Peter Grunwell, an English native from Blackburn, has been involved for more than 30 years in the Game of Golf.
He is a British PGA professional and a member of the United States Golf Collectors Society.
Peter loves the game and even more collecting golf books.
He is the expert in buying and selling fine & rare golf books. Peter has visited all important sales and auctions all over the world for over 30 years.
His personal favorite authors are Darwin and Longhurst. Peter's no.1 golf course is Royal Birkdale. He lives and works in St.Andrews Scotland
Anke Bruxmeier, a native German, born in Dusseldorf, and a PGA professional for over 25 years.
Anke, Peter's wife and business partner in various ventures over the years, is not only a mad keen golfer but has a deep interest in golf's history, particularly in Ladies golf and German golf. This reflects in a fine collection of related books and memorabilia.
Golf book collecting – then and now
By Peter Grunwell
Published in the Winter 2018 Golf Collectors magazine Issue 2
I never thought I would be writing an article as an “old” collector, and even less so as a new book dealer, but given that I have been addicted to golf collecting for more than 30 years, I guess I am slowly (as one does at an older age!) falling into this category.
What follows is my attempt to share some of my experiences and advice with new book collectors about how, why, and what we collect. By the way, books and related paper ephemera and autographs have been my main interests over the years.
What to collect? The answer for the novice was everything! This becomes rather unrealistic over time as one finds out what is actually out there to collect. Starting with this thought, it is advisable that any book collector arm himself with the best available collecting guides.
Back in the day, this included Joseph Murdoch’s bibliography, The Library of Golf 1743-1966. Published in 1968 it was the bible to building a respectable collection. Even earlier, and still considered a valuable guide as well as a collectible in its own right, was Cecil Hopkinson’s Collecting Golf Books 1743-1938 (1938). The Murdoch bibliography evolved to become The Game of Golf and the Printed Word 1566-1985 by Richard Donovan and Joe Murdoch (1987); then The Murdoch Golf Library (1991); and after Joe’s passing it was published in 2006 as The Game of Golf and the Printed Word 1566-2005 by Richard Donovan and Rand Jerris. Nothing new along these lines has followed, though to get one’s hands on a copy of Alastair Johnston’s annual publication of his library gives one a pretty complete list of anything ever published on golf. [Johnston, a GHS member, has arguably the world’s largest book collection and publishes an index that is highly prized by collectors.] There are an abundance of other volumes on book collecting, all useful and educational to varying degrees.
“What to Collect” requires some thought, and is a delightful journey as you explore such questions as: What are my interests? Do I focus on a particular subject or author? How about a specific Club? Should I concentrate on books about major venues, or the Masters, or even instructional books? There are, of course, many more topics. Some books cover multiple subjects. But once a strategy is settled, then starts the real fun. Any given book title may be found, but will you wish a preferred first edition, in a pristine dust jacket, and autographed? Generally, buy the best copy that your budget allows. Many of the really high end collectible and “cornerstone” books have been reprinted several times over, and are more readily available and more affordable than the original. The content is the same, so it is up to the individual to choose whether text or originality (as in early print date) are more important. From an investment perspective, the better quality first editions will generally hold their value and possibly increase. The modern collector faces similar choices as those of 30 years ago. The books published over the years and the autographs of famed players both historical and modern, are all still available. Very few new subjects have surfaced. Certainly there are new trends, such as signed pin flags that can make a visually appealing display. While a Vardon autograph is one thing, there are collectors who will relate more to such modern players as Phil Mickelson, for example. The quest for modern autographs, in my opinion, opens new opportunities to collect signatures of golfers who are, alas, no longer signing their names, such as Francis Ouimet, Harry Vardon, Harold Hilton, John Ball, Old Tom, etc.
"How to Collect" Before the age of the internet, book collecting, and particularly autograph/paper ephemera collecting, in my opinion, was more challenging. The collector was dependent on descriptions and photos in a dealer’s catalogue; or on the oral description of a book from a bookshop sales assistant via telephone, for example. It is one thing to hold in one’s hand a rare autographed first edition of Harry Vardon’s My Golfing Life (1933) with an even rarer dust jacket in good shape, and quite another to make a decision based on a blurry catalog photo or oral description. It is virtually impossible to know what one is Golf book collecting – then and now book collecting remains essentially the same in matters of why one collects and what, says the outhor, but the “how” of collecting has evolved considerably with internet archives and other tools now available. 29 winter 2018 the golf heritage society buying. Yes, any respectable dealer would accept a return, but that can be a frustrating process. A search can be interesting but immensely time consuming and the further one’s collection grows the more difficult it becomes to find that elusive title you know is out there… but where?
