher
Gus Adkins (Any of 7models) 1940’s Classy looking heads
Pearson Skeleton Ferrules 1930-1950’s Barbed models look great
How Do I Best Display My Collection?
The best method that I have seen for identifying broadheads is to cut off short sections of arrow shafting, about 3 inches long with the taper. Dip these shaft sections in clear dip at least 2 coats thick. Then, when the dip is dry, you can mount the broadhead just as you would for hunting. Lastly, take a photo-marking pen (which can be purchased at any camera shop) and write the name of the broadhead on the shaft lengthways. You can also add descriptive information on the shaft, such as date of manufacture, ferrule size, etc.
Once you have your broadheads all mounted on shafts, then you can mount them in the broadhead display of your choice. My personal cases are designed to allow for easy set up and display at sports shows when I desire. They are book case style cases, holding about 550 broadheads each. You may choose to design and build much smaller cases, depending upon your personal taste and room for storage. However, whatever you do I recommend that you use the metal arrow clips to hold your heads in the case rather than drilling holes into a base as I tried in my first cases. It is simply too difficult to get all the shafts the same diameter to fit the holes, not to mention that broadheads have been made in ferrule sizes ranging from ¼” to 3/8″.
A view of one of my Broadhead “Bookcases”. The case is 72″ tall, and each section is 36″ wide. If I don’t put in arrows and pictures, I can get 550 heads in a case. They fold easily for transportation, but are all I want to handle by myself.
Where Can I See The Best Collections?
Although there are many excellent collections in private hands, for my money’s worth there are three collections that stand out among all others as the finest in the world. Best of all, all three of these collections can be viewed by the public during the normal business hours of their owners. Those collections are:
Pope &Young Museum in Seattle, WA
In all likelihood, the most complete collection in the world, the P&Y collection can be seen at the Pope & Young Club headquarters in Chatfield, MN
Far and away the best opportunity for you to see the world’s greatest collections is to visit the annual ABCC meetings which are held in various locations across the country At these meetings you will find several dozen of the ABCC members displaying their collections for all to see.
These members will also be bringing boxes upon boxes of trading stock in hopes of building their collections while trading with other members.
And best of all for the newer collectors is the tradition of the established collectors giving heads to the new collector as a way of welcoming the to the hobby.
What about the A.B.C.C.?
Collectors are not shy about displaying their collections at the drop of a hat. It is not unusual at all to see a large collection set up at a State Bowhunting Organization, or sportsman’s show. If you see one, be sure to introduce yourself and let the owner know that you appreciate his efforts at preserving the history of our sport for future generations. You just might make a friend, and walk away with a handful of “traders” to begin your collection. Good luck, and remember my motto: