Are Golf Balls Valuable?
Sorry to burst your bubble but the bucket of used balls you recovered from your local muni isn’t likely to be your retirement fund!
However, some golf balls can be worth an awful lot of money. How can you tell if you have something that might be worth a significant sum?
Vintage Golf Balls
In the world of collectibles, rarity is often synonymous with value. A very rare item will tend to be worth more than one that is widely available.
In terms of golf balls, it is antique ones that will be the most valuable. Unfortunately, you’re unlikely to find any of these just sitting around on a golf course! Just because a ball is “old” doesn’t mean it’s valuable either.
Certain specific types of old golf balls are the ones that can bring you big payouts.
Hairy Golf Balls
While many will have heard of feathery golf balls it is less likely that you have ever heard of hairy golf balls. These are so named because hair rather than goose down is stuffed inside the leather skin in order to make the ball.
They couldn’t be stuffed as tightly as a feathery and consequently didn’t travel as far. I’ve not been able to find any evidence of any sales of antique hairies although they may have been used by golfers up until the 18th century.
In the early 17th century the Earl of Montrose purchased one dozen “goiff balls” for £3. That would be the equivalent of around £500 today. Still think Pro V1s are expensive!
Scottish golf history has more detail on the early origins of golf balls.
Feathery Golf Balls
Feathery balls are so named because they were made by stuffing feathers into a leather skin in order to make the ball.
Obviously, this was quite labor-intensive and the balls were fairly expensive to buy. They also aren’t likely to last very long.
Feathery or featherie golf balls can command some of the highest prices of any collectible golf ball. For example, a feather-filled golf ball by Allan Robertson was sold by Christie’s for £8,225 in July 2000. In the same sale, another feathery made by Lang Willie Robinson, an assistant to Allan Robertson fetched £28,200.
If you’d like to try your hand at playing golf with a feathery golf ball then take a look at authenticfeatherygolfballs.com. Richard Jones manufactures authentic feathery golf balls using techniques originally employed by craftsmen hundreds of years ago. Bear in mind though that you will need to use original or replica clubs from the pre-1890 era. Modern clubs or even clubs from the hickory era would be likely to cause significant damage to the ball.
Even these modern-day equivalents aren’t exactly cheap starting at AU$78 per ball.
Gutta-Percha or “Gutty” Golf Balls
Gutty golf balls were made from gutta-percha gum. Their beginnings are slightly mysterious with a number of stories surrounding their origins. The gutta-percha was often used as a packaging material for different products. It was found that this gum could be molded into a golf ball which was significantly cheaper to produce costing only one shilling per ball. They also had the added advantage that they were more robust than the feathery.
The fact that they could be mass-produced using molds and their price meant that golf finally came within the reach of more people.
An Allan Robertson gutta-percha ball was sold by Christie’s in May 2012 for £18,750.
Haskell Golf Balls
Coburn Haskell developed a wound golf ball in 1898. Known as the Haskell ball it featured a solid core wrapped tightly with rubber threads and then covered with a layer of gutta-percha.
The Haskell ball soon became the dominant product and wouldn’t see a significant change until the 1960s.
One dozen Haskell balls still boxed in their original wrappers from 1899 were sold for £8,250 in July 1993.
Autographed Golf Balls
Today’s tour stars can be a bit reluctant to autograph anything because they know that often the article is going to end up being sold on eBay or some other website. Unscrupulous professional autograph hunters even “employ” children in an effort to get autographs.
If you can combine the autograph of a top player with a golf ball with some historical significance then you could be onto a big payday. The most expensive autographed ball that I could find sold at auction was one by Bobby Jones which went for $55,865. This was closely followed by a ball used by Rory McIlroy on the final day of the 2014 Open Championship which someone paid $52,038 for.
Logoed Golf Balls
These days almost every product will have some logo or other on it, golf balls are no exception. Many companies will offer logoed golf balls as a free gift to clients participating in a golf day. Most golf clubs will stock balls in their pro shop featuring the club logo. If you are visiting a famous golf course such as St. Andrews, Valderrama, Pebble Beach or Royal Melbourne then a golf ball with the club crest is a fairly cheap reminder of the day.
You can also purchase balls featuring the logo of major championships or other significant golfing events such as the Ryder Cup.
None of the balls will be particularly valuable however unless you are dealing with a particularly rare logo or a collector who is missing a ball that they feel they need to complete their collection.
Maybe they used to work for that company and want a memento.
In fact, logoed golf balls can be a great choice if you are looking to save some money when buying balls. Extra balls usually get printed to allow for errors and these are then sold off at a discount. It’s one way I find of getting good quality golf balls for less than the usual price.
Found Golf Balls
Balls you find on the golf course aren’t going to be worth too much I’m afraid. Even topline balls such as the Titleist Pro V1, TaylorMade TP5 or Callaway Chrome Soft will probably only get you $2 at most and that’s if you find ones in good condition and clean them up. After all, they can be bought brand-new for around $4 each!
That’s not to say that people don’t make a nice side income finding golf balls and selling them on to golfers. If the course is on publicly accessible land then you can guarantee some of the locals will attempt to make a few dollars by collecting lost balls.
The real money lies in lake balls, however. For that though you’ll need some diving gear and the time to spend digging around water hazards. There is an awful lot of money involved for those involved in the lake ball industry.
Are Golf Balls Valuable: Conclusion
So now you know which golf balls to look out for. If you’re involved in house clearances then keep an eye out as you may come across a gem here or there. However, rooting around in the bushes at your local course isn’t going to bring you great riches I’m afraid.
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