Collecting autographs is a fascinating hobby and it is very rewarding to own a unique sample of a famous golfer’s writing. The caveat here is to know that you are spending money on the real thing. Years ago, this was nigh on impossible, unless the item had a real pedigree of provenance. I have in my collection several such books, including a rare Tommy Armour-autographed book bought at a reputable auction house for a three-figure amount; and a daddy-of-them-all Tom Morris-signed photograph that cost well into four figures. The provenance and the reputable source made the difference. Fake autographs, even giving the seller the benefit of the doubt for not knowing any better, can be a frustrating and expensive waste of money. As for the rarity of any given volume, years ago the collector’s limited access to dealers, bookshops, or specialized auctions meant that what was perceived as scarce and rare was often a matter of opinion… and trust.
Today’s collector finds new items in a whole new world. A simple search in abebooks.com or Amazon and the like can very quickly determine how scarce or, more likely, common a book actually is, by searching virtually every bookseller’s inventory from the comfort of one’s PC, tablet, or even phone. It soon becomes apparent how hard a particular book is to find. This does not change the building of a collection in the subjects that you have chosen, but it may just speed things up and make purchasing at the best price much easier. When a given internet search reveals nothing, or maybe just one or two “hits” on a title, one knows immediately that here is a rare book, at least as far as the internet goes, and that goes a long way. Most modern auction houses and some dealers have accessible archives of previously sold items which can help determine scarcity and set values. I have heard people say that collecting today is not what it used to be, that prices are low and a bad investment. I disagree. Collecting today is vastly more enjoyable than in those old days. Think of the resources available! – digital images, rapid comparison of values of items, checking authenticity. All this is much more reliable and therefore more rewarding. Back in the old days, I gave up on collecting autographs due to the uncertainty of such purchases, but today it is a most rewarding part of the hobby. The ability to make quick and accurate comparisons with great images of items certainly takes a lot of the stress out of spending hard earned money on a fake. Why Collect? Collecting allows you to relive childhood memories, to connect yourself to a period in history you find appealing.
Collecting helps to keep the past present. Collecting is much like a quest, a lifelong pursuit to assemble as complete a collection as possible of one’s chosen subject. It may never be complete. As such, there is the thrill of the hunt and the happiness in discovering and adding an important new piece. Too, there is enjoyment in arranging, organizing, and presenting a collection as well as the social camaraderie and joy in sharing the results with others. None of these motives are mutually exclusive; rather, they combine in each collector for a multitude of reasons. Above all, it is fun, educational, and ultimately preserves the history of this great game. The modern collector finds it infinitely easier to share his collection, create a website, or simply snap a photo of an item on a phone and have it be seen on the other side of the world in seconds! Such exciting and dynamic collecting makes this hobby as much fun as it has ever been. Searching a rare book website of thousands of items takes only a few moments. In the past, it would have taken days to go through a catalog, store or archive. Modern advanced searches allow one to sort by price, author, and subject. This is fun productive and enjoyable. High resolution photos helps determine an item’s condition and questions to the seller are just an email away. And this hobby is dying?? NEVER!!
Peter Grunwell, a British PGA professional and member of the GCS. Peter has bought and sold fine and rare golf books for more than 30 years. Both partners love the history of the game and their bookselling partnership derives both from Peter’s collecting knowledge and Anke’s fascination for the game. Their website www.finegolfbooks.com offers many golfing titles for sale. The partners also hope “to advise and educate” clients in building collections that will bring pleasure for years to come.
How, Why and What to Collect.
Frequently asked questions.
I am new to the world of collecting, what should I collect?
Collecting golf memorabilia can be a fascinating educational hobby,try to avoid the most common mistakes of just buying something golfey because it is cheap, it is probably cheap for a reason. Take some time to decide what really inerests you. Major Championships? History? Autographs? A particular author? Flags? A particular subject like architecture? or Ladies Golf or Annuals, Magazines.. The list can go on and on, but selecting subjects and therefore defining ones collecting goals is a hugely important decision.
Why is this item £10 and this one £1000?
Prices of golf memorabilia vary hugley, it is easy to make a mistake on buying a low priced item and at the end of the day it is not a disaster, but making a mistake on a higher priced item can be very frustrating and expensive. Prices on golfing items vary just like other collecting areas. Generally scarcity, quailty and condition will determine the price of an item, if an item can be found on eBay 50 times over, then it is unlikely to demand a high price, if an item was last for sale 20 years ago with no records of any other ones coming to the market, then this is a premium item, and from a collecting point of view and likely investment point of view much more attractive.
Should I buy only expensive items?
No, you should collect items that you enjoy and fit into your collecting area of interest. In a particular area, there will be easy to find items and harder and more expensive ones, for example, collecting Open programmes or signatures of Open winners is a popular catergory of interest, make sure your autographs are authentic, the further one goes back the more challenging the task becomes, the searching can become a passion, and the eventual success in finding a rare programme or autograph emensely safisfiying, not to mention the pleasure one has of tracking down and then owning the item.