The market for sporting memorabilia is one of the most diverse areas of the antiques market. This is not just because the range of sports covered – from boxing to bowls – but also due to the vast spread of objects – from fishing tackle to football trophies.
Almost every pastime you can think of is represented in the memorabilia market and numerous sectors of the antiques industry have their own sporting sub-sector: silver, ceramics, paintings, works of art and books, to name but a few.
The items that command the most attention are those that relate to either the early history of a particular sport, or an iconic player, special match or competition.
SO WHAT DO WE COLLECT………………………………..
So vast is the field that most collectors focus on one area. There are those who collect all memorabilia relating to their chosen sport, but there are also people who collect items only relating to their favourite team. Others favour particular items like match programmes or cigarette cards.
Most buying is based on an emotional connection to the sport but some elements of the market are based on decorative appeal. The former may well include people who pay out for pieces of sporting equipment – a football shirt worn by a club legend or a cricket ball used to hit the winning runs in a famous Ashes series – while the latter could involve items with serious wall-power such as a carved wood fishing trophy or an Olympic poster.
Silver King Man brought £6600 in Bonhams Chester in 2005
Dunlop Man brought £900 also in the same sale
Golf Demonstrates the selectivity that exists:
For instance, a decade ago, standard early 20th century hickory-shafted golf clubs were the dependable stalwart of the saleroom, selling in sets for the equivalent of £20 to £30 each. These clubs are now fetching between £8 and £12 each, and the number of clubs that find buyers at auction is significantly lower.
The same is true of the early balls – the pre-1850 feather balls or ‘featheries’ and the first gutta percha balls made in a myriad of different patent designs. Vendors of balls that could often command five-figure sums in the 1990s are now having to settle for four-figure returns instead.
However, the flip-side of this means that, for buyers, especially new collectors, there are now plenty of relative bargains to be had.
Above: a bent neck putter from c.1890s used by Willie Park Junior. The club, with its longer than standard 4.5in hosel, was the kind used by Park in numerous Opens, including when he was runner-up in 1898. With a label written and signed by the club-maker Ben Sayers Junior, it sold for £3300 at Bonhams Chester in June 2010.