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A mixed bag of golfing ephemora

Auction-room expert Kevin McGimpsey highlights four of the most unusual and highly collectible items to have caught his eye from your recent postings...


What can you tell me about this H. Vardon wooden club? Donald Carmen, Barnsley, Yorkshire

The reader’s ‘H. Vardon Special’ wooden driver dates to the very early 1900s and is known as a Bulger shaped club.

The development in wooden clubs came about in 1850 when golfers started to replace the softer feather ball with the newly invented gutty ball. These gutties tended to cause havoc with the played with elegant long-nosed clubs and breakages became more and more common.

The shape of the clubhead by necessity had to develop. By the 1880s, a new sturdier shape had evolved. Now known as 'transitional', the head was now quite a bit shorter than the earlier long nose heads but still retained the thicker neck and deeper face. These are very popular with newer collectors because although they resemble late long nose clubs they only cost a fraction the price of an earlier long-nose wood.

During the middle 1880’s there was a real explosion in the changing of the golf clubhead shape. The ‘Bulger’ with its round or convex face was found to produce a more accurate shot with less side spin through the interaction of a round ball with a round face. Together with a much more symmetrically round head and thick neck, this wood was far more robust and lasted much longer than its predecessors. Towards 1900 the Bulger became even more refined as the head became smaller and the neck slimmer.

Remarkably, this head shape stayed in vogue right up to the 1980's.

Our reader’s driver is a fine example of the Bulger. It has a pleasant light ‘blonde’ stained finish; this is valued by collectors because it is difficult to conceal damages, unlike dark stained finishes that can hide cracks and filler.

The Vardon stamp to the club’s crown making it a Vardon signature club ensures that it will be sought after by Harry Vardon collectors. The red fibre face insert was most likely added at a later stage, the face having been damaged in some way. It adds to the history of the club and is an attractive addition.

VALUE: This Vardon Special would be popular with Vardon collectors specifically and golf club collectors in general. At auction it would sell for at £150 to £200.


These 11 golf balls belonged to my father and have been stored in a cupboard for many years. How collectible are they and what value please? By email Clare Belton UK

These C.S.L. No.1 rubber-cored golf balls date to around 1905 and an established ball making company would have made them for the Army & Navy. In 1895 the Army & Navy Co-operative Society was formed at 105, Victoria Street, Westminster, London with membership initially restricted to officers, non commissioned officers, their families and their friends. It became a large chain of retail shops offering all sorts of items from sports ware to wallpaper. It had extensive distribution throughout the British Empire and our reader’s box of golf balls could easily have been ‘found’ overseas in a country where golf was played by ex-pats such as India. The C.S.L. on the ball is the abbreviation for ‘Co-op Society Ltd’

It is rare to find such early golf balls complete with their paper sack or bag packaging. This wrapping provides interesting technical data on the ball such as their size, weight and characteristics; in this case they are so light in weight that they will float not only on the wind but also in water should they be hit into a water hazard. The cover pattern of a raised hexagon (6 sides) lozenge or shield within a sunken disc is most unusual. It would have come about by turn of the century golf ball designers searching for an aerodynamically perfect surface; they couldn’t use at that time the dimple pattern of round sunken discs because that pattern had been patented by Spalding.

Our reader also asked that if she was to find the 12th ball, would I recommend that that they are sold as a complete box of 12 or would they be broken up into single lots. To have the original 12 box and its 12 wrapped balls is a collector’s dream, the ultimate. But if it remains at 11 balls then yes they could be broken up.

She should also beware because such antique golf balls that are well over 100 years old are fragile and do not take it well if there are even moderate changes in room temperature; hair line cracks can appear in the surface and these can with time lead to the ball imploding. By being kept in a dark cupboard this has ensured that no damage has occurred, so far.

VALUE: I checked through auction records and noted that Sotheby’s in their 9 July 1999 golf sale, lot 308 was ‘An Army & Navy CSL No. 1 ball with hexagon within circle markings, in original wrapper’ that sold for £2,000. Since then half a dozen similar No.1 balls have come to auction and these have sold for between £600 and £800 each. Although the golf ball market remains buoyant, it is not as good as it was in 1999. In 2011, if sold at auction as a complete box of 12 balls, I would expect the auctioneer to estimate the lot at £3,000- 5,000. If they were to be sold as individual lots over say a year, to reduce flooding the market, I would expect them to fetch between £500 and £600 each, with a further £100 being added for the box.


I’ve been told that there is demand for 1920s player badges. What about this one please?
Greg Taylor by email USA

This plain metal badge or pin as it is called in the USA was made for the U.S.G.A. by the Whitehead & Hoag Company of Newark, makers of ‘Buttons, Badges, Novelties and Signs’. It is a player’s badge from the 26th US Open Championship played in 1922 at the Skokie Country Club, Glencoe, Illinois. Skokie was opened in 1897.

To be frank, contestant or player badges from the majors are relatively scarce – especially those dated pre the 1960s. Before it became known that there was a market for them most players threw these items away the day after the Championship. They had no intrinsic worth and if they were preserved it was because they stayed with the player’s family.

The red number ‘192’ on the badge was most likely the registered number of the contestant. Some collectors will go to great lengths to establish who the contestant was; association adds to the provenance of the badge and increases value. The 1922 US Open Champion was a 20 yearold Gene Sarazen who scored 72-73-75 to stand four strokes behind Bob Jones and Bill Mehlhorn going into the last round, then finished with a 68, including a birdie at the last hole, to win by a stroke with 288 – eight over par.

VALUE: A very rare item indeed and although there are some condition issues, bidding would start at £500 and should easily exceed £1,000.


This china jug has been in our family a very long time. I would like a value please.
Keith Butler, Loughborough, Leicestershire

Golf decorated ceramics remain popular and prices are holding up well. During the 19th century, which coincided with the explosion in golf, there was little activity by British ceramic makers until the 1880s when (some would say rather cynically) they literally hopped onto the golfing bandwagon! They began decorating their basic ceramic pieces such as tea services and other tableware with hand painted or applied transfers depicting Edwardian golfing scenes – typically male golfers dressed in red golfing jackets, plus fours, flat caps, tweeds, with young caddies holding a bundle of wooden shafted golf clubs under an arm. Golf was a new and upwardly moving sport and the ceramic producers saw a good opportunity to increase their sales, with little new investment.

One such manufacturer was McIntyre who began their business in 1860 in Burslem, Staffordshire. Although taken over by Moorcroft a major rival in the early 1900s they continued under the McIntyre name to produce golfing tableware until the late 1920s.

McIntyre made this jug with its ornate metal lid and handles and decorated with a male golfer dressed in red jacket and plus fours between the 1890s and early part of the 20th century. Similar ceramics were made in the USA but instead of using a base metal, they often enhanced their objects with real silver. Measuring just over 10 inches high, it would have been used to pour wine or similar liquid.

VALUE: At auction £350 to £500.

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine



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