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More cash in the attic

Auction room expert Kevin McGimpsey shares six readers letters that have caught his eye...

I found this tin and ball recently during a house clearance in the garden shed – can you provide a valuation? Steve Bailey (Isle of Wight), via e-mail

Many of you will be surprised to read that this small tin of JM paint measuring only 1½ inches tall is worth over £120. It was made at the turn of the 20th Century by the Jim Mathers & Company based in Montrose, Scotland. Very few examples have survived. In fact this is the first one I have seen. Even In the late 1890s, with new golf balls being so expensive, it was common practice to repaint a ball in an attempt to get it back to a degree of newness. Golfers were instructed to apply the paint to their fingers and to apply the paint to the ball by rubbing it within a cupped hand; several thin coats were better than one thick coat. After the paint application the ball had to be allowed to dry to a rock-hard finish.

The Silver King golf ball probably measures 1.62 inches in diameter and was made during the 1920s and 1930s by the Silvertown Company. By showing the ball beside the tin, our reader has aptly shown how small the tin is.

VALUE: As with most collectibles, rarity and condition are important factors. This tin has a relatively clean lid but there are a couple of old paint drips and these will adversely affect its realised price at auction. Even so the tin could most likely be positioned to minimize seeing the drips. At auction certainly between £100 and £150. The ball, which appears to be in mint unused condition, would fetch a further £40.

I have been told that my granny kept her biscuits in this tin. Is it of any value? Alison Mitchell, Hoylake

This is a fine example of an early litho-printed MacFarlane Lang & Company biscuit tin modelled as a golf bag and featuring an Edwardian dressed golfer and lady golfer. The lid features the golf club heads. The tin measures 12 inches. Although this tin dates to around 1910-1920, later MacFarlane Lang & Co obtained a Royal warrant and were allowed to advertise that they made, 'Biscuits for his Majesty King George V'.

VALUE: This is a very desirable antique and would be keenly sought after, not only by golf collectors but even more so by biscuit tin collectors, of which there are plenty. (Professional golfer, Mark Roe, would slot into either category!) I have only seen two such examples come to auction in recent times. This year Bonhams sold one for nearly £700. Bonhams this year also sold a William Crawford & Sons biscuit tin that was in the shape of a car; it came complete with its original box and, believe it or not its 80 year contents! The price was £13,000.

This 1916 Life Association of Scotland calendar has been our pride and joy for many years. It measures 20 x 23 inches. What, please, can you tell me about it? Ricky Monks, Luton

Well, I can tell you that the artist was James Michael Brown, who was born in Scotland in 1853, the son of a Fife engraver. He exhibited at the R&A between 1890 and 1900 and the R.S.A. between 1879 and 1897. He died aged 94 in 1947. The featured golfing scene is at Walton Heath and shows Lloyd George (Minister of Munitions and later Prime Minister) completing his drive accompanied by James Braid, Herbert Fowler and Lord Riddell.

In 1838 the Life Association of Scotland was established in Edinburgh. It later formed the Insurance and Banking Golf Club that then became the Duddingston Golf Club. In 1898, to mark the opening of the extended Club House, Brown was commissioned to paint a scene from an exhibition golf match at the Club. Brown's painting was then printed as the centre piece of the 1899 Life Association of Scotland calendar. The calendar which was printed in two blocks of 1899 dates along with various banking and monetary statistics was stuck to a board.

The calendar was voted a great marketing and advertising success. The Life Association of Scotland board justified the expense by stating 'it must surely be the aim and desire of a Life Assurance Association to prolong the lives of those who take out policies with them and what sport is there that can compare with golf as a cure for all the ills that flesh is heir to...' Brown was commissioned to paint a golfing picture annually for the Life Association (1893-1916). Prints were made of the originals and glued to the cardboard calendar for each year. Brown painted 26 pictures for the Life Association and these all adorned the walls of the Edinburgh head office for many years.

Most of his artwork was painted in watercolour and pencil en grisaille – a technique of painting in various shades of grey washes that produced a clarity that at first glance resembled a photograph. Brown often had the famous golfers of the time sit for him whilst at competitions and he used these studies to help him latter reproduce the accurate likenesses of the players in his paintings.

VALUE: There can be three price points for any Michael Brown work. The originals, which have all come to auction during the last 20 years, fetch anywhere between £25,000 and £40,000 apiece. Next would be the prints still complete with their calendar board. Our reader's example should fetch £600-900 at auction. The third price point would be for just a print. It is known that each year there was a surplus of prints that were not glued to the calendar boards. These remain popular today with collectors, but they are relatively common and fetch at auction £100-150.

