Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Shakespeare Serial Numbers

Shakespeare Mystery Serial Numbers
And The Code Breakers
Kerry Hardy, Peter Denley, David Ross, and John Murphy
By Larry Vienneau

serial numbers for Shakespeare and Root Bows are usually below the riser on the back of the bow

Folks often contact us about their Shakespeare and Root bow serial numbers. Until recently we believed that these numbers are of little value in determining age or value. Serial numbers are very helpful for other traditional bow manufactures, such as Hoyt and Bear which are still in business; they are also useful for other manufactures that archived the information such as Ben Pearson Bows. Unfortunately there was no available information about Shakespeare Archery serial numbers. I tried getting information from Ernie Root’s son and from former Root / Shakespeare employees. All said the records were destroyed when Shakespeare closed its archery division. One employee commented that all he knew was that the numbers were written with very nice hand writing, on the bows and then the numbers were written into a log (with very nice hand writing). I assume that that log is long gone and all hope of finding a solution was hopeless.

From June 2013 until late January 2014 I had been recording serial numbers for Shakespeare's most popular bows, Sierra X18, Necedah X26 and Yukon X24. I got most of the numbers from online forums, auctions, and friends. I had hoped to see a pattern or system emerging but the numbers are fairly ambiguous. As you can see, each model has a variety of digits and letters, some shorter while others are longer. The only fairly consistent trait is each model's serial number end with a letter for each model- "T" for Sierra, "H" for Yukon and "M" for Necedah X26. But even that is not consistent because there are anomalies (in red text) in each model's serial numbers.

This all changed in late 2015. In December I received a blog comment and email form a fellow who said he and a group of friend may have a solution.  I call these guys “The Code Breakers”; Peter Denley, Kerry Hardy, David Ross and John Murphy. These like-minded guys had been using emails to figure out the serial numbers. They had already figured out the Serial numbers for Browning recurves. They came up with a workable system and tried to apply it to the Shakespeare bow.  When I recorded my serial numbers for this blog I noticed the use of letter at the end of the serial number was denoting the various models. The Code Breakers also found this with the Browning bows.
The breakthrough happened when Kerry Hardy realized that the first letter in the serial number actually represented the month of the year in which the bow was made.

A = January
B = February
C = March
D = April
E = May
F = June
G = July
H = August
“I” was not used after 1962
J = September
K = October
L = November
M = December

Kerry speculates that the letter “I” was never used because of confusion with the number 1, however I have a 1962 Model X-22 with the letter “I”. The practice of dropping the “I” may have happened after 1962. This use of the letters for the months is very credible since I have never seen any serial numbers start with Letters N through Z.

The next number theoretically represents the year of the decade. Shakespeare built bows 1959-1976. This could be a plausible for bows made after 1962. The bows in my collection before 1962 seem to have problems applying the theory, a couple have the number “3” and “4” however these are from 1959-60. My bow from 1962 has a “2” and my 1963 bow has a “3”. In fact the numbers for all my bows except for pre1962 follow this numerical theory perfectly.

The following stream of numbers could be the bows built during the month. I have noticed that the early bows have smaller numbers and the later bows have larger numbers. It is likely that the factories were producing more bows in the later years

The last letter in the Serial Number is the designation for the model. This is a pretty consistent trait in most bows but if you look over the serial numbers I accumulated in just over 6 month you can see anomalies. These could be mistakes of perhaps they denote manufacturing differences. (Bear and Root often used each others fiberglass and wood; maybe this had some bearing on the anomalies)

Here is a list of Models with the serial number last letter


Shakespeare models  

’59-60 Model 100
’59-60 Model 200
’59-60 Model 300
’59-60 Model 400
’59-60 Model 500
’59-60 Model 600
X1 Shim-Bo
X2 Shim-Bo
X4 Purist
X5 Wambaw
X6 Graduate
X10 Professional
X10A Professional
X12 Wambaw
X14A Ocala Special
J, R
X15-63 Wonderbow
X15-66 Wonderbow
X15-69 Wonderbow
X15 Titan
X16 Supreme
X17 Wonderbow
X17-62 Ocala
X17 Ocala
X17A Ocala Special

X18-64 Wonderbow
X18 Sierra
X18W Ouachita
X19 Wonderbow
X19-63 Wonderbow
X20-58 Wonderbow
X20 Manitou
X21 Tioga
X22 Wonderbow
X22 Custer
X23 Pecos
Factory Second
Per model

X24 Wonderbow
X24 Yukon
X25 Trident
X26 Necedah
X27 Kaibab
X28 Necedah
X29 Cascade
X30 Super Necedah
X31 Necedah
X32 Super Necedah
X40 Mancos
QT2 Takedown

Reading your serial number
Thanks to Peter, Dave, Kerry, and John; Shakespeare collectors have a system for interpreting their serial number.  When I spent 6 months recording serial numbers I did find anomalies in the model designations which could have been random mistakes or a slight change in the model.  Remember that this is a theory and it seems to be working. Sometimes there may be an anomaly which could make your serial number tough to read. I have not been able to find serial numbers for The Graduate X6,  target bows from the mid-1970s and serial numbers for the Ocala X17A. If anyone has serial numbers for these three bows please contact me.
1. The draw weight is often the top number followed by #
2. The first letter represents the month (see month chart)
3. Next to the first letter there is a number which represents the year in the decade. (0-9)
4 the next string of numbers may be the production number for bow for the month.
5. The last letter likely represents the model. (see model chart)
6. Under the serial number is the Bow length ( also called AMO)

This bow was built May 1971; it is number 2381 of the month. It is a Kaibab X27 model and it is 62 inches in length.  It is 42 lbs. draw weight at 28 inch draw length.

I want to thank “The Code Breakers”; Peter Denley, David Ross, John Murphy and especially Kerry Hardy.  I doubt the system would ever have been deciphered without Kerry’s striking realization that letters representing the months of the year..Thanks Kerry!!!

Remember that this is a guide, results may vary.

This system does not work on Root Archery. I hope to unleash the Code Breakers on Root Bows and woe to those serial numbers. Since Root Archery produced fewer bows then Shakespeare, finding these numbers will be time consuming. I have collected many numbers but getting enough to draw comparisons will take a while.  

© Copyright, Larry Vienneau Jr.
All rights reserved.