Archery Collecting – Getting Started
by Gene Hopkins
It is a well-documented fact (at least in my family it is) that there is a new malady infecting the bowhunting community. This malady until the past 5 years infected only a very few bowhunters. However today, this infection seems to be growing at an alarming rate. In the circles of those older bowhunters who have lived with this curse for some time, we have given the affliction the common name of Archery Collecting.
Once you have accepted that you are one of the unfortunates who are afflicted, you probably wonder how to find a cure. Well, you can’t. There is no cure – probably never will be. You can only hope to offer yourself some occasional temporary relief when you find that special bow, or broadhead that you thought that you would never add to your collection.
That said, let’s spend some time exploring how you can go about your newfound hobby and offer yourself the best chance for success. I’m sure that several questions are popping into your head about now, questions like:
How do I get started?
– Are there others out there that share my interest (or affliction, depending upon your point of view)?
– How do I find the others?
Where do I find that first broadhead, first bow, or first book to begin my collection?
How much should I pay for these items when I find them?
– Just exactly what will I be collecting?
– How Do I Get Started?
This is a very good question, one most people probably don’t think about. First, you should determine just exactly what it is that you are going to collect. Whether it be bows, broadheads, books, or catalogs, you will benefit from having a plan in place. Let’s look at a typical plan which you might use to begin a collection:
Find Other Archers/Bowhunters Who Share Your Interest
Relax, you are not alone. There are literally thousands of other archers/bowhunters out there, all across the world. The American Broadhead Collectors Club (ABCC) was formed in 1974 by a core group of foreword thinking collectors who wanted to share their interests with others, and begin the arduous task of identifying and tracking all of the broadheads which have ever been commercially available. While I know of no other formal clubs for collectors, there are many loose knit “circle” of traders, collectors, and dealers for bows, books, catalogs, and magazines among others. Begin by starting to create your own “circle” of trading partners.
How Do I Find Them?
Start by making contact with someone already established in these circles. One good way would be to actually join the ABCC, as then you would get the list of all members, their names, addresses, and email address. From this you could start to establish your own circle of trading friends. Oftentimes, when a new collector joins the ABCC, they find that the older, more established collectors will come looking for them in an effort to welcome them into the club, and also to find out if this new guy (or gal) has any good stuff to trade them out of.
Don’t forget to make contact outside of the clubs also. For example, it is not unusual to find someone set up at most larger traditional shoots, or at state bowhunting association banquets. Get to know these people. Become part of their circle in an effort to establish your own circle. You will quickly find that there are a lot more people who collect than you ever imagined, and most of them probably don’t belong to a collector’s club of any kind.
Hint: For more information about the ABCC, email Greg Schwehr, ABCC Membership Chairman at
Determine What You Will Collect
Not everyone wants to collect everything like I do. Some people specialize in broadheads, while others fine-tune their specialization down to a specific kind of broadhead, such as glue-ons only. Others key in on bows, while others look for only certain kinds of bows like self-bows with horn nocks. You will be the only person who can make this determination. Items that people are collecting today include:
Archery and Bowhunting Books
Archery and Bowhunting Magazines
Old Leather Goods such as Quivers, armguards, and tabs
Old Wooden Arrow Boxes
In reality, if it is archery or bowhunting related, chances are that someone collects it.
Start Establishing A Trade Base
Start salting away items to trade. If you want to get a collection of anything within your lifetime, you will need to trade to get things. A lot of collectors, myself included, don’t like to sell items simply because they are too hard to come by. Besides, if I sold things I would only spend the money on something like a house payment and then I would have nothing. See how collectors think? Even if you are not going to collect a particular category of items, such as books, pick them up anyway when you can. I guarantee you that someone out there will trade you something that you do want for something that you have that you don’t want as much.
Get An Education
One way or another, you will get educated about how much things are worth (be it monetarily or in trade value). I would prefer to do my homework enough to lessen the impact of getting “skinned” in a bad trade. I know that we would like to think that everyone would treat us fairly, but in reality there are those who will take advantage of you whenever possible. Thankfully, these people are the exceptions, and word gets around quickly as to who is not to be trusted. Bowhunting is a small world, and collecting is even a smaller world. Get your education by doing research. Subscribe to a few of the trader lists that you find in the traditional magazines, such as The Footed Shaft in Minnesota. After reviewing several of these lists, you will soon begin getting a feel for just what some items are worth in relation to other items. Keep as much of this sort of “documentation” as you can find for future reference. And remember, all these lists just offer an opinion of values, real value is determined by how much someone will pay for an item, not by how much someone is trying to sell it for.
Where Do I Find Items To Begin My Collection?
The old stand-bys, such as garage sales and flea markets still turn up a lot of really great items, but the days of finding $5 recurves are over for most of us. I rarely find anything here in Indiana at flea markets that isn’t just plain junk. It seems that someone has always been there just before me to get everything. I can’t wait to catch whoever this is! Seriously, give it a try. I know a fellow in North Carolina who last year found a wooden arrow box in a flea market that had belonged to Art Young! In the box were several of Art’s Signature series broadheads, which rate as one of the best there are among broadhead collectors. It still happens, just not to me.
Old time bowhunters are one of the best sources for goodies. Surely you know of someone, or know of someone who knows someone who bowhunted back in the 40’s, 50’s, even 60’s. Go talk with them, let them know how eager you are to preserve the history of this sport. They might just be thrilled to find someone who cares.
Also, try the internet. There have been some good items traded and sold on the Bowsite’s Classified Section. Although you may be competing with some pretty savy collectors, I have seen some good items sold way too cheap in here.
What If I Live In An Area With No Bowhunting Heritage?