I recently came across these golf cards in an envelope that had belonged to my uncle. There are 25 cards in total. Are these worth keeping? Jack Hardy, Malaga, Spain

The good news is that one of most popular recent golf collecting themes has been that of ephemera in general and cigarette cards in particular, especially those issued prior to 1940. Historically, although some of the earliest golf cards were issued with other products, the majority of cards, issued between 1900 and 1940 came with cigarette products. Cigarettes were originally packed in the same manner as pipe chewing tobacco – i.e. in a fragile packet that was easily crushed. The insertion of a cardboard 'stiffener' led, in turn, to the printing of pictures, information and marketing opportunities on these cardboard inserts. These often visual and colourful cards were of an educational benefit but that wasn't why they were produced. The smokers and or their children found it great fun searching for the cards, especially the elusive ones and completing the set; the more they bought and smoked the better the chance of getting that elusive card. (No health warnings in those days!)

These cards proved so popular that the majority of British tobacco firms issued them. The best selling subjects were actresses and the military because then the vast majority of smokers were men. Sport was also popular, especially team sports such as football and cricket, whereas golf was very much a minority sport and a game for individuals.

Our reader's set of 25 'Golf' cards were issued in 1939 by John Player & Sons. They depict contemporary golfers executing various shots so they were basically instructional aides.

VALUE: This 'Golf' set is one of the easiest to find today. Condition as well as scarcity determines their value. It would appear that at one time our reader's set had been mounted before being framed. There are tell-tale signs of old glue marks on some of the cards and these sadly would reduce the overall value by 10%. Also some of the cards' corners are bent and again this would reduce the value by a further 10%. Even so at auction £100 for the set…

Norman Cooper, from Warrington, has written asking the value of his Weaver print of Jack Nicklaus playing at the Open in 1967 Open at Hoylake.

In my opinion Arthur Weaver is the best mid to late-20th Century golf artist. He was born in London in 1918 and was educated at the Hornsey School of Art (1934-1938). Upon his release from National Service in 1947 he moved to Wales and took up teaching art at Cardiff School of Art.

Weaver's forte is landscape work and his paintings have covered railways, oil wells, scenes in the cotton fields and of course the world's finest golf courses. Look closely at a Weaver and you can really imagine that you are playing that course. Weaver probably reached his zenith in the late 1960s and his original water colours and oils from that period are much-prized items today.

Our reader's painting is titled 'The Master Stroke' and has Jack Nicklaus driving at the Punch Bowl, the 9th hole at Royal Liverpool. It is a very pleasing sight, the sun shining, the blue sky, the wispy clouds and the powerful unmistakable Nicklaus swing. Weaver painted it in 1969. His publishers, Frost & Reed, then produced the print. I don't know if it was a limited edition because the prints were not numbered. However each print is signed in pencil by Weaver and he has drawn in pencil in the margin a Remarque which in this case is of a golfer in a visor which makes each print unique and more valuable.

VALUE: One problem with hanging art whether it is original or prints is the ever decreasing amount of wall space available; our homes are generally getting smaller. A few years ago this print would have fetched over £120 at auction. Today I fear it would be more like £80.

I picked these sand moulds up very cheaply recently at a local car boot fair and would appreciate an up to date valuation. Tom Lennon, Oxford

Before the advent of tees, the early golfers had to craft a mound from the dampened sand found in a box near to the teeing area. The ball would be perched on top of this sand mound ready to be swept off by the wooden driving club. (Of course, it usually fell to the caddie to make the mound.)

The first major development was the invention of metal tee moulds. These were designed to quickly and simply make a uniformly shaped and sized sand mound. For example the Ransome brass 'Double Golf Tee Stamp' of 1900 afforded the golfer two choices of teeing heights (for either woods or irons) by using either end of the mould.

Later these moulds became more sophisticated with springs and plungers. Although brass was the more popular medium, our reader's British Douglas Sand Tee Gun with is cylindrical plunger was made of stainless steel. Sand was pushed into the mould and when the spring loaded top was depressed it ejected a perfectly formed sand tee…'any caddie can use it…makes perfect moulds…always same height…thus ensuring consistent driving.'

The other one is an American made 'K-D' tee 'mold' and dates to the 1920s. It was made from polished aluminium and its makers advertised that 'you can make ten million tees of absolutely uniform height quicker and neater by hand.'

VALUE: Both tee moulds are collectible. At auction the stainless steel Douglas would fetch £150 and the alloy K-D £100.

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

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