Even though it is seldom easy to precisely distinguish an antique golf club from one that is merely an old golf club, there are several hints that can at least help us as collectors of golf memorabilia, to date a vintage club with relative accuracy, helping us to determine, ultimately, a golf clubs value.
The following 5 point test, which is really a preliminary golf club appraisal, can offer some quick insight on the approximate age of golf golf collectibles. Determining the age, as you would imagine, is the natural first step in establishing vintage golf club values.
The Grip - The texture of the grip can offer a meaningful hint about the age of an old golf club. Older clubs were generally equipped wit flocked suede grips. Generally speaking, clubs made after the early 1920's were manufactured with leather grips. It is also important to spend the time and energy to effectively determine whether the grip of a vintage golf club under evaluation is original or whether perhaps it could be a once or twice removed replacement. An accurate assessment here is critical as you begin your analysis.
The Club Face - The club face on antique golf irons is often smooth. Although many players manually scored their club faces, the marking of faces on vintage iron clubs was not introduced until the first few years of the 20th century. Again, even though this would certainly not rank as an exact method of dating old golf clubs, a smooth face would certainly indicate that you are in possession of a club that dates prior to 1905.
The Wooden Shaft Test - Whether or not the shaft is made of wood is a primary indicator of age. There were clubs manufactured after 1930 where preowned golf clubs with metal shafts were overlaid with plastic covers. Even though these are often represented as authentic wooden golf clubs, the old reliable magnet test can always uncover whether the original shaft is wood. If it not, this is a post 1930 age factor.
The Metal Club Head - Simple test. Prior to 1920, a different grade of steel was used to manufacture clubheads. This inferior grade of steel, as you would expect, results in clubs which today look more dated; dark colored, sometimes even rusty. An old golf club that still exhibits a shiny clubhead would point to a piece dated post 1920.
Markings or Stamps - If there is a marking or shop stamp, an Antique Gold Club Reference Guide , like our recommended resource could be used to date the club pretty precisely.
As with many antiques, often times the best way to preserve golf club value is to do nothing at all in the way of polishing, or painting, or shaft repair that would compromise the original integrity of the piece. Any reputable antique dealer, and particularly those in the golf collectibles arena, would be well equipped to help you understand those things that would enhance value vs those things which would compromise value.
Also, remember when acquiring a vintage golf club, especially through a commercial channel, to ensure that you receive a certificate of authenticity, and if possible, a golf club appraisal with your purchase.
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