Bronson-Made Reel Models For Sears, Roebuck & Co.
The ONLY thing we can say with certainty is that ALL models starting with “537” were made AFTER WWII. It seems that MOST models starting with “312” are pre-war, BUT NOT ALL! One has even been found starting with “314”, a post-war example.
The Sears numbering system is so confusing that it’s hard to even list the “J.C. Higgins” models in some sort of a logical order. However, we tried our best.
References related to Bronson fly and spin-casting reels made for Sears can be seen at the bottom of this page.
In 1933, the first five models were produced by Bronson for sale exclusively through Sears, Roebuck & Co. In the bottom two photos is the original fold-out brochure for those five original reels.
BRONSON-MADE CASTING REELS FOR SEARS
“Belmont” No.4176 by Bronson
One of the five original reels produced for Sears in 1933. This jeweled level-winding A.B.L. casting reel would sell for several years and different design versions of the “Belmont” would sell up until WWII. The scarce original box is shown below. Good photos of the reel are forthcoming.
“Belmont” No. 312.2700, Model J by Bronson
The “Belmont” models were all built before WWII. This example, the Model J, has the plain side plates, jeweled oil caps and the A-B-L switch on the face plate. Stamped “BELMONT, Model J, No.312.2700”. This reel has been found with the “39”, “40” and “41” date codes stamped under the foot, so we know they were built at least from 1939 to 1941. The example with the scarce original box shown below is a 1939 version.
“Belmont” No. 312.3125 and No. 312.3126 by Bronson
The No.312.3125 was a standard jeweled level-wind without an A-B-L adjustment. We presently have no photo, except for the original red box shown below.
The No.312.3126 (shown below in the first 3 photos) was the same version, but with the A-B-L switch on the face plate. It is only stamped with the “BELMONT” model name. Both of these models were produced from 1936 to 1941. The box photos are courtesy of Daryl Rodenberger.
“Belmont” No. 312.3500 and No. 312.3600 by Bronson
The reel in the first two photos is the No.312.3500. It’s a plain-sided jeweled level-wind model, with the A-B-L adjustment on the face plate. It is stamped “BELMONT No.312.3500”. The foot is stamped with the “37” date code, so we know it was built in 1937.
The second reel is the No.312.3600. This was a very ornate version, with the engraved “fishing scene” on the side plates and engraved crank handle. Otherwise, it’s the same as the No.312.3500. It is stamped “BELMONT No.312.3600” on the inside, just above the spool. The first two photos are courtesy of Chuck Castle.
It’s been brought to my attention that at least one “engraved” example exists that was marked No.312.3500. Go figure!
“Belmont” No.3152 by Bronson
Another jeweled level-wind made for Sears. Very similar to the No.312.3125 model, but with the addition of the anti-backlash control bar. Shown with the original “Art Deco” box, which dates it to about the mid 1930’s. Marked “Belmont” on the face plate only. The reel and photos are courtesy of “Capt. John” (John Kolbeck). Later versions of the box are shown in the last three photos.
“Blackhawk” No.3124 by Bronson
Description and photos forthcoming.
“De Luxe” No. 4174 by Bronson
One of the original series of five reels supplied to Sears around 1933. These jeweled level-wind models came with black Bakelite end plate spacers, early celluloid grips and a sliding drag switch on the face plate that resembles a clicker button. Face plate is stamped “DeLUXE S.R. & Co.” We have only seen one other example. The original box is marked “No.4174”. Very tough find for the collector. Photos courtesy of Mark Williams.
“Great Lakes” No.312.9200 by Bronson
These were made by Bronson and supplied to Sears and should not be confused with the Great Lakes models of Lexington, Mich., or the almost identical model made for Sears by Ocean City. These Bronson versions are stamped “GREAT LAKES No.312.9200” on the inside just above the spool. The Ocean City version is unnumbered. These jeweled level-winds have engraved side plates with a common “fishing scene” and have the A-B-L adjustment on the face plate. The last photo shows an example with the original box.
