Vintage Golf Clubs Brands: Storing Value and How to Identify Antiques

Scotland is credited with being the country with the first vintage golf club brands. Several years later, a lot of brands sprung up in the United States and elsewhere. From Ben Hogan to McGregor to Tom Stewart and St Andrews Co; many of these brands have passed on while others have found a way to remain on the scene.

These brands produced excellent clubs, which were once played by some of the best players the world has seen. In this article, the research team at Tell Me More Golf brings you what remains of these golf collectibles and whether they’re worth a dime in modern times.

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Table of Contents

Vintage Golf Clubs Value: A Short Guide

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It’s fun to have an old set of collectible golf clubs that you can take out and play with occasionally. It’s obvious that a lot of golfers in the golf community are always looking to buy new golf gear. Why not, newer golf clubs are often equipped with new technology, some of which can be game changing. On the other hand, quite a few golfers prefer to stick with older golf clubs for one reason or the other. 

Some aren’t just interested in the fun that comes with playing them alone. But also the build quality, craftsmanship, handwork, and the difference they possess to the modern-day drivers. What may have kept many people back, especially beginners, is the difficulty of hitting those classics like the persimmon driver. Early golf clubs were created out of hickory and wood shafts, lacking special design or shape, because they’re often hand-crafted by players themselves. But these clubs were created with love, passion and dedication. 

If you scour through the flea markets and garage sales, you’re likely to come in contact with these old clubs. Why you may likely not find a gem there, it’s interesting what you can find there as well as sites like eBay.

Evaluating Value of Old Hickory Shaft Clubs

The major determining factor in the price of a wooden antique golf club is scarcity. Hickory shaft clubs are very rare, even though thousands of them were made at the time. The rarer the club, the more value it carries. The more the value, the higher the price. Quality, originality, history, limited production, etc., are other things that can add to the value. Clubs that are made in limited quantities are often worth more in most cases, but not always. Even though Burke, Wilson, Spalding, MacGregor, Kroydon, etc., were the leading brands then, a lot of lower quality of these were made then. Here is a simple guideline on clubs that hold more value: 

  • Putters that have woody heads.
  • Golf irons with oddly shaped heads.
  • Any of MacGregor, Park, Army & Navy, Gibson, Carrick, Anderson, Morris, etc., on smooth-faced irons.
  • Original shaft, grip, condition, and everything in between.
  • Irons that are associated with famous players like Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Sam Smith, etc. 

There are quite a number of golf collectibles that wouldn’t fetch a lot. These are often common and don’t hold more than playable or decorative value. Clubs that have chrome/stainless steel or nickel heads, dots/lines on the face scoring, back stamps, or handles with aluminum caps, are mass-produced by brands like Wilson, Spalding, etc., and are not hard to find. This way, they might not be worth more than $50.

Valuing Your Old Golf Clubs

To be able to value your vintage club, the shaft must be made of real wood. Back then, a lot of manufacturers created their shaft out of metal but covered it in wood grain finish. Unless you scratch the surface, it may look like wood to you. Many factors such as time period, size, etc., affect the price of vintage golf clubs. If you follow the guide above, you should be able to determine your club’s worth.

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What Are The Most Valuable Vintage Golf Clubs?

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The key to the value of vintage golf clubs is the supply and demand. Certain models are highly sought after, so they may be more expensive than others. They’re not only valuable but are also playable. And the right collector will drop a decent price for a club that’s in decent condition with all the right features. There are still many golf enthusiasts who would pick up, deal, and even play hickory golf clubs. And if you’ve got one of the rarest ones, then maybe you’re onto something. For inspiration, here are the most valuable vintage golf clubs: 

  • Long Nosed Scraped Golf Club: this vintage club was sold at a Sotheby’s auction in 2007 for $91,000
  • Square Toe Light Iron Golf Club: this club was auctioned at the Sotheby’s 2007 auction for $151,000
  • Andrew Dickson Long-Nosed Putter: this club was equally sold at a Sotheby’s auction in 2007 for $181,000
  • Simon Cossar Fruitwood Blade Putter: this was sold in 1998 at a Christie’s auction for a whopping $165,000, making it one of the most expensive clubs ever sold
  • Spalding & Brothers Palmer Fork Shaft Wood: it was sold out of a Jeffery B. Ellis golf club collection in 2007 at the Sotheby’s auction for $49,000

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How to Identify Valuable Antique Golf Putters

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When looking at antique putters, you have to look at the history, rarity, and the person who made the putter. 

Rarity

Some of the rarest putters were produced around the 1920s. At the time, there was no standardization in club design, which means a lot of weird, interesting, but surely wonderful clubs were invented. Some with moveable heads, others have multiple striking faces.

