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Golf Memorabilia Auctions for Collectors by Graham Rowley

Old Golf Auctions Limited
76 Brierley Hill Road,
West Midlands, DY8 5SJ,
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)1384 75438/ +44 (0)1384 261616
Fax: +44 (0)1384 75438

A H Monk - Royal Winchester - Lofting Iron - Golf Memorabilia Auctions for CollectorsIf 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:, December 2007):

  • 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.

Golf Memorabilia Auctions for CollectorsBut 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.

Golf Memorabilia Auctions for CollectorsBy 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 1900;
  • 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:



1970 1980 1990 2007

The Goff, Thomas Mathison, 1743 1st edition


£500 £5,000 £20,000 £80,000

Allan Robertson feather ball


£400 £1,500 £8,000 £15,000

Hugh Philp long-nosed play club


£600 £2,000 £7,000 £12,500

Harry Rountree golfing scene watercolour, circa 1900

£300 £1,000 £4,000 £20,000


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?

At 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.


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