“J.C. Higgins” No. 312.3110 by Bronson
A pre-war level-wind. Descriptions and photos forthcoming.
“J.C. Higgins” No. 312.3110 Model 489 by Bronson
This is the first in an extensive series of reels supplied by Bronson and sold under Sears’ own trademarked “J.C. Higgins” brand name, from the late 1930’s to 1962. This reel is stamped “J.C. HIGGINS No. 312.3110 Model 489” on the inside, just above the spool. It was basically an economy model, with riveted frame and fixed end caps, but it was engraved with the Art Deco “leaf” design on the side plates and had the A-B-L switch on the face. The last photo shows all the original box and paperwork.
“J.C. Higgins” No. 312.3104 Model 46 and Model 46-A by Bronson
The No.312.3104 “J.C. Higgins” was introduced around 1939 as the Model 46. It has the earliest version of the Lashless-style spool tension knob on the tail plate. These A-B-L knobs do not unscrew all the way off. They are pressed on from the inside. They were quickly changed in 1940 by Bronson with the newer removable version of the Lashless-style knob and the reels were then designated the Model 46-A. These level-wind models were stamped “J.C. HIGGINS No.312.3104 Model 46 or 46-A”. The original box, marked “No.3104”, is also shown below. Pictures are courtesy of Wayne Benson.
These models can also be found in a clear plastic domed case, embossed “J.C. Higgins”, seen in the last photo.
“J.C. Higgins” No. 312.3105 by Bronson.
Description and photos are forthcoming.
“J.C. Higgins” No. 312.3107 Model 487 by Bronson.
The No. 312.3107 was produced just before the war. They were jeweled level-winding models, with engraved “fishing scene” side plates and the A-B-L knob on the face. They were stamped “J.C. HIGGINS No.312.3107 Model 487” on the inside, just above the spool. Shown below is the original box, marked “No.3107”.
“J.C. Higgins” No. 312.3108 Model 488 by Bronson
These were basically the same as the reel above, but with the crank handle engraved, as well. They are stamped “J.C. HIGGINS No.312.3108 Model 488”. The box, not shown, would have been marked “No.3108”.
“J.C. Higgins” No. 312.3111 Model 4810 by Bronson
A very high-end and ornate pre-war model. Nicely engraved side plates and crank handle, fluted jeweled oil caps and the A-B-L adjustment on the face plate. These are stamped “J.C. HIGGINS No.312.3111 Model 4810” on the inside, above the spool. Again, we assume the original box would be marked “No.3111”. These are a tough find.
J.C. Higgins” No. 312.3112 Model 4811 by Bronson
These were likely produced just before the war. A medium price-range model, with plain side plates, pillared foot and A-B-L switch on the face plate. Seen here with maroon crank knobs, but we’ve also seen then in green or teal. Face plate is stamped “J.C. HIGGINS No. 312.3112 Model 4811”. The original box, shown below, is marked “No.3112”.
“J.C. Higgins” No. 312.3183 by Bronson
This model is either from just before the war or after it. Probably the latter. Comes with plain side plates, Lashless-style A-B-L adjustment on the tail plate and white grips. Reel is stamped “J.C. HIGGINS No.312.3183” on the face plate.
“J.C. Higgins” No. 312.3184 by Bronson
Similar to the reel above, but with engraved “fishing scenes” on the side plates and a different design on the head cap. Reel is stamped “J.C. HIGGINS No.312.3184” on the inside above the spool.
J.C. Higgins” No. 312.3186 by Bronson
These post-war reels were mid to lower-grade level-winding models with the Lashless A-B-L adjustment on the tail plate. Chromed oil caps and stamped foot, with model and number stamped on the face plate. Reel photos courtesy of Larry Stivers. The original box is also shown below.
“J.C. Higgins” No. 312.3962 by Bronson
Description and photos forthcoming.