I get this question a lot from people in areas like the southeast, or southwest. This is true, there may not have even been a bowseason in your area until the last few years, and in this case the chances of finding an old bowhunter, or a shop that has been around for years are pretty slim. But I guarantee you that there are used bookstores in every corner of the country who can do book searches for you even if they don’t have any themselves. These books can then be traded for almost anything that you do want. The main thing is: Don’t Give Up!!!! Be creative.
Hint: There are some great finds being turned up in the retirement areas, where old bowhunters from the upper midwest have gone to spend their golden years.
How Much Should I Pay For An Item When I Find It?
Unlike other hobbies, such as coin and stamp collecting or even fishing lures, there are no official price guides for archery collectors. Worse yet, items vary in value according to geography. For example, a 1950’s vintage Bear Catalog might bring $35-$50 in the midwest where they are more likely to be found, and as much as $50-$60 in areas such as the Southwest where chances of finding one are slim to none. But again, be creative. There are people who publish price lists of items for sale. For the most part, this has been done with bows, books, and leather goods. Only lately have people begun publishing “Broadheads For Sale” lists. Begin by compiling a variety of these lists and soon you will have your own reference library of relative values for items. For example, you will soon discover that a 1954 Bear Kodiak II (Compass model) is a very sought after item.
You will undoubtebly find some variation in the price that people are asking for one, but by comparing the various lists you will soon be able to determine the relative worth of this bow compared to others and then it will be easier to determine how much you are willing to pay.
Remember – An item is only worth what someone will actually pay for it, not what someone is asking for it.
I have seen some items ridiculously priced, and other times I have seen items almost given away. You must be the one who decides if the price is in the range of what you are willing to pay.
Old archery books are probably the easiest to value. Assuming that the book has no special factors which would affect it’s value, such as the autograph of the author, I have found the Internet to be an absolutely invaluable tool for determining book values. There are many, many sites on the net which sell used, out-of-print books. You can search these sites by author, or by title, or some even allow a search by subject. For example, you could search for all books under the subject of “Archery”. Using these sites, you will soon have a source for several “opinions” as to what a book is worth.
Hint – Giving away one of my secret pages here, try www.bibliofind.com. But always remember what Glenn St. Charles taught me several years ago – no matter what you saw, I saw it first!!
Broadheads are a different game. There has always been a debate among broadhead collectors as to the merits of selling heads for cash. Established collectors in one camp argue that why shouldn’t my collection be worth something, especially to my wife or kids should they need to sell it after I’m gone? New Collectors in this same camp argue that there would be no way that a new collector could ever hope to get some of the better heads without buying them, especially since the collector’s of day’s past have already gotten all the best heads from the old timers and shops.
The other camp argues that once heads start acquiring a monetary value, someone somewhere will start to fake them for financial gain. (It has already happened to a small degree). They also argue that the example set by fishing lure collecting is not what they want to see broadhead collecting end up as, where only the collectors with the most money can get the better heads.
As you can see, it’s a tough call. Both sides have great arguments. You will have to be the judge of this one. But understand these arguments before you approach that older, established collector to purchase heads. He just might be offended by your offer. My opinion, should you care, is that I don’t sell heads simply because it is much too hard to find the better ones. And I like the fact that I can put a value on my heads if for no other reason than to make my insurance man happy.
After having said all this, what are broadheads worth? If you go by the few people who are selling the better heads, you will find that they range from $1 for the most common heads, to a top price of around $500 for the rarest of the heads. For example, the first commercially available broadhead was the Peck & Snyder which was produced in 1878. There are only 2 of these heads known in collections. A combination of this rarity and the fact that it was the first broadhead sold to bowhunters would probably put this head in the upper range of these estimates if it were ever made available for sale. Another example would be the Art Young Signature broadhead. Art died before this head made it out of the prototype phase, and only around 200 were known to have been produced. The combination of rarity and historical significance combine to make this head have a value of around $350 to the collectors who have sold it.
Other heads of significant value would include the Barbed Zwickey (1939) and Hinged Fang (1960). As with every collectible item, it is a combination of rarity, historical significance, and aesthetics that determine an items value. And truthfully, sometimes it is the aesthetics that is the most important factor. Take the Pioneer Game Tamer for example (A.K.A – Pizza Cutter). This head was made less than 30 years ago (1970), it really isn’t considered rare (maybe a 1000 were made, which makes it scarce but not rare), yet it commonly brings $75-100 when sold. The only explanation is it’s uniqueness, every collector simply must have one of these heads in their collection.
There are some great tools available to help broadhead collectors identify their heads, such as the ABCC’s Master List, and the four volumes of the Best of Broadhead which the ABCC sells. In the Master List is a checklist of every broadhead known to have ever been sold commercially in the world. Also included are the specifications for those heads, such as weight, ferrule size, number of blades, who made it and when. The Best Of Broadhead is a compilation of articles from the ABCC’s quarterly magazine called the Broadhead. The club compiles the best articles on heads every 5 years into a new volume.
For more information about the ABCC, email Greg Schwehr at firstname.lastname@example.org
In summary, beginning a collection of archery memorabilia is an absolutely fantastic adventure. You can expect a thrill that almost (I said almost) rivals that of a big whitetail buck when you spot your first Grumley bow or hold your first Art Young Signature broadhead in your hand. But just as in bowhunting, don’t expect your quest to be easy. You will need to hunt just as hard to find trophy collectibles as you do to hunt a trophy animal. Don’t forget that a trophy is in the eyes of the beholder, and that the patient, persistent hunter is usually the hunter with the best success rates!
If you have any questions about this subject, or would just like to talk about archery collecting, you can email me at email@example.com or call (812) 343-1019 after 6pm. Best of luck to you!