Roll up to any antiques store and there are a few collectibles you're sure to find: postcards, dishware, and antique golf clubs. These light-as-a-feather golf clubs hardly resemble the complex configurations of clubs today. And antique golf club values depend on supply and demand, just like most niche collectibles, meaning that only a few of them are really worth displaying. Learn more about the clubs that made the game popular and when they're worth holding onto.
Antique and Vintage Golf Clubs: Common vs. Rare
With collectible antique golf clubs, it's estimated that fewer than 5% of all old clubs with wooden shafts have collectible value beyond being decorative or looking cool on the course. Most vintage or antique clubs you find at yard sales or online are common golf clubs with very little value.
However, there are rare cases where antique and vintage golf clubs can rack up a serious price tag.
|Most Expensive Antique & Vintage Golf Clubs||Recent Sales Price|
|Long-nose putter designed by Andrew Dickson circa 1750s||$181,000|
|Simon Cossar putter circa 1780s||$165,000|
|Square-toe light iron circa 1600s||$151,000|
|Long-nosed scraper circa 1750s||$91,000|
Common Vintage Golf Clubs
Common vintage golf clubs in today's market are worth $10-$20. The same club 10-15 years ago would have been worth $40-$50. The demand was much higher back then, especially with foreign buyers. The internet has flooded marketplaces with antique golf clubs, and so demand has steadily decreased over the last decade.
Serious collectors and antique dealers have no interest in common vintage golf clubs. They're only interested in rare and hard-to-find clubs. During the early to mid 1900s, inexpensive golf clubs were mass produced by companies like Wilson, Spalding, Burke, MacGregor, Kroydon, and more.
If you're not sure whether your grandfather's old set of clubs is of the more common variety, check them for these criteria that indicate they aren't all that rare:
- Aluminum caps on the end of the handles
- Nickel, chromed, or stainless steel heads
- Dots, lines, hyphens, or other face scorings
- Stamps on the back for yard ranges
- Phrases on the back such as accurate, superior, aim-rite, and other common sounding names
Rare Golf Clubs
Rare antique and vintage golf clubs have uncommon patents or features and were made in limited quantities that set them apart from the mass-produced common clubs. Many feature wooden shafts and were made during the 16th-18th centuries.
Rare golf clubs that are worth collecting will have these features:
- Unique head shapes and wood heads
- Unmarked faces or unusual markings
- Unusual patented features for players' improvements
- Thick-necked wood clubs covered with several inches of string whipping
- Smooth face irons made by golf club makers such as Army & Navy, Dunn, Forgan, Gray, White, Carrick and Anderson
- Deep groove wood shaft clubs called rakes or waterfalls
How Much Are Antique Golf Clubs Worth?
Generally, antique and vintage golf clubs aren't worth more than being a battering tool to keep by your beside to ward off intruders. However, there are a few rare, usually quite old, clubs that make a stir at auction.
In 2007, a massive collection of these highly valuable clubs from the Jeffery B. Ellis collection were sold through a Sotheby's auction. Golf Digest reported on the results of the auction, where some record-breaking sales were made. The most expensive club in the lot was a long-nose putter made by Andrew Dickson, one of the first caddies and a club maker in 16th century England. It sold for $181,000. Other notable clubs included the square-toe light iron that sold for $161,000 and the long-nosed scraper that sold for $91,000.
Another significant club was designed by the Cossar Club Company in the late 16th century. It was a fruitwood metal-headed putter that reportedly sold for $165,000, though the auction records are no longer available.
If you don't live in the British Isles where golf got its start a few centuries ago, then you'll have to settle for finding less significant clubs. However, if you can find a vintage club that was signed by a famous player or one that was made by a luxury company, then you could be looking at sales prices around $1,000. For example, this vintage club with Sam Snead's certified autograph on the shaft recently sold for $1,300 on LiveAuctioneers.
How to Figure Out if Your Antique Golf Club Is Value
Most individual clubs sell for between $15 and $100 at auction or in resale shops. The key to knowing whether you have a valuable antique is researching and carefully assessing your club.
Compare With Recently Sold Clubs
Once you know what kind of club you have and what its condition is, you can compare it to clubs that've sold recently. Don't look at clubs that are still for sale, as the sale price may not reflect what someone would actually pay. Instead, look for sales that have already ended.
Research the Clubs in Books
If you're inexperienced at buying or selling antique golf clubs, there are resources available that can help you determine their value. Books on the subject that can help include the following.
- Antique Golf Collectibles: A Price and Reference Guide by Chuck Furjanic - This is an older book, but it has excellent descriptions of the various types of clubs and how factors affect the value.
- Antique Golf Collectibles Identification & Value Guide by Peter Georgiady - This highly visual book features photos of hundreds of clubs, making it easy to identify what you have and get a sense of its value.
- The Vintage Era of Golf Club Collectibles: Identification & Value Guide by Ronald John - This book has a specific focus on the vintage clubs of the 1920s through 1940s. If you own a club from this era, it's a great resource.
Research Antique Golf Clubs Online
Collectors' websites are also good resources for antique golf clubs and memorabilia. Consider checking out these sites to learn more about the tools that made the game possible.
- Timewarp Golf - This site's operated by golf club enthusiast, Gavin Bottrell, who collects, deals, and plays with antique hickory golf clubs. You can research and buy clubs here, and even look into refurbishing services including re-gripping, re-shafting, and re-whipping.
- The Golf Heritage Society - Offering tips for collectors and information about value and history, The Golf Heritage Society is a good place to get some background about your clubs.
Go From on the Green to Having Green in Your Pocket
If you happen to score a great club at a flea market or inherit a set of antique golf clubs from a grandparent, chances are they're probably worth more in sentimental value than in the monetary kind. However, there's still a small chance you may be lucky enough to have gotten a set of rare vintage golf clubs that avid golf collectors dream of getting their hands on. So, use these tips to help you hunt down the valuable ones.