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In our very own version of the Antiques Roadshow, Kevin McGimpsey identifies, dates and values another mixed bag of your golfing ephemera, kicking off with this rather splendid golf ball press...

EARLY GOLF BALL PRESS

We always thought that our door-stop was something to do with cheese making. A golfing chum tells us that instead it is actually a 19th century golf ball press and – better still – might be of value. Can you help? Andy Spicier, Tidworth Hants

Your friend is quite right; this is a terrific example of an antique iron golf ball press, circa 1890, and would have been used to make golf balls in the Gutty Ball era (1850- 1903). They normally stand 12 inches high and – as you well know – weigh a ton! During this period golf ball makers used brass or steel moulds in which to form the hot gutta-percha (a rubber material). These hemispherical moulds were brought together and then compressed by this type of vice; the plunger at the end of the screw would be forced upon the top mould and the base of the press would keep the bottom mould in place. The press would then hold the mould for up to 48 hours. There are mounting holes visible on either side of the press to fix it to the work bench. When the pressure was released the moulds produced a truly round gutta-percha golf ball.

Ball presses were made by a number of British engineering firms such as John Grieg & Sons in Scotland and W. Hurst & Co., of Rochdale, Lancashire.

VALUE: When offered such an example to purchase be sure to check the base and bolt holes for cracks and defects. A key checkpoint: how well does the screw mechanism work and when wound up to its maximum what space does it leave? This is an important consideration because this space determines the size of the mould that can be used. If it is only, for example, a 1½ inch space then obviously a 2 inch mould won’t fit. This affects its use and value, because today there are several cottage-style industries that produce authentic gutta-percha golf balls to be played with in Hickory Tournaments. These producers need working presses and have helped maintain their value. At auction our reader’s press in a clean condition in working order should fetch between £800 and 1,200.

AUTOMATON CADDIE

My father was a golf professional and he owned this carry bag. What can you tell me about it and its current value, if any? Gordon Littlechild, Mildenhall, Suffolk

This is a really nice example of an early type of golf bag and dates to around 1900. Until the explosion in the popularity of golf during the 1880 no well-to-do player would have gone onto the links without a caddie to carry his seven or so clubs as a bundle under his arms. A major development was the introduction of canvas carrying bags in the 1890s that made it easier for the caddies; soon the number of golfers outnumbered the number of caddies. A compromise was needed to replace the human caddie.

In 1893, J. Osmond an ‘Inventor and Patentee’ based at the Thornhill Works in Lee in London patented his golf bag invention – the Osmond’s Patent Automaton Caddie. The word ‘Caddie’ in this context referred to the bag and not the person carrying it. It comprised a canvas bag attached to a wooden frame with wooden legs.

Our reader’s Automaton is unusual because it has a well crafted brass spring mechanism that is attached to metal legs, rather than wooden legs.

When released these legs extended to keep the bag and frame off the fairway. The legs opened out automatically when the lower end was placed on the ground, and folded up when it was lifted for carrying (a device that is still used today by many bag manufacturers and one that is often marketed as being a new invention).

The Automaton Caddie was carried by a two sturdy leather carrying handles and came with a leather and canvas club holder, a ball and tee holder and a brush. Fitted to the wooden frame is a brass plaque showing that it was manufactured by John Jacques & Son at 192 Hatton Garden, London EC; they were ‘Manufacturers of all Sports and Games’

VALUE: Automaton Caddies remain popular with golfing memorabilia collectors to hold and display their antique golf clubs. If offered one, please do check for damage especially if it has delicate moving legs and don’t forget the dreaded woodworm. Our reader’s Automaton Caddie appears to be in very good condition and because of the unusual metal legs should sell at auction for between £400 and £600.

GOLF CALENDAR

We discovered this Life Association of Scotland 1900 Calendar behind some cladding in our cellar. It is in remarkable condition. In all, it measures 9¼ x 11¾ inches. Is it worth anything? D. Jenkins, Dublin, Ireland via email

The featured golfing scene in the black and white print is of the ‘Match at Byfleet, Mr. Horace G. Hutchinson & Mr. S. Mure Ferguson 24th April 1899’. The artist is 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. It was an obvious marketing and advertising ploy to combine the Scottish game of golf with a Scottish insurance company and these calendars became must-have gifts at Christmas time.

The Life Association of Scotland was established in Edinburgh in 1838. 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, the artist M.D. Brown was commissioned to paint a scene from an exhibition golf match at the Club. Brown’s painting was then printed as the centrepiece of the 1899 Life Association of Scotland calendar. The calendar was voted a great 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.

VALUE: There are usually three price points for any Michael Brown work. The originals – most of which have come to auction during the last 25 years – fetch anywhere between £25,000 and £50,000 a piece. The second price point would be the prints still complete on their calendar boards. 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 worth £100. Our reader’s example is a little unusual because it is half the normal size and as such is quite rare. Normally Life Association of Scotland calendars fetch between £400-600, depending on the theme of the print and its condition. At auction, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this small-sized 1900 calendar fetched between £500 and £800.

‘THE LINK’ GOLF BALL

My aunt has owned this golf ball ‘forever’; she now would like to know its worth? Robert Whiffin, Hook, Hants

As can be seen in the photograph the golf ball is called The Link. It is a rubber-cored golf ball made in Helsby in Cheshire by the Telegraph Manufacturing Company in 1913. What makes it unusual is its cover pattern of graduated tiers of linked raised circles. Telegraph Manufacturing marketed their new ball as being ‘the non-skid ball’ with a retail price of 2/0d (10p). Golf Illustrated reviewed the ball thus in their 16 May 1913 issue: “The ‘Link’ between the Bramble and the Dimple is found in the Helsby Cables new ball, the Link with unique markings; a combination of the Dimple and the Bramble lifts it above all the other golf balls for all round excellence.”

VALUE: Our reader’s example appears to be in near mint condition and it certainly hasn’t been played with, thus no off-putting strike marks. It is a very collectible and commercial item and at auction I would expect it to fly out at £500.

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

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