“J.C. Higgins” No. 312.39630 by Bronson
This level-wind reel was produced during the 1960’s. Made of red anodized aluminum, with the Lashless-style A-B-L adjustment on the tail plate. Face plate is stamped “J.C. HIGGINS Model 312.39630”. The original box, shown below, is marked “No.3963”. Photos are courtesy of Daryl Rodenberger.
“J.C. Higgins” No. 312-3963. Same As Above, But Earlier Model (1950’s)
“J.C. Higgins” No. 312.39640 by Bronson
These were economy reels made during the 1960’s, with riveted frame, redesigned level-wind cover (with holes) and the Lashless-style A-B-L switch on the tail plate. Face plate is stamped “J.C. HIGGINS Model 312.39640”. The last two photos show the original box and instructions.
“J.C. Higgins” No.312.3964. Same As Above, But Earlier Model (1950’s)
“J.C. Higgins” No. 312.39650 by Bronson
These were a very lightweight red anodized aluminum level-winding reels made during the 1960’s. Comes with the Lashless-style A-B-L adjustment on the tail plate and a pillared foot. Face plate is stamped “J.C. HIGGINS Model 312.39650”. Photos are courtesy of Jerry Steven
“J.C. Higgins” No.314.31291 by Bronson
The first model we have seen so far starting with the number “314”. This low-priced post-war economy level-wind has black plastic side plates, chromed hardware and no A.B.L. adjustment. It is shown below with the original box (marked #3129) and instructions, all of which should be considered somewhat scarce, as this is the first we’ve ever seen.
“J.C. Higgins” No.537.11040 by Bronson (Uncatalogued)
We came across this single photo during a Google search for something else. It’s clearly an undocumented “J.C. Higgins” model (we think it’s No.537.11040 ?) made for Sears by Bronson. Very similar to the No.537.31010 seen farther down below this listing, except in anodized blue. We have no idea if the tail plate is the same. As always, any additional info would be appreciated.
“J.C. Higgins” No. 537.28080 by Bronson
This was a later model made in the 1960s, in a very unusual teal-colored anodized aluminum. This level-wind also has the Lashless-style A-B-L switch on the tail plate. Face plate is stamped “J.C. HIGGINS”, while the inner tail plate reads “Model No.537.28080”. This has also been found with a snap-on arbor that matches the handle grips, as shown in the second photo. The original box, shown below, is marked “No.2808”. Pictures are courtesy of Scott Truex.
“J.C. Higgins” No.537.28090 by Bronson
This recently discovered model (Jan. 2017) was an economy post-war level-wind, with stamped foot and no removable oil cap. It does have the Lashless-style A.B.L. switch, however. Looks like painted or black anodized side plates. Only example we’ve ever seen, so it could have been briefly produced near the end of the “Higgins” run, some time in the 60’s.
“J.C. Higgins 400” No. 537.28800 by Bronson
The “400” is a good looking 1960’s level-wind, having two rows of knurling around the head plate rim with its bell shaped marbled crank knobs and its satin chrome finish. Also has the now normal A-B-L adjustment on the tail plate. The reel is stamped “J.C. HIGGINS – ‘400’” on the face plate and “Model 537.28800” inside the tail plate above the spool. The original box, shown below, is marked “No.2880”.
The last four photos below show a nicely engraved 1960’s “300” version, with its original box, fairly similar to the “400”. Face plate is stamped “J.C. HIGGINS – ‘300’”, while inside the tail plate reads “Model 537.28810. These are both nice quality late models.
“J.C. Higgins 300” No.537.28810 by Bronson
These are very similar to the “400” above, but with engraved side plates. Also from the 1960’s. The original box is shown in the last photo.
“J.C. Higgins 100” No. 537.28820 by Bronson
This was the economy version of the same 1960’s series shown above. The “100” is an easy one to spot, with the stamped “waffle” design on the face plate. Heavily chrome-plated and built with a riveted frame, stamped foot and A-B-L adjustment on the tail plate. Face plate is stamped “J.C. HIGGINS”, while inside the tail plate above the spool reads “Model 537.28820”. The last photo shows a nice example with the original box, which is marked “2882”.
