Sports collectibles


Hunting out old sports equipment, trophies and memorabilia can be just as much fun as the sport itself- and far less taxing. But many collectors also play.

ITEMS to collect with a sporting connec­tion divide readily into several main categories: historic equipment that charts the development of the sport; memorabilia associated with a sport - from souvenir pamphlets to trophies and books; paintings and prints of famous sportsmen and renowned venues; and miniature indoor versions of various sports invented by the Victorians.

Anything that belonged to a leading sports- person will fetch a high price, especially if accompanied by some proof of provenance. Medals, trophies, statues of sporting heroes, household objects decorated to celebrate great victories, calendars, posters and books- all have been produced in their millions, and I give an opportunity for collectors on a more I modest budget to enter the field.
In general, sports that have been the most expensive to equip orare among the most coveted items, and even rather poor-quality examples can fetch as much or more than better-quality material in the form of pictures, photographs or books. Little equipment has survived from before 1800, and when it does appear a club, say, may fetch as much as £40,000. The earliest woods and unique patent clubs dating from the late 1880s to the 1920s can fetch £100 -£5000.

One of the most important milestones in golf was the introduction of the gutta-percha ball around 1848. The previous feathery balls were expensive and easily destroyed; they sell today for £15oo-£13,000 each. The gutta­percha ball, superseded by the rubber-cored ball in 1902, has become a collector's item in its own right, and a hand-hammered example can sell at auction for as much as £1000. take part in - such as golf-have become the most collectable.

sports collectibles GOLFING

GOLFING ITEMS ! Golt is by far the most expensive sporting field in which to collect, partly because of its massive international following. Early equip­ment was expensive even when it was made in the 19th century, and is far more so now. Balls, clubs, carrying tools and learning aids A perennially popular subject for paintings has been Tom Morris, four times British open champion, greenkeeper and professional player at Scotland's St Andrews golf course in the 19th century. Among paintings of golfing scenes and sportsmen, the most sought after are those by the British naive painters Francis Powell Hopkins and Thomas Hodge, whose paintings fetch £ 1000-£ 10,000.

Other items sought by golfing enthusiasts include pottery and porcelain cups, ashtrays and other mementos decorated with golfing subjects. Such wares were produced by all major manufacturers between 1890 and 1935. Larger trophy pieces were sometimes given as prizes, and these can fetch up to £4000 at auction. Collectable silver objects include vesta (match) cases, hatpins, manicure sets, brooches, charms, scorecards and walking sticks - all decorated with a golfing theme and all able to fetch significantly more than conventionally decorated equivalents.

sports collectibles CRICKET

The autographed cricket bat is a relatively modern idea (but one that will become collectable in the future), so photographs and scrapbooks dating from the early test matches in the late 19th century are among the most prized of cricket collectables.
Anything associated with W.G. Grace - widely considered the greatest cricketer in the history of the sport - is sought after. Prints, caricatures, paintings, photographic portraits and biographies were produced in their thou­sands, along with Staffordshire pottery figures which sell for £200-£400, and small parian porcelain busts for £6oo-£8oo.


Collectors also covet books and early magazines, especially copies of the fact-filled Wisden Cricketers' Almanack (first published in 18A4), scorecards, silver-mounted com­memorative cricket balls, medals and Mary- lebone Cricket Club (MCC) memorabilia.

Collectable silver and ceramic objects related to cricket span much the same range as those for golf, and include desk and table accessories, trophies. Doulton made a series of ctyramic character jugs, mugs, cups and vases on cricketing themes, all highly collectable and now fetching £50-! 1000.

SPORTS collectibles FISHING

It is angling equipment rather than other fishing collectable that are most sought after today. Hardy Brothers of Alnwick in Northumberland have been the leading makers of reels since the last century, and their 'Perfect' range, introduced in 1891, is one of the most collected.

Other reels that are much sought after include: the earliest freshwater types; early sea-fishing reels - few of which have survived in good condition because of saltwater corro­sion; and models that were produced in limited numbers, which are among the most expensive and elusive today - for example, a Cascapaedia reel which sold in 1990 for £6000. The most sought-after makers, apart from Hardy, are Farlow, Walker Bampton, Braddell & Son and Allcock.

Vintage artificial flies and fly-tying gadgets, novelty nets, hook-removing devices, rods, chairs, weighing scales, fish-carrying creels, tackle boxes, floats and lures are all collected, as are books on angling. So too are angling trophies, best known in the form of stuffed record-breaking fish in a glass case; these fetch £100-£1000. Decorative trophies that display minutely detailed carved fish can sell for as much as £1200-£1500. FOOTBALL Despite football's vast popularity, its memorabilia is still affordable, perhaps because there is so much of it. The cult of personality plays a large part, and collectors delight in ferreting out details of the life and scoring history of popular players.

Little vintage equipment has sur­vived. The items easiest to find are programmes, magazines, trophies, photographs, caps and medals. Pot­tery figures of 'Wee McGregor', in various Scottish club colours, sell for anything from £150, depending on the club celebrated. Medals vary in value, in value, depending on material, date and winner, from £10 up to several thousand pounds. International caps, and less frequently football jerseys, usually sell for over £ i oo with up to £300 paid for early caps.



Early rackets used for 'real' (or royal) tennis - the first racket sport - squash, badminton, ping-pong, the miniaturised Victorian game 'Gossima' and lawn tennis are all collectable. Few tennis rackets survive from the earliest days of the sport - in the last quarter of the 19th century - and those first steam-hent models were replaced by the laminated type in the 1930s. Before then, rackets tended to he lopsided and strung with heavy black gut, and those that appear on the market today sell at auction for as much as£200-£400.

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