These unique qualities add to their value. Because these were produced in limited quantities, they were attractive to collectors who knew only a few others would have possession of them. After they were outlawed, there was so much shortage of these putters that they became highly valuable and sought after.

History

As a rule of thumb, the older the putter is, the more valuable it is as long as it’s in a good condition. Some of the most prized putters were produced around the late 1860s. Some older putters, of the 1700s, are also valuable.

Jimmy Patino is known to be the holder of the rarest putter in existence, the Royal Perth Putter. This was said to be made around the late 1790s. It was sold at a 2013 auction for $55,000.

Club Maker

It’s well-known that the earliest antique putters were handcrafted and produced in the first golf club workshops in Scotland. These putters are rare, but have imprints on them by the club maker, guiding to their ingenuity and value. These are the wonders that you won’t pick up at a yard sale.

Timeline on Vintage Golf Equipment

Vintage golf equipment are those clubs invented around the 15th century by primitive methods having handmade, custom/unique, and even unusual qualities. These often lack the sophistication of the modern clubs, coming from the Scottish Shepherds up to the 17th century. Most of these are mostly out of reach. Only a few from between the 17th to 18th centuries can be found in private collections, many others in museums. 

Standardization of golf clubs started in the late 1860s. Before then, club heads were made out of fruitwood with ash shafts. Later on, clubs like the McEwan golf clubs have their shafts made from hickory while the head is made of beech. Most of the earlier designs of golf equipment have a Scottish root. 

During the late 1880s, American golf club makers started springing up, with the likes of BGI, MacGregor, Spalding, and competing with Scottish manufacturers. By the 1900s, manufacturers had started experimenting with different designs on club faces. Some irons in the early 20th century have marked and unmarked faces. Steel shafts were also introduced during the 1929s. 

Taking the invention further, Karsten Solheim, founder of Ping introduced perimeter weighting in golf clubs. This was followed by metal wood in 1970, which was invented by the founder of TaylorMade, Gary Adams. This technological advancement paved the way for more experimentation in modern golf clubs.

Frequently Asked Questions: Antiques

Are any old golf clubs worth anything?

Why many older sets of clubs can be worth just a few dollars, others can be worth in the thousands. There are many features that can drum up the value of golf club memorabilia. Golf clubs closer to the 20th century, from a reputable club maker, and in good condition can easily be worth more than a few thousand dollars. The model, authenticity, condition, rarity, will also play into the value.

What is the oldest golf club brand?

There is a hot debate about the oldest golf club brand in the world. According to our research, Ben Sayers, a Scottish company is considered the oldest golf company. However, the brand has gone out of business and ceased operations. On the other hand, St Andrews Golf Co. (located in the same area as the great golfer, Tom Stewart), claims to be the oldest surviving golf club brand. Both are Scotland brands, which is home to other famous brands like George Nicoll and Tom Stewart. McGregor, a U.S. company, is considered the second oldest golf manufacturer in the world, but the oldest in the United States.

What are the most valuable golf clubs

Don’t be surprised to learn that some of the most valuable golf clubs come from lesser-known brands even though popular brands you know today like Titleist, TaylorMade, PING, Callaway made the list. 

Here are some of the most valuable golf clubs: 

  • Callaway Epik Forged Star Irons. This black steel finish club costs a whopping $2,599.99. At that price point, it’s for elite golfers. To adapt the club to a consistent launch and distance, Callaway took the core and shaped it with a suspended Tungsten. To maintain top speed and optimal distance, the body is carved from 1025 carbon steel, with an ultra-thin face to match. Optimal CG placement and lightweight construction also ensure lower spin and a faster swing.
  • Ichiro Honma Golf Commemorative Edition (Golf Set). A true definition of luxury, this Honma golf club is drenched in 24-karat gold and costs $3,634.17, more than most Callaway iron. This is a golf set, made out of dedicated graphite shafts that promote low weight and maximum flexibility. 
  • Bentley Golf Complete Set. This set will set you back $11,999.99 and comes with a Carbon steel/graphite finish. It includes 1 putter, 2 hybrids, 1 driver, 6 irons, 3 wedges, and 1 fairway wood, all stacked in high-premium mild carbon steel from Japan.  

There are certainly others. So, don’t be surprised if we come up with a comprehensive list later on!

Conclusion: Research by Tellmemoregolf.com

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Vintage golf clubs continue to find their way in the modern golf setting. Why not? Most of the newer designs and technologies we see on newer clubs were built on the foundations of old golf clubs much like how newer golf courses take their design cues from older ones. While some people think that they should be worth in the neighborhood of thousands of dollars, certain traits need to be present, without which they wouldn’t be worth much.

Finally, if you happen to have one that has all the important traits, and are interested in selling it, then you may be able to fetch a few thousands for it.

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