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AN ECLECTIC MIX OF CURIOS...

Gi’s auction-room expert, Kevin McGimpsey, selects the best of your recent letters, including a mechanically adjustable club, a rare invitation from the Board of Governers at Augusta National, a collection of Open Championship bag tags and novel ceramic

RARE MECHANICAL IRON

I enclose two images of what appears to be a convertible iron club. What kind of club is this, please. And does it have any value?
Malcolm Fowler, Bath

Not just any old iron: this mechanically adjustable club dates from 1910, and was made by J.C Lamb. Although novel in design, the iron was difficult to hit. For its rarity value, an example such as this would fetch around  £1000

Your strange looking iron is known as a mechanically adjustable club or Whole-In- One club and is reasonably valuable. The first of its kind was invented in Scotland in 1893 and was on sale in 1894.

The object of the mechanical adjustable iron was to take the place of a whole set of clubs or to reduce the number of irons that needed to be carried in the golf bag. It was easy to covert to left- or right-handed for that tricky shot, for example when up against an obstruction which could restrict the normal path of a swing.

Our reader’s adjustable iron club was designed by J.C. Lamb in 1910. The back of the club’s blade has the following information: ‘Lamb Loanhead’ ‘Patent Applied For’ and the top of the shaft is stamped ‘J.C. Lamb’. There are four parts to this adjustable club. The blade with its dotted line face markings was made in rustless steel; the hosel, in rustless iron, created a two coloured golf head; a nut with interlocking teeth and a threaded stem and, fourthly, a piece of steel welded in four places onto the end of the blade adjacent to the hosel.

By loosening the circular nut the blade was freed up so that various degrees of loft could be attained from a putter to a very lofted iron. Jeffery Ellis, the leading expert in such clubs, conjectured in his book The Clubmaker’s Art that the word ‘Loanhead’ could have had two meanings. Either it was a reference to the small town of Loanhead in Midlothian, Scotland; or secondly, using a play on words in the context of adjustable clubs it could mean lone as in ‘one’ – i.e. that just the one club was needed!

One of several criticisms leveled at Lamb’s club was that it didn’t make for good ball striking. It didn’t actually sit well on the ground and the very long blade was too flat across the sole, heel to toe. Added to this was that the base of the hosel was too low to the ground. Consequently, when striking the ball, the golfer found that the club turned in his hands with often disastrous consequences.

Adjustable clubs enjoyed a resurgence in the 1920s and were even made as recently as the 1950s, until eventually they were deemed illegal to use by the R & A.

VALUE Sotheby’s in New York sold a similar club in 2007. Estimated at £1,050 the catalogue stated that, ‘only one other example of Lamb’s club is known...’ It sold for just over £1,500 which included a 20% buyer’s premium. Even though demand for patented clubs has fallen away in recent years, its great rarity should see the auctioneer’s hammer fall at the £1,000 mark.

OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP BAG TAGS

Any value in these four large white plastic Open Championship bag tags, three of which are circular in design and one is rectangular?
Mary Moore, London

This collection of Open Championship bag tags would attract  £100 at auction

Two were used in the 1965 and 1970 Opens at St Andrews and two were used in the 1971 and 1983 Opens played at Royal Birkdale. They were (are) an invaluable form of identification to assist the security staff at the relevant Open.

Until recently such items were very much disposable attracting little or no value. The bag tag would stay on the tour players golf bag until it was replaced at the end of the season and there would be few players or caddies really interested in removing the tag for posterity.

Today there is an active group of collectors interested in all things associated with the Open Championship and they would be keen to marry up, for example, their 1965 programme or blue and silver player’s badge with this 1965 Royal Birkdale Open Championship bag tag.

In the 1990s the R & A revamped and upgraded their Open bag tags for all competitors so that they were made from a leatherette material with a blue plastic insert to add the name of the player.

VALUE: Surprisingly, such a grouping would sell for £100 at auction.

Our reader's happy but inexpensive example of a Wade ceramic

CHINA FIGURE

I found this china golfer figure in a charity shop. It cost me 10 pence. Its head is a removable cork stopper. Could you identify and value it for me?
Alexander Taylor, Thame, Oxfordshire

Although it does not have a back stamp or trademark that identifies the series/range or the company that produced the piece, it does have a four digit number ‘3842’.

My feeling is that it is a Wade product. Wade started in the 1800s and during the late 19th and early 20th century became a prolific producer of decorative ceramics, many of which were inexpensive.

Our reader’s golfer measures 7½ inches high and, yes, its head can be removed. Wade made and continues to make a series of ceramic decanters and it is likely that when new in the 1960s it contained whisky or similar spirit, hence the cork stopper in the form of his head.

VALUE: Not very commercial because of its looks, colouring and materials used, but even so a good buy at 10p! £30 should buy you one at an antiques centre.

MASTERS INVITATIONS

These Masters invitations, 1953 and 1962, were found folded flat within the pages of a book called “Golf is My Game” written by Bobby Jones. I thought initially that they were copies, but now think they might be the real thing. Can I have your view and, if possible, a current valuation?
Bob Readman, West Bournemouth, Dorset

Anything Masters related is highly collectible. These invites would attract considerable attention, and sell for at least £500 each

Augusta National played host to its first invitational tournament in 1934, and the Masters remains the only one of golf’s four major championships to return to the same venue year after year.

Surely the most coveted invitation in golf, the simple white card measures just over 5 x 7 inches and, more often than not, they were folded over to slide into the envelope. They are wonderfully understated, being printed in black on a raised panel on white paper, one side only, and featuring the iconic Masters emblem, with the R.S.V.P to Robert Tyre Jones and the Board of Governors.

As with player’s badges for the other three majors, serious collectors are obsessed with finding out who may have worn the badge or, as in the case of these examples, who received the invitations.

They could check who played in both 1953 and 1962 to see if there was a name common to both tournaments.

A couple of notable facts about the 1962 tournament. The Masters saw a ‘first’ – an 18 hole three-man playoff which was won by Arnold Palmer (shooting a 68 to claim his third Masters victory (which tied Sam Snead and Jimmy Demaret for the (then) record of most wins at Augusta – a record Palmer would break with victory No.4 in 1964). Making his debut in 1962 was a young golfer by the name of Jack William Nicklaus playing for the first time as a professional. The man who would go on to win a record six green jackets tied for 15th.

VALUE: Masters invitations do not come to auction very often. In fact, in my 10 years with Bonhams I have yet to see one! So revered is the annual Masters tournament all memorabilia is keenly sought. I noted recently that a golf memorabilia dealer was selling a 1952 invitation with an asking price of £1,300. It didn’t sell, so bearing that in mind I would conservatively estimate the value of the 1953 invitation at £600 and the 1962 one at £500.

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

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