“J.C. Higgins” No. 537.31010 and No. 537.3101 by Bronson
At this time, we can only assume that both these 1950’s to 60’s models are the same. Even though the reel came in two different finishes, satin & satin chrome (see last photos), we’ve seen both finishes marked with either model number. The head plate is engraved with a “jumping bass” design and the tail plate shows a “man in a boat”. These were equipped with a pillared foot and the standard A-B-L adjustment on the tail plate. Face plate is stamped “J.C. HIGGINS No.537.31010”. The original box for either model would be marked “No.3101”.
“J.C. Higgins” No. 537.31011 by Bronson
Identical to the models above, but with black handle grips and “537.31011” stamped UNDER THE FOOT. Believed to be one of the last examples that Bronson built for Sears. Photos courtesy of Mark Williams.
“J.C. Higgins” No. 537.3103 by Bronson
This lightweight 1950’s reel is nick-named “The 7 Fish”, because of the seven nicely engraved fish on the tail plate. These are highly sought after. Built in a satin finish over brass side plates, with aluminum spool & pillars, engraved design on the head cap and the A-B-L adjustment on the tail plate. The face plate is stamped “J.C. HIGGINS No.537.3103”. The original box, shown below, is marked “No.3103”. The last photo shows the simpleness of the inner workings. It has only one drive gear that grabs both the spool pinion gear and the level wind worm gear. Also notice the wire that is bent to hold the inner head plate ring. Pictures are courtesy of Daryl Rodenberger.
“J.C. Higgins” No. 3104 Model 46 by Bronson
This was a pre-war model produced around 1939 or 1940, as evidenced by the earliest A.B.L adjustment on the tail plate. To confuse the Sears numbering “system” even more, these were only marked “No.3104 Model No.46” on the face plate, along with “J.C. HIGGINS”. However, these are identical to the No.312.3104 models previously listed. The original box would have been marked “No.3104”, the ONLY time that would have made sense. These are actually a tough find for collectors.
We just found a listing for the No.3104 in Sears’ 1946 catalog, so they were available for some time after the war and they were not marked “Model 46”.
“J.C. Higgins” No. 537.31040 by Bronson
This reel was a direct-drive, tear drop-shaped level-wind model made in the 1950’s or 1960’s. Comes with green anodized side plates and the tail plate has the Lashless-style Anti-backlash control.
“J.C. Higgins” No. 537.3105 by Bronson
This 50’s-60’s economy level-wind has a plain head plate, chrome over metal side plates, aluminum pillars & level-wind cover, cover, light green crank knobs, A-B-L switch on the tail plate and no end cap on the face plate. One has to take the reel apart to oil it. Face plate is stamped “J.C. HIGGINS 537.3105”. The original box is marked “No.3105”.
“J.C. Higgins” No. 537.31050 by Bronson
Identical to the reel above (shown below and with a side by side comparison), except has aluminum side plates. Same markings.
“J.C. Higgins” No. 537.31051 by Bronson
Very similar to both of the previous reels, except with nickel-plated side plates and the rest of the reel aluminum. It is a very late 1960’s model, with “537.31051” stamped under the foot. An example is shown below, along with original instructions. Click on photos to see entire image.
“Meadow Brook” No.4100 /6 by Bronson
These were a pre-war unmarked economy level-winding model sold through Sears, with black Bakelite side plates, cork arbor and the early crank handle with wood grips (which originally were painted white). A nicely painted example, with a grey box, can be seen in the last three photos (click on photo to see full image). Likely from the mid 1930’s. Boxes are marked “No.4100/6”.
“Meadow Brook” No. 9700 by Bronson
These unmarked trade reels for Sears were similar to Bronson’s No.4200 “Altoona”. This level-wind has the mahogany Bakelite side plates and early crank handle. These were also from about the mid 1930’s. Shown below are two very similar versions, with boxes. The original box in the first two photos, carries a 93 cent Sears price tag. Photos are courtesy of Mark Williams.
