Professional Golf Collectibles on Par with Other Sports Memorabilia

One of the most visually appealing and valuable golf collectibles is tournament-used pin flags signed by the field of players.

A pin flag signed by Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklausfrom Augusta National, where the Masters is held every year, combines golfing greats.

As winter slowly begins its annual thaw and golf course greens and fairways around the country return to their lush condition, avid fans of the sport prepare for another season on the links. In fact, the biggest tournament of the season, The Masters, tees off later this week, which makes this the perfect time to talk about golf collectibles.

A centuries-old sport that migrated to the shores of America from the Scottish highlands, this past-time has captured the attention, interest and participation of millions of people over the years. For a sport with as little traditional “action” in comparison to the other major sports of football, baseball, basketball and hockey, golf has performed very well as a spectator sport on TV and with it, a strong demand for collectibles from the greats of the game.

Long before Tiger Woods, there were names like Watson, Palmer and Nicklaus, and before them Ben Hogan and Bobby Jones. Through the years, the fascination with golf’s masters has created a legacy of defining career moments that have captivated a nation and put the price of match-used memorabilia on par with any legendary collectible from other sports. As with any sport, there are numerous items to collect from game used clubs to autographed pin flags and balls; golf collectibles comprise a very specific niche with a wide ranging audience.

Another pair of golf greats side by side: Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer autographed golf balls.

One way to display signed gold balls is to incorporate a nice historic photo, such as this one of Jack and Arnie.

With several golf balls to show off, a commercial rack, such as this one displaying Masters Champions Balls, can be ordered online.

In most sports, the most coveted autograph item, other than a jersey, is an official ball or puck. That is not necessarily the case in golf, given the diminutive size of the ball itself. Complicating matters further is the dimpled surface. Combine these two factors and you have a difficult-to-sign, yet highly desirable collector’s item. Some players have made a profession of signing golf balls and two of the game’s all-time legends, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus are a perfect example. When the individual items are presented with a vintage photograph and professionally framed and matted, they can become the centerpiece of any golf collection. In addition to Nicklaus and Palmer, other notable names to pursue from an autograph collecting standpoint are the aforementioned Bobby Jones and Ben Hogan. They were pioneers in popularizing the game and put a public face to a sport that was in large part dominated exclusively by the country’s affluent minority.

As with any collection, golf provides numerous themes one can pursue that allow that collection to be truly personalized. Some of the more popular autograph pursuits include Masters champions, PGA tour winners and other individual tournament winners like the U.S. and British Opens. Golf balls are not the only medium worthy of being signed, however. One of the most visually appealing and valuable items are tournament used pin flags signed by the field of players. The game’s greatest and most widely viewed annual event is The Masters, so it should come as no surprise that those are of particular interest to collectors and fans alike. An example of a collectible pin flag is one from the 2001 Masters, signed by three-time Masters champ Gary Player,  for sale with a $195 price tag.

Tournament-used putters from the game’s greats can command tens of thousands on the secondary market. Here is an example of a Phil Mickelson-signed putter.

This Arnold Palmer Model putter is signed on the grip.

As a bat is to a baseball player, so is a putter to a golfer, for it is on the greens where the true legends are made. Tournament-used putters from the game’s greats can command tens of thousands of dollars if and when they see the light of day on the secondary market. A more cost-effective approach to collecting clubs and putters are autographed player models. They make for great display pieces and will also hold their value for years to come. Even non-player model clubs, when autographed, can carry a premium depending upon the specific player. The allure of golf clubs signed by a professional is that it serves as a reminder, to those that play the game, just how difficult the sport is to master.

Golfers even have their own certified trading cards with official rookie cards, autographs and match-worn memorabilia. The current holder of both the PGA and LPGA licenses is The Upper Deck Company. However, through the years, several companies have produced collectible golf trading cards. For example, Jack Nicklaus’ rookie card was manufactured by Donruss in 1982. Because they were printed in such a large quantity, even graded samples can be found for less than $20. By far the most valuable golf card on the market today is the 2001 SP Authentic Tiger Woods Rookie Autograph. Limited to just 100 copies and serial numbered accordingly, the card pictured here recently sold for over $10,000.

This Triple Swatch card features small clipping from Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer’s golf shirts, caps and gloves.

Jack Nicklaus’ rookie card, issued by Donruss in 1982.

Tiger Woods’ SP Authentic Rookie Autograph card. Limited to just 100 copies and serial numbered accordingly, the card pictured here recently sold for over $10,000.

As we previously alluded to, any full-sized piece of match-used memorabilia—be it gloves, shirts, clubs, etc.—can be very expansive. A far more budget-friendly option is memorabilia trading cards. This particular card contains memorabilia from two of the games greats with shirt, cap and glove swatches.

Golf offers an infinite array of players to collect with a wide variety of options to choose from. As is the case with every collection, the same rules apply; collect what you like not what you think will increase in value, buy the best conditioned items you can afford, remember if it sounds too good to be true, it is and when it comes to autographs, do your homework.

Rob Bertrand has been an active collector of sports cards and memorabilia for more than 20 years. His involvement in the hobby community is well documented, having been the content manager for the Card Corner Club website before the company’s merger with CardboardConnection in 2011, where he is now a staff writer and multimedia content producer. Rob is also the co-host of the sports collectibles hobby’s only live and nationally broadcast radio show, Cardboard Connection Radio. He is the author of the highly respected and trafficked blog, Voice of the Collector and you can follow him on Twitter @VOTC. A dealer himself, Rob runs an online business through eBay, and is frequently asked to consign collections. WorthPoint—Discover Your Hidden Wealth