First-ever book on golf collecting swings to 'World Record' price

On August 20, PBA Galleries concluded its two day auction of the library of rare golf books formed by retired US Navy Captain Ralph C Elder and his late wife over a period of the last 30 years.

Elder has been an active member of both the British and American Golf Collectors Societies, and ultimately many of their members were among the successful bidders reaching for his books.

Strong hammer prices were achieved for the better items, and generally the few unsolds were of the more common variety and carried the lowest pre-sale auction estimates.

The first book devoted to golf: Rules of the Thistle Club, first edition, 1824

Bidders competed on the phones, online and through live bidding in the room.

As is usually the case with golf books, most go directly to private collectors scattered throughout the world, as there are few specialist golf book dealers these days following the retirement of George Lewis and the death of dealer and bibliographer Dick Donovan.

Collectors bid on the first book devoted to golf, and the first book on golf collecting...

The top lot of the sale was the Rules of the Thistle Club, first edition, 1824. It was the first book devoted to golf, preceded only by The Goff, a Poem dated to 1742. Rules of the Thistle Club brought $22,800 against a presale estimate of $15,000-25,000.  

Also making an appearance was Harry B Woods' Golfing Curios, the first published book devoted to golf collecting. The large paper 1/150 edition in a scarce fine dust jacket went to a mid West collector for $13,200 - undoubtedly a record price according to PBA.

Harry Woods' Golfing Curios, the first published book on golf collecting

Other highlights in the sale include the 1888 edition of the Aikman, Pen and Pencil Sketches of the Game of Golf that went for $10,800, and the Balfour Reminiscences of Golf on St Andrews, 1887, sold for $1,800.

A nice little archive of material on Jim Barnes, early winner of the British and US Open, which had been consigned by his family brought $6,414 (the items were catalogued and sold individually).

And last, but certainly not least, was the second published book of golf prose: Chambers, A Few Rambling Remarks on Golf, 1862. It fetched $10,200, in the middle of its $8,000-12,000 estimate.

PBA Galleries sale was held in San Francisco.


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