“Meadow Brook” No. 312.3460 by Bronson
These were supplied to Sears just before WWII. These were pretty much economy models with the stamped foot and riveted frame, but they did the engraved Art Deco “leaf” design on the side plates, hard rubber grips and the A-B-L adjustment on the face. The end caps are for looks only and are not adjustable. Reel is stamped “Meadow Brook No.312.3460” on the inside of the face plate above the spool. These can be a tough find.
“Mohawk” No. 312.3111 by Bronson
The reel in the first two photos is the No. 312.3111 “Mohawk”. A very ornate version, with a common engraved “fishing scene” and engraved crank handle. This jeweled level-wind, with the A-B-L adjustment on the face, was produced for sears in the late 1930’s. The reel is only stamped “Mohawk” on the inside of the face plate. The original box, shown below, is marked “No.3111”.
“Mohawk” No.312.3111 Interesting Non-Factory “Modification”
Below is a very interesting “modified” Mohawk model that was widely discussed on ORCA’s Reel Talk in 2014. Interesting enough to be included on this site. it consists of an added external jeweled roller drag on the crank handle. Done very cleanly, but determined to NOT be a factory prototype, but rather an aftermarket modification. Shown below with its box. Photos courtesy of Dylan Eldridge.
“Mohawk” No.312.3600 by Bronson
These pre-war models were virtually identical to the “Belmont” model from the same period, even using the same Sears stock number.
“Mohawk Zephyr Wate” No. 312.3600A Model 37 by Bronson
This was a very high-grade example first supplied to Sears in 1938. This jeweled level-wind had aluminum side plates, the A-B-L switch on the face plate and lovely ivoroid grips. The face plate is stamped “Mohawk Zephyr Wate – Model 37 – No.312.3600A”. The bottom of the foot is stamped with the “38” date code (for 1938). These can be a tough find.
The last photo shows a Mohawk Zephyr Wate box, along with this reel and an Ocean City-built version of the same reel. The box, marked for a No.3112 model, suggests there might be another different Zephyr Wate model out there.
“Windsor” No.4177 by Bronson
This is another of the original series of five reels that Bronson first supplied to Sears around 1933. Similar to the Bronson “Veteran” No.1010, this nickel plated level-wind is from the lower end of the lineup in terms of quality. Face plate is stamped “Windsor”, a trademarked brand name owned by Sears. The original box, shown below, is marked “No.4177”. These reels are a tough find for the collector. Box picture is courtesy of Bob Popp.
“WLS” or “World’s Largest Store” No.4172 by Bronson
These jeweled level-winds were another example of one of the first five models Bronson supplied to Sears in 1933. The “WLS” stood for “World’s Largest Store”, which was a Sears, Roebuck & Co. slogan for years. There are two versions of this reel known. The first version is shown in the first five photos and is similar to the regular Bronson Verteran No.1010. This reel is nickel plated over brass, has the “WLS” in lightning-shaped letters stamped on the face and is marked “World’s Largest Store” under that.
The next reel is similar to the Bronson Commander No.3600, a heavily chromium plated over brass reel. It is only marked “WLS”, without any slogan underneath. These are believed to have been produced starting around 1935. The earliest box is shown in the first photo and is marked “No.4172”. A slightly different version of the scarce early box is shown in the last photo.
“X-pert” No.4173 by Bronson
The “X-pert” was the highest-grade model of the original five reels supplied by Bronson to Sears around 1933. Down through the years Bronson would produce several different versions of the X-pert, but it would always be the best Sears had to offer. Sears would own the trademarked “X-pert” brand name of fishing tackle well into the 1960’s.
The first X-pert models were not numbered and the face plates were stamped “X-pert S.R. & Co.”. These jeweled level-winds, with plain side plates and early celluloid handle grips, would sell until 1934. Below is a scarce original yellow box for the first Bronson-made X-pert. It is marked “No.4173”.
