Not long ago, old sporting equipment was relegated to the junk shop, but now you’re more likely to find it at top auction houses. It’s not just sports enthusiasts who collect – the fashion for traditional interiors have also boosted prices.
What to look out for
The most sought-after items relate to the most popular pastimes – hence golf, fishing, football, tennis, cricket, rugby, and even skiing memorabilia are keenly collected. Besides sports kit itself, collectable items also include trophies and ceramic and printed ephemera relating to sport.
Even if he or she never won a match with it, a famous owner can transform even a modern racket into a valuable collector’s item. Provenance is all-important. The Wilson racket at the top of the page is autographed by Jimmy Connors, who used it in the US Opens from 1979 to 1981. It comes with a letter of authenticity and should fetch in the region of £1,500 to £2,000.
Pre-19th century golfing collectables are extremely rare, which explains why this late 17th-century club made by a blacksmith reached a world record price of £92,000 when it was sold at auction a few years ago.
Early clubs had names rather than numbers (shown on the insert). These are drivers, and long-nosed spoons of varying sizes. They all date from about 1885 and vary in price from £1,500 to £3,500.
Price depends on rarity, age, quality and condition. Wood and iron clubs were made until the 1930s and can be bought for as little as £20 to £30.
- clubs marked by one of the great makers such as Auchterlonie, Andrew Forgan, Tom Morris or Hugh Philp
- feathery golf balls – made from hand-stitched leather stuffed with dampened goose down
- pottery commemorating golfing events or personalities, especially if made by leading factories such as Spode and Doulton
Early fishing reels were finely made from materials such as brass, ivorine and ebonite (simulated ebony). Marked ones are particularly desirable. Among the names to look out for are Hardy Bros of Alnwick, Charles Farlow, S Allcock and Alfred Illingworth.
These reels all date from the late 19th and early 20th century and their prices range from £150 to £2,000.
Fishing reels in mint condition are rare, but those with damaged or replaced parts, or their owner’s names scratched on them (unless famous), are best avoided.
Fishing trophies of the late 19th and early 20th century have lured many collectors in recent years. The most desirable fish are those in bow-fronted cases, such as this, which holds a bream caught in 1935 and is worth £700 to £900.