The value of antique golf clubs depends on supply and demand, just like all antique items. There is a significant difference in the value of antique clubs today than there was just ten years ago.
Common Golf Clubs vs. Rare Golf Clubs
When it comes to collectible antique golf clubs, it is estimated that fewer than 5% of all antique clubs with wooden shafts have collectible value beyond decorative or playable worth. The majority of the vintage or antique clubs that you will find at yard sales or on eBay are common golf clubs with very little value.
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 helped bring a flood of antique golf clubs to the market, where the demand has steadily decreased over the last decade. Serious collectors and antique dealers have no interest in common vintage golf clubs. They are only interested in the rare and hard-to-find golf clubs. During the early to mid 1900s, common, inexpensive golf clubs were mass produced by companies such as Wilson, Spalding, Burke, MacGregor, Kroydon and many more. Common golf clubs can be identified by these traits:
- 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 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. Many rare or hard-to-find golf clubs will have the following features:
- Unusual 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 to Find the Value of Antique Golf Clubs
According to GolfWeek, the most valuable antique golf clubs can sell for as much as $80,000 at auction. However, it's not at all common to see this type of 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 the condition is, you can compare it to clubs that have 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. For example, these are a few recent sales:
- A Maxwell club by D. Anderson with a wood shaft sold on eBay for about $56.
- A Robert Forgan Long Nose Driver, which was in excellent restored condition, sold for about $1,300.
- An antique Invincible Hillerich & Bradsby Co golf club in worn condition with a hickory shaft sold for about $17.
Research the Clubs in Books
If you are inexperienced at buying or selling antique golf clubs, there are resources available that can help you determine the value of antique golf clubs you may have or are thinking about buying. Books on the subject that may help include:
- 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 for 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
Another great resource for antique golf clubs and memorabilia are the websites of enthusiasts and collectors. Consider checking out these sites: Visit Bottrell's websites:
- Timewarp Golf - This site is 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, this site is a good place to get some background about your clubs.
- Collectors Weekly - This antique site offers a great history of golf clubs, including descriptions of some of the very oldest models out there.
Worth the Time to Find Out Value
If you should happen to score a great club at a flea market or inherit a set of antique golf clubs from your recently deceased grandfather, chances are they are probably worth more to you as items with sentimental value than they would be worth on eBay. However, there is still a small chance you may be lucky enough to have inherited a set of rare vintage golf clubs that avid collectors dream of getting their hands on. It may certainly be worth your time to find out.