Golf Memorabilia Auctions for Collectors by Graham Rowley
Old Golf Auctions Limited
76 Brierley Hill Road,
Midlands, DY8 5SJ,
Tel: +44 (0)1384 75438/ +44 (0)1384 261616
Fax: +44 (0)1384 75438
you've been investing in the world's stock markets over the course of the last
two years, you're likely to be licking your wounds and shoving whatever resources
you have left firmly under the mattress. However, whilst traditional investments
have fared pretty poorly over the recent past, you might be interested to learn
that what have come to be known as 'alternative' investments have performed rather
better – considerably better, in fact, in some cases.
Take a look at a few examples. Over the last 10 years, the sterling returns
from a selection of alternative investments were as follows (source: artmarketreport.com,
- art – up 59%
- classic cars – up 22%
- English coins – up 27%
- teddy bears – up 169%
- Bordeaux wine – up 188%
- 18th century furniture – up 204%
So as you can see, there's ample reward for those brave enough to stray from
the path of convention. But frankly, I can't see myself collecting teddy bears,
and I'm not sure how long the collection of fine claret would stay safely tucked
away in the cellar … particularly over those long winter nights.
But there's another form of alternative investment which has not only shown
similarly spectacular returns over the years but would also allow you to satisfy
further your addiction for the world's greatest sport: golf memorabilia.
Until the late 1970s, the collecting of golf memorabilia did not exist as
a phenomenon. However, equipment relating to other classic sports, such as cricket
and fishing, had by then become recognised by the major auction houses as 'collectible',
and it was on the back of these sales that golf antiques were first sold.
the late 1980s (largely driven by the formation of the US and British Golf Collectors'
Societies), the market was firmly established and growing strongly, fuelled by
the growing number of collectors and reports in the mainstream press of world
record prices being achieved. As we entered the 1990s, the boom in golf collecting
very closely resembled the boom in the sport itself about 100 years ago!
Before considering the returns that one might have achieved by investing in golf
memorabilia over recent years, we should probably pause to consider what sorts
of item one might have bought. Broadly speaking, the highest value items have
tended to fall into the following key categories:
- books – published in the mid to late 19th century or earlier;
- balls – feather-filled (pre-1840) or gutta percha (gutty), 1850 to
- clubs – specifically the long-nosed variety, pre-1870;
- artwork – oils and watercolours, pre-1910.
These items have tended to experience significant demand, and therefore a
healthy rise in value, for two reasons. First, and most obvious, their age dictates
that they are becoming increasingly rare – extraordinarily rare in some
cases. Second, they are highly visual items and collectors derive huge amounts
of pleasure from showcasing their purchases attractively in libraries and 'home
museums' (wives permitting). In terms of 'fun' investing, it certainly beats
the hell out of displaying your share certificates!
So how much might one have made had one enjoyed the foresight to invest in
golf memorabilia 10, 20 or even 30 years ago? The table below gives you some
indication; it shows the prices achieved for a representative selection of items
at various key points in time over the last three or so decades:
The Goff, Thomas Mathison, 1743 1st edition
Allan Robertson feather ball
Hugh Philp long-nosed play club
Harry Rountree golfing scene watercolour, circa 1900
Pretty reasonable returns, I think you'll agree, for 'junk' you're likely
to have come across gathering dust in your grandparents' attic.
So, if you can see yourself getting addicted as much to the history of this
great game as to playing the game itself, how do you get started? Well, relatively
easily I'm happy to say.
First, buy a decent book on the subject and do some vital background reading.
Three good examples are Golf Collectibles (Gilchrist, 1998) and Antique Golf
Collectibles (Furjanic, 1999). The Clubmakers Art (Ellis 1997)
Second, join either the US or British Golf Collectors' Societies (you'll find
them in the phone book!). Attend a few of the events – which tend to be
as much about playing great courses as they are about collecting great golf memorabilia,
and so are great fun – and you'll be amazed how quickly you'll acquire
a good understanding of the market just by talking to fellow collectors. And
the annual subs are negligible – c £30 or $50 a year.
Third, look out for the golf memorabilia auctions run by the leading auction
houses: Sotheby's, Christie's and Bonhams. They tend to appear in July, around
the time that the Open Championship takes place in Britain. You may also want
to consider smaller, Internet-based auction houses (such as my own firm, Old
Golf Auctions), which compete with larger rivals on the basis of a more specialist
understanding of the market, lower
commissions reflecting lower overheads and total convenience (you can bid in
real time over the Internet rather than having to physically attend the auction).
Finally, seek the advice of an expert before you commit any large sums of
money. Generally speaking, the smaller and more specialist auction houses are
more willing (and more able!) to help individual collectors, particularly novices,
than the larger firms.
We offer this advice both to buyer’s and seller’s free of charge
So there you have it. Who said investing can't be fun?
present Old Golf Auctions have six auctions each year, full information can be
found on our home page at :
Graham Rowley is Managing Director of Old Golf Auctions Limited he offers
free advice to both buyers and sellers of quality golfing memorabilia
We also offer;
Collection valuation appraisals for insurance purposes;
Private acquisition services;
Designing Museum quality display cabinets for individuals, clubhouses and
corporate group companies.