“X-pert” (Tear Drop Design) by Bronson
The low-profile tear drop shaped “X-pert” models were introduced in 1934. These high-grade jeweled level-winding reels came in both a satin finish (shown below) and a chromium finish. The first reel pictured is an early 1934 example, with the non-fluted hexagon oil caps, standard clicker and the early crank nut. This one is marked “X-pert” on the face plate and is also unnumbered.
Later versions of these are seen with the Duo-Click, black Bakelite head plate, fluted caps or the two-piece crank locking nuts. These you will find in many different variations, with different combinations of components. These would sell through 1935.
“X-pert” (Engraved Tear Drop Design) No.4151(?) by Bronson
Sears would introduce the ornately engraved version of the “X-pert” in 1935. Both the side plates and crank handle were engraved in the Art Deco “diamond” design. I personally think these were the finest-looking reels that Bronson ever made for Sears. These level-winds now came with the A-B-L switch on the face plate. They can be found with either the fluted hexagonal or the round jeweled oil caps. The “X-pert” name can now be found stamped on the inside of the face plate, just above the spool, so as not to disrupt the design. They can be found in two versions, seen below. The first is the all-metal design and the second has the black head plate spacer. It’s not known exactly how long these sold or which variety appeared first, but they are rarely offered for sale and should be considered scarce. The Art Deco box shown below is marked for an “X-pert No.4151”. At this point in time, we have no idea if it was correct for either model, as these reels were not numbered. The X-pert box was donated by Richard Thomann. The last three photos are courtesy of Mark Williams.
“X-pert Twenty”, RARE Bronson Factory Prototype No.9000
Here is the absolute “Holy Grail” for Bronson-made Sears reels. This is the one-of-a-kind original factory prototype for the “X-pert Twenty” model eventually approved and marketed by Sears. This reel was designed and built by R.P. McMahan and O. George in the fall of 1937 (as seen on the original hang tag accompanying the reel). McMahan was Bronson’s Sales Manager and the son of E.J. McMahan, founder and President of Bronson Reel Co. It was designated the No.9000 by Bronson and the box label is handwritten “Original Model No.9000 Reel”. Sears would designate the reel as their No.312.9000 “X-pert Twenty”, the highest grade they offered. Reel is unmarked, except for the “37” date code under the foot, for 1937. This was a major find for our collective line of the highly sought after Bronson reels. Needless to say, being the only example known to exist, this is exceedingly RARE. Reel is courtesy of Joe Klaus.
“X-pert Twenty” No.312.9000 by Bronson
Although the prototype for the “X-pert Twenty” was produced in late 1937 (see above), the reel was not sold by Sears until 1938. One of the most beautiful reels ever sold by Sears sold. Made of solid German silver, with inset jeweled end caps, A-B-L switch on the face plate, ringed pillars, heavily knurled throughout and dual pyralin grips. These were some of the highest-grade reels on the market at the time. Face plate is stamped “X-pert Twenty – 20 – No.312.9000”. We think these were available until WWII. They should be considered scarce.
“X-pert Thirty” by Bronson
Description and photos forthcoming. *Note* The “X-pert Forty” was made for Sears by Ocean City.
“X-pert N.B.L.” No.312.1700 by Bronson
The “X-pert N.B.L.” obviously stands for Non-Back-Lash. This model has the three rows of knurling around the head plate rim, jeweled oil caps and the earliest Lashless-style A.B.L. adjustment on the tail plate. Under the foot is stamped with the “41” date code (for 1941), making this a scarce one-year variety. Shown below with the equally scarce box.
“X-pert Fifty” No. 312.7200 by Bronson
The “X-pert Fifty” is a plain-sided reel with two rows of knurling around the head plate rim, jeweled oil caps and the A.B.L. adjustment on the face plate. Under the foot is stamped with the “39” date code, meaning it was introduced in 1939. The face plate reads “X-pert Fifty – 50 – No. 312.7200”. These can be a tough find for the collector.