So you want to start collecting?

Expert advice on golf memorabilia

Bob Warters's picture
Fri, 17 Jan 2003

Outlawed Rudder Putter.

Bonhams, the Chester-based auction house will be selling nearly 400 lots in its golf memorabilia sale on January 25.

Among them are a collection of golf relics formerly owned by Sir Alastair Buchan-Hepburn including many acquired from the St Andrew club-making business of Robert Forgan.

Also going under the hammer and likely to fetch in excess of £10,000 is a 150-year-old smooth gutty ball.

GOLFMAGIC asked Bonham’s Colin Palmer, himself a keen collector of golf and football memorabilia to pass on tips about collecting.

Q: Many of us have relics like hickory shafted clubs in our attics or in the hands of an elderly relative. Are they worth keeping?

A: If you have any items of golfing memorabilia that you think may be of value you should seek specialist advice before doing anything with them.

What sort of value would they fetch at auction?

In the case of hickory shafted clubs, the vast majority of them are worth very little, about £10 auction value. However five per-cent of them can be worth a lot more.

There is a vast range of values that can be achieved at auction. Clubs can range from a few pounds each to several thousand each. The same can be said for all other items such as balls, books and artwork.

Persimmon-headed clubs have almost disappeared as regular playing items in the last ten years. Should we hang on to them, in case they become valuable?

Some of the early (1950s) persimmon clubs became fairly collectable about 10 years ago. These "Classic Clubs" were making decent money at auction.

However, more recently the market has dropped and you are not likely to get much more than second-hand value. It’s best to hold on to what you have got until the market picks up.

Longnose 19th century clubs.
If you want to start a collection, what are the best items to look for? Clubs, balls, bags, books, photographs, paintings? And which will hold their value?

If you are starting a collection it depends on the size of your budget, but always go for quality in terms of condition, scarcity and interest value.

Don't just treat it as a pure investment, it should be something that you want and can enjoy looking at and showing to your friends. Choose an area that holds the greatest interest whether it be books, clubs or balls. Books are probably the most consistent at holding their value.

Are autographs of famous players or programmes from major events, worth anything?

Autographs can be collectable but Tiger Woods’ is the only autograph of any decent value among current players. The older autographs such as Tom Morris, Bobby Jones and Harry Vardon can be worth decent amounts. One decent autograph of Bobby Jones could be worth up to £1,000.

Some people like to collect ball-markers and logoed balls from clubs they visit. Is that a good way to start a collection?

Ball-markers and logo balls are not my thing, but if that's what appeals, then fine. I don't think they are wise choices as a long term investment. You are better going for real antiques.

Old books – very collectable.
What’s the most expensive club you have auctioned at Bonhams? And the most expensive ball?

I have been the golf specialist at Bonhams since 1999 and the most expensive club we have auctioned in that time was a circa 1800 iron club for which went under the hammer for £20,000. We sold a rare feather-filled ball made by David Marshall for £23,000 in 2001.

What other items have attracted big bids in the past?

Three years ago we sold a rare tool to mark gutty golf balls, from the Tom Morris workshop for £46,000.

Jaime Patino, the Colombian tin mine millionaire who owns the Valderrama course in Spain, is one of the world’s main collectors of golf memorabilia. Has he ever bid at one of your auctions?

Sñr. Patino bought a 19th century oil painting of ex R&A Captain John Whyte-Melville in 2000 for £135,000. He also has one of the world’s finest collections of old clubs and balls in a museum at the club, together with a library of fine old books and paintings.

You have your own collection of golf books, what’s the most valuable and where did you find it?

I have a special edition of ‘Golfing Curios and the Like’ by Harry B. Wood (1910), bought from auction and probably worth around £1,000.

If someone wanted to start a collection of golf memorabilia what advice would you give on how they should go about it?

Concentrate your collecting in a specific area, don't just go for anything and everything. Focus in a certain direction. For instance, old books on golf can be picked up at car boot sales and jumble sales or simply by visiting second-hand book shops.

Market stalls can also reveal plates, cups and ornaments with golf figures and motifs which are very collectable.

Obtain specialist advice from reference books and specialists in the field.

*What do you collect? Do you have anything in your attic that might be valuable, or have you already discovered a golfing treasure? Tell us on the forum by starting a discussion below.



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