As a collector and player of hickory golf clubs, I often receive the question – what are my hickory clubs worth? Many times, when buying clubs from a seller that found them in their attic, I have to educate them on the value. There is an assumption that because these clubs are antiques they are worth a lot of money. In some cases they can be, but more often than not they are not. My guess is you found this article for one of two reasons. First, you are in possession of some hickory clubs and you are trying to determine the value for giggles or to sell. Or second, you are looking to buy some clubs from a party that is over valuing their clubs and you need some ammo to bring their expectations in check.
Just Because They Are Old, Does Not Mean They Are Worth Their Weight in Gold.
Believe it or not, hickory golf clubs are not that rare. Literally, millions of golf clubs were made from the late 1800’s until early 1930’s. (That is 40 years of hickory golf club production) In the mid/late 30’s, hickory shafted clubs halted production due to the new technology – steel shafted clubs. Yes, some clubs vanished over the last century, but if you are looking to buy hickory golf clubs they are plentiful in the golf circles (hickory swap meets, hickory golf tournaments, online/ebay plus clubs continue to surface and resurface at estate/garage sales/etc.)
So what are they worth?
Not an easy question to answer but before I do, lets identify a few things.
Who Collects Hickory Clubs?
1) Avid Collectors – Those who collect rare and common clubs as well as full/partial sets.
2) Resellers – Golf club flippers and antique dealers.
3) Hickory Players – Yes, there are golfers that restore and play hickory golf clubs. These players are always on the hunt for certain club makers, club designs and swing weights.
4) Casual Collectors – those looking for an old golf item for their man cave or golf pro shop.
I categorize these buyers because they collect different clubs for different reasons. The first three types of buyers are generally astute in the current going rate for hickory golf clubs.
Commons vs Collectibles
There are a few resources online and in print that identify highly collectable clubs. What makes a club highly or more collectible?
1) Rarity – custom made or skilled hand forged clubs. Mass produced or common clubs are NOT rare.
2) Club Makers – certain clubs made by a cleek maker are more collectable.
3) Certain stamps or markings on clubs. From famous clubs or pros that sold them.
4) Sets – a full set of matching clubs are generally more valuable than random mismatched clubs.
5) Condition – straight uncracked clubs are more desirable. Many collectors and players of hickory clubs can/will restore clubs. Clubs that have not been cut down for juniors or women have much less value. You can identify a cut down club by the butt of the club. If a butt is flat, it has been cut down. Clubs that have a rounded end most likely are in their original state.
6) Face pattern – irons (not putters or cleeks) that have smooth face generally are older. (pre 1904)
Note: Do not let the rust bother you. Many collectors prefer the rust/patina. There are some players of hickory golf clubs that prefer a restored club. If you never restored a club and are not in the hobby it would be best not to restore prior to selling. If you want to polish them up for your collection, I use a scrub/scotch pad and some orange citrus spray. If the corrosion is really bad I have used some 220 (fine) sand paper VERY lightly then used the scrub pad. Sand paper or anything too abrasive will scratch and damage the club.
So What are They Worth?!?!
Common clubs range from $3-$20 a club. (There are too many clubs to list in the commons – most Spauldings, Wilsons, etc.
Collectable clubs for hickory players – Clubs made by Tom Stewart (pipe logo), Stewart with RTJ stamped in it, George Nickol or Gibson (star logo), Jack White Woods/Spoon/Brassie/Cleek, Sunningdale, Macgregor stamped OA or Macgregor B or clubs with a flange on back of club. (just to name a few).
Prices for these range all over the board. From $10-$200+
Clubs That Have Low Value to Virtually Worthless
1) Pyratone Clubs – they are faux hickory – painted or wrapped steel to give appearance of wooden clubs. You can identify them easily by putting a magnet on the shaft. If it sticks it is metal. These clubs have little to no value.
2) Ladies/Youth Clubs – these clubs are generally less valuable than the male counterparts. For those looking to play hickory golf clubs, they are generally too light or too short for play. Many Ladies clubs are marked with a L on the club.
3) Cut down clubs – clubs cut down for youth. If the heads are valuable/playable/collectable someone (maybe you) can restore but keep in mind the added costs associated.
4) Otsey Crisman Putters – These putters and clubs were made post 1935 and most hickory tournaments will not allow use of them for play in the events. On ebay, I have seen these putters range from $30-$50. Many of them are nice putters, regretfully they are not collected by many serious collectors and tournament players.
Ebay as a resource – Seller/Buy Beware
Many sellers and buyers turn to ebay to determine value and or shop/sell clubs. It is a good starting point but it does have some flaws.
First, if you are using ebay to set a value, keep in mind many auctions allow for BEST OFFERS so in effect the auction is an ASKING price. I see some wildly high prices on ebay from time to time but more often on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. (I think these are done by uneducated sellers). Some of these auctions and classifieds needed to be taken with a grain of salt, asking prices are not always based on fair market value.
The other issue with ebay is uneductated sellers find a club SIMILIAR to the one they have but is not identical. A cleek mark, a model number, a subtle difference, etc can have a significant impact on price. For example, if you have a Tom Stewart club. Loosely speaking, the club is worth $20-$100. If it has a circle dot at the end of the back of it it can add $50. (as it is an inspection market from Tom himself). If the club has RTJ stamped on it, the club jumps significantly. ($150-$300) Clubs with Oiumet (the sporting goods company that sold it) stamped on it can range from $400-$1000.
Lastly, serious collectors and players want information on the club like length of shaft, degrees of loft and swing weight. If you do not have the instruments or tools to measure it makes the clubs less desirable because of the risk of buying a poorly weighted club.
Old bags have some value – even if they are worn and aged. The issue with selling these on ebay is the shipping cost. Many times I have run into collections where the bag is more valuable than all the clubs in it. Condition, age and material set the value. $20-$40 on canvas bags. Higher if it is leather or in amazing condition. Most bags that are from the 1930’s or earlier were canvas or waxed cotton duck canvas and did not fair well over the decades in attics/old barns.
Contents In The Bag
Balls, bag tags, tees, etc may have some minor value to the right person. Save it and sell as a complete package. Someone will appreciate it.
Can You Help Me With Value?
I can certainly help. If I am unfamiliar with a club or clubs I can research or point you in the right direction. I am a member of the Society of Hickory Golfers, Wisconsin Hickory Golfers and The Golf Collectors Society.
Send me a few photos. For example, the back of the clubs where the markings are and the face. Any questions please contact me. firstname.lastname@example.org