Browing Cobra II recurve archery bow, $6.

You simply must take some time to learn at least something about the field of archery, or you run the risk of ignoring millions of potential customers! One of my very first eBay scores was an older Hoyt target recurve bow. I still remember how weird it looked to me at the time, with the big counterweights that screwed into the front, and the bizarre sighting arrangement!

I realized right then that it would be in my best interests to do a little research into these 'recurve' archery bows for future opportunities. Although I haven't run across any Hoyt target bows lately, I have learned about a particular 'sweet spot' that I'd like to share with you. But first... let's talk a little about the different types of bows you're likely to encounter in your travels.

In the world of archery, there are three main types of bows - the longbow, the recurve bow and the compound bow. I should warn you now that this entry is not an agonizing, in-depth analysis of the differences, advantages and disadvantages between the different bow types, because if you really want to know more about this stuff, there are plenty of places on the 'net where you can learn more bows than I could tell you here. I plan to cover what you should know about bows so that you can take advantage of the opportunities they present to you from an eBay profit perspective.

The longbow is the earliest type of bow, and is usually recognizable by its length, which is often taller than the person shooting it. Longbows can often be spotted by the cross section of their limbs, which is usually either round or 'D' shaped. I guess I'm mentioning longbows here simply because they do exist and because you may encounter one. But out of the hundreds of bows I've run across at yard sales, flea markets and auctions, I've only seen a few decent longbows, all too expensive for me to make any money on.

A really popular type of archery bow you're sure to encounter with regularity is the compound bow, immediately recognizable by its weird shape and the cammed pulley system it uses to route a cable back and forth across the bow's limbs. Compound bows have been around since the 1960s, and are by far the most popular type of bow used by hunters because of their compact size, resistance to weather and great power. But there are a couple more reasons the compound bow is so popular with hunters.

When the compound bow string is pulled back, the draw is initially very heavy, but as the string approaches full draw, the tension becomes much lighter, often to less than a quarter of the bow's rated draw poundage. This greatly reduced full-draw tension means two big advantages for the hunter. First of all, it allows him to hold his bow at full draw for a much longer time, like when he's trying to remain motionless and ready to shoot as his game animal approaches. Second, it also allows him to aim much more accurately, since he doesn't have to aim while fighting against the bow's full draw tension.

Compound archery bow technology appears to have recently gone through some really drastic changes that even I noticed, and I don't consider myself one who's overly familiar with compound bow technology. The cammed pulleys on the newer compound bows have recently grown much larger than they were before, from something like 2 1/2" across on the older bows to well over 4" across on the newer ones. Many of the newer compound bows look really weird, too, employing something called a 'parallel limb' design, where stubby limbs are stuck way out at the ends of a long, rigid frame, or 'riser,' and are secured at such an angle to the riser that they're nearly parallel to one another. Compound bow design has progressed to the point that the most popular and efficient models more look like something you'd find at a spaceship crash site, than a tool designed to accomplish the relatively primitive task of launching an arrow.

The scary part for me is that as all this new bow technology hits the streets, prices for the older stuff tends to drop off. Of course, many of the sellers you encounter will not have gotten that news. Although prices for older stuff will drop on eBay, many yard sale sellers still have that compound = expensive pattern so firmly entrenched in their minds that they continue to ask crazy prices for their broken down old Bear Whitetail bows that won't bring $20 on eBay. Compound this (no pun intended) with the fact that unless you know what you're looking at, it's hard to tell the newer from the older, and the pricier from the cheaper, which means that it's easy to get ripped off. It's not hard to get 'stuck' when it comes to compound bows!

There must be a better opportunity, and there is.

The 'sweet spot' I was referring to earlier is the good old recurve bow. The recurve gets its name from the way its limb tips curve away from the shooter when the bow is strung, as opposed to longbow limb tips, which simply bend over with the rest of the limb. Notice that on a recurve bow, the string actually rests against the limb for the first few inches of its length, whereas on the longbow, the string drops away from the tip. This is a good way to tell them apart.

Also, as opposed to the thick limbs of the longbow, recurve bow limbs are wide and thin, and are usually made from laminated wood and fiberglass. The recurve bow's design offers the shooter a couple of distinct advantages over the longbow. First, the recurve offers the same draw weight in a much shorter package than the longbow. As if that weren't enough, the recurve design offers better performance than the longbow for any given draw weight.

I believe the recurve is such a sweet spot because, just as so many people mistakenly associate anything compound with money, they also associate anything that's not compound with obsolete. Everyone knows the compound replaced the recurve... right? This confusion is why so many expensive, high-quality recurve bows pop up at yard sales and flea markets for a few dollars. I guess I should add that not only is the recurve bow the choice with target shooters, but there are countless hunters who will hunt with nothing but their stout, powerful recurve bows. The last thing you should worry about is a lack of interest on eBay for recurve bows!

Let's take a quick look at the markings you're going to see on most recurve bows you find.

AMO stands for Archery Manufacturers Organization (please forgive the mistake I made in the photo, where I said it was the bowyer's initials), whose purpose it is to set standards on how bows and archery items are listed and graded.  AMO was instituted to offer consistency, and became increasingly necessary when the mail-ordering of bows and components became increasingly popular, and the people doing the ordering were not always adept at determining just what components they needed.

As far as I know, major bow manufacturers like Hoyt, Martin, Damon-Howat, Jack Howard, Bear, Browning, and Wing, put AMO on their bows if they followed that sizing standard. They didn't have individual bowyers or employees signing their manufactured recurves. On the other hand, custom bowyers like Bob Lee, Robertson, Shafer, Jeffery, Habu and Strunk will sometimes write the name of the bow's new owner on the bow, such as 'HANDCRAFTED by ROBERTSON STYKBOWS for Bill Jones', for example.

Per AMO standards, the following information on the bow applies:

Serial Number, self explanatory.

The 54# indicates the bow's draw weight in pounds, and is measured at 28" for AMO standards.  Custom bows can, of course, be made to hit a certain weight at any draw length.

The 58" indicates the bow's length, and is measured from nock groove to nock groove in AMO standards. Some other bow makers measure from tip to tip when relaxed, or from tip to tip when drawn. But again, to avoid confusion, AMO specifies which style to use for consistency.

Finally, the AMO on the bow indicates which standards were used to determine the rest of the numbers he sees on the bow. With AMO, for example, you don't even need to know your bow's actual string length; you just buy any string for an AMO 58" bow and you're in business.

Finally, always carefully inspect any bow you're thinking of buying for cracks, dents, delaminations, and that sort of thing. If the bow has been used, it's naturally going to have some marks and imperfections, but remember that your buyers aren't going to pay you full price for a bow with major defects when they can easily find better specimens right there on eBay.

This Browning Cobra II recurve bow sold on eBay for $160.

Photo of Browning Cobra II recurve hunting bow