What do the Stamps on Lawn Bowls Mean? Explained with Pics

  • By: Jack Toucher
  • Date: June 9, 2023

The stamps on lawn bowls impart important information including 1) the year that the bowl will expire 2) the testing centre where the bowl was certified 3) the body that set down the testing regulations and 4) whether the bowls are a registered trademark. The current stamp system was launched in 2013.

How do you read a lawn bowls stamp?

A lawn bowl stamp looks like the image at the head of this post – an oval shape containing letters, numbers and shapes.

Prior to 2013 bowls stamps looked like the one here – an elongated diamond shape – but the information of the old and new stamps are the same.

Expiry date on lawn bowls

The easiest component to read on a lawn bowls stamp is the expiry year otherwise known as the re-testing date. In the example here, the bowl expired in 2021.

The date means that in the year indicated it’s time to have the bowl re-tested to make sure that it runs according to specification, e.g. not too narrow, all running the same, etc. So in this example the set of bowls needed re-testing in 2021.

Manufacturer / Tester

The letter on the left of the stamp is a code for the Testing Station where the bowl was calibrated. Usually the testing is done by a manufacturer but testing can also be carried out by a specialised company. Below are tables so you can decode the letter.

NOTE: In South Africa re-testing of bowls is not mandatory in competitions , except at the very top levels of bowling, due to the prohibitive cost of sending sets of bowls to official testing centres in England, Scotland and Australia – or anywhere else overseas.

But if you are really serious about your competitions, then make the effort to have your bowls re-calibrated at an official centre – or trade in your out-of-date bowls for new ones with an expiry date far in the future.

What do the letters on lawn bowls mean?

The following letters and numbers appear on each lawn bowl: manufacturer’s name, bowl model, size, date/expiry stamp, logo/emblem and serial number. Here is an explanation of the oval stamp, which is the marking that causes the most confusion among bowlers.

Trademark on lawn bowls

The “R” on the stamp indicates that the bowl’s stamp is a registered trade mark. Therefore the “R” has no bearing on play. Don’t worry about it.

The Testing Standard

Bowls tested after 2002 will show the letters “WB” which stands for World Bowls, indicating that the bowl was tested according to WB standards. Between 1988 and 2002 the letters were IBB (International Bowling Board) and before that bowls had a country mark, showing the country where the tester was located.

How do you tell the age of lawn bowls?

How can you tell how old a lawn bowl is? For bowls manufactured since 1980 there should be a serial number on the bowl. The manufacturer should be able to tell you when the bowl was manufactured.

You should supply the following details when enquiring about the age of the bowl:

  • Model
  • Colour
  • Where and when purchased
  • The serial number

In the example shown here the Serial No. is 1888-GO.

You can tell a bowl is extremely old because it will be large, a dull brown or dull black colour and won’t have dimples. Also the stamps and other information will be faded. If the size is visible it will have the size in inches.

Serial Number on Bowl

How long does a bowls stamp last?

The stamp on lawn bowls last ten years. In South Africa you can still play in competitions with bowls with an expired date stamp, although not at national and international level.