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Junk or Jackpot?

Auction-room expert Kevin McGimpsey answers more of your letters and e-mails, this issue contemplating the provenance and value of a mixed bag of collectibles, including a rather handsome bronze of six-times Open champion Harry Vardon

VARDON BRONZE

My grandfather, John Dunne, MC, MSM won this bronze of Harry Vardon in 1925. We have been told that it is only one of three in this size (15 inches high on its plinth) with one having being given to the King. My grandfather, who was the Chairman and Managing Director of Benz Motors (England), did know Harry Vardon. Could we please have a current valuation? Roy Brocklebank by email

Collecting bronzes of famous amateur and professional golfers from the late 19th and early 20th Centuries such as John Ball and – as is the case here – Harry Vardon remains very popular.

The term ‘bronze’ is a generic term for a dark brown metal piece of sculpture or casting. The material used can only be bronze. Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin with some additional trace elements such as antimony. It has been the favoured medium for small scale sculpture for many centuries. Over the years a genuine bronze will develop an appealing sheen or finish, referred to as ‘patina’.

There are several factors to be considered when estimating this bronze’s value, not least the identity of the sculptor. And I’m happy to say that in this case all the boxes are ticked as Henry Alfred Pegram (1862- 1937) was a very highly regarded British sculptor. He became a member of the Art Workers’ Guild in 1890, an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1904 and a Royal Academician in 1922.

What of the subject matter? Well, Harry Vardon (1870-1937) won the Open on six occasions and of course made popular the ‘Vardon’ grip. Next, what of the company that actually cast the bronze statuette and how good was the casting? In this case it was cast by the Elkington Company of Birmingham; the detailing is superb and the quality is obvious. Is it an impressive looking piece? Yes, because it measures some 15 inches high on its plinth. [With statuettes, size does matter. For example Hal Ludlow’s (a contemporary of Pegram) Vardon bronze circa 1904 was cast in three sizes, 5, 10 and 24 inches and there are three distinct price points: the large size £10,000, the medium size £4,000 and the small size £2,000.] And, finally, what is the bronze’s background, heritage, history or provenance?

Well, all has been revealed in the owner’s letter above – this particularly piece was won in 1925 by a good golfer who actually knew Harry Vardon and the bronze has been in the family for generations.

VALUE: There should be a lot of interest in this rare bronze and I would expect it to sell at auction for between £2,000 and £3,000.

RYDER CUP SIGNED PHOTO

I recently came across this signed photograph of the 1997 Ryder Cup at Valderrama. May I have a value? B. Discombe, Honiton Devon

The first thing that strikes you in this photograph is just how young some of the players were in 1997. Look at this year’s captain Colin Montgomerie standing beside the current world number 3, Lee Westwood!

The autographs have all been written clearly with a black Sharpie pen. It would appear that your photograph is genuine and that it was signed under the careful eye of one of the Ryder Cup officials. Several dozen photographs may have been signed by the team in the days leading up to the match; each team member would have been given one and the others used for publicity at the time and for charity events afterwards. And a warning to any readers with a signed item of golfing memorabilia, please beware that ink will fade if exposed to direct sunlight. The 32nd Ryder Cup Matches were held at the Valderrama Golf Club in southern Spain; it was the first time that the event had been contested in continental Europe. It was also fitting that Seve Ballesteros should be the European Captain in Spain. The European team that included two Spaniards won the competition by a margin of 14½ to 13½ and retained the Cup.

VALUE: This item has all the attributes to make it very collectible and will be of interest to Ryder Cup aficionados, autograph collectors, fans of Seve and may even be of interest to Valderrama Golf Club, which has a very good Ryder Cup display. At auction £200 to £300.

ASSORTMENT OF EARLY TEES

I recently bought these golf tees with some fishing equipment at a local sale. They haven’t cost me anything. Is there any value in them to golf enthusiasts? Peter Spicer Tarporley, Cheshire

This is a fine selection of golf tees, some of which were developed towards the end of the 19th Century. In the early days, to ‘tee’ the ball up, golfers would form a hand-made mound out of dampened sand. It usually fell to the caddie to carry a supply of sand and to make a small but crude tee mound. But help was on the way in the 1880s with tee development.

First off was a range of surface tee making devices types that formed a sand based conically- shaped mound. Some of these devices were quite unsophisticated but they were small, light to carry and served their purpose to a tee! Many were made from brass, some from aluminium; further design developments included a spring load mechanism that forced the sand out as a formed shape rather than having to tap-tap the sand out. I haven’t seen many wooden tee moulds and until now never one as our reader’s rare wooden plunger type.

In the mid 1890s golfers could buy packs of pre-formed tees made from heavy paper/ card – a flat piece of semi-circular card was formed as a cone, upon which to place the golf ball. Our reader’s St. Mungo ‘Colonel Blue Ring’ card tee was made in 1906 and would have come in a small round box, packed with 25 to a box. The white celluloid dome shaped tee, circa 1910, works in a similar manner and please note the early advertising opportunity!

Other examples of early tees here include a gutta-percha cone shaped tee attached to red tassel circa 1900; an early metal tee peg with attached lead weight and string and a red rubber Avon ‘Combination Tee’ with two formed heights for different tee shots, as made in 1910.

VALUE: Tees remain popular collectibles as they are easy to display and are generally not expensive, but prices are climbing: £100 for the wooden plunger tee; £50 for the Blue Ring card tee; £25 for the celluloid tee; the tees with tassels £20 each and £25 for the Avon tee.

COMMEMORATIVE PACK

In 2004, I received this Callaway Commemorative Arnold Palmer pack. Is this of any value today? G. Russell, Dorchester on Thames, Oxon

I understand that Callaway sent this boxed set to mark Arnold Palmer’s 50th appearance at the Masters as a promotional gift to the first 50 companies that registered at the new Callaway media website in April 2004 and our lucky reader was one of them.

A smart black and white windowed box contains a tin showing two images of Arnold Palmer and the famous Palmer umbrella logo, four Callaway golf balls (he certainly wasn’t playing with Callaway golf balls then) each one printed with ‘Masters Champion’ and with the date of each of his Masters’ wins, 1958, 1960, 1962 and 1964. There is also a bronze medallion featuring Arnold Palmer, a facsimile signature and the date of the 2004 Masters, April 8-11.

VALUE: This promotional is certainly a collectible for the future especially if it was strictly limited to 50. Even today it would be of interest to anyone in Arnie’s Army, an enthusiastic group of Arnold Palmer collectors. It would also be of interest to Master’s memorabilia collectors. At auction between £50 and £80.

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

MEMORABILIA FEATURES





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