This weekend, Golden Age Auctions will close an event that features more than 500 lots of golf history. With collectibles ranging from a Masters-worn Tiger shirt to rare books and signed memorabilia, this auction brings together the greatest names in golf and offers collectors an opportunity to secure pieces that rarely see the public light. In this edition of Auction Action, we preview the third Golden Age auction of 2022 and explore the history behind the top lots to watch before the final bids are settled.
In the world of iconic sports threads, there are few pieces that carry the elements required to be a 'museum worthy' collectible.
Michael Jordan-worn Chicago Bulls jersey.
Babe Ruth Yankees pinstripes.
And of course, Tiger Woods and his Sunday red polo.
But wait... there's more.
The Nike red polo offered by Golden Age in their Golf History Auction is not from any old tournament. This three-button shirt, which represents one of the most recognizable athlete/clothing combinations on the planet, was worn by Tiger during the final round of the 2010 Masters Tournament.
There is no golf tournament, and arguably no sporting event, that captures mystique and tradition quite like The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club. The 2010 tournament was a unique moment, frozen in time, that fused the darkest days of Tiger's career with his unmatched and relentless competitiveness. In November 2009, the media closed in around the legendary golfer after a car accident unraveled a secret life that would turn Tiger's world upside-down. Amidst the drama and fallout, the 2010 Masters marked Tiger's return to the tour and to the surprise of no-one, he picked up where he left off. While he fell short of winning his fifth Masters title, Tiger still secured a top-three finish with a -2 on the final day and a -8 overall.
The last time this shirt appeared at auction, it was sold alongside the three other polos Tiger donned during the tournament. The complete set of four match-worn shirts sold for $11,950 in 2016 and have since received public offers in excess of $30,000. The single red polo is now up for auction and has already attracted 41 bids with a current price of $49,248. That means the current bid, pre-buyer's premium, has appreciated at least 300% versus its valuation as a complete set that sold less than eight years ago.
There is no golf memorabilia that has appreciated in recent years quite like clubs connected to Tiger Woods. In April, Golden Age sold the highly coveted Tiger Slam set of irons for $5.2 million and followed that with a $393,300 price tag for a Tiger-signed backup putter. Unlike most Tiger clubs which require significant research to confirm authenticity and are closely guarded by those in Tiger's inner circle, the signed putter up for auction this week is paired with a letter of authenticity from Mark Steinberg - the longtime agent for Tiger Woods. The letter confirms that the putter was signed by Tiger and the provenance is traced to The Reformed Church Nursery School, which received the putter as a donation in 2014. The Nike putter has attracted 11 bids and has a current valuation of $12,968. The face of the Nike putter frames an easily identifiable autograph of Tiger that is likely dated to the early 2010s based on its characteristics.
Speaking of collectible putters...
Featured in Lot #3 at Golden Age is a Scotty Cameron putter that was used on the PGA Tour by Phil Mickelson and comes with an impressive level of authenticity. In a unique COA, Mickelson produced a video where he authenticated the putter and provided an insightful backstory into its use. Golden Age also completed additional photomatching and provided evidence that the red dot Circle T Scotty Cameron was used during his 2002 victory at the GHO (Travelers) as well as in match play at the Ryder Cup, Open, and PGA Championships. The club could become the most expensive Phil putter ever sold by Golden Age if it can double its current bid of $8,857.
In what might be the most dominant display of golf ever played, Tiger Woods beat a loaded field of professionals by 15 strokes in the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. In a match that has since been coined the 'Perfection at Pebble', Tiger was the only golfer who managed to traverse the challenging conditions that derailed the championship hopes of his competitors. The glove up for auction was worn by Tiger during his commanding victory, which also happens to have been his first of three career U.S. Open titles. The breathtaking performance would go on to be part of the legendary 'Tiger Slam' and showcases an era of golf dominance the sport has not witnessed since. This glove carries authenticity support from both PSA and JSA and features a clean Tiger auto with a rare date inscription on the palm. The lot has captivated an audience of collectors with 25 bidders already participating and a current bid nearing five-figures.
In the art market, photographs are having their moment, and in the sports market, iconic images could follow suite. Earlier this year, Christie's sold a photo taken by Edward Steichen of the famed Flatiron building in New York. The photo entered the auction with an estimate of $2 - $3 million but closed at $11.8 million and became the second most expensive photograph ever sold at auction. The record was established in May of this year when Le Violon d’Ingres by Man Ray hammered for $12.4 million against an estimate of $7 million. Sports photographs are already seeing a surge in prices with five and six-figure prices realized for images of Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, and Babe Ruth. The photo up for auction at Golden Age captures Walter Hagen on the tee box of the 8th hold during the 3rd round of the Inaugural Augusta National Invitation Tournament. The grading agency PSA has distinguished four classifications of photographs, with Type I commanding the highest valuations. To earn a Type I designation, the photo must be a first generation image that was developed from the original negative within two years of when the photo was taken. The originality of a Type I photo combined with the rare vintage appeal leads photographs that carry a T1 grade to fetch significant premiums at auction.
Offering two Tiger Woods signed golfs balls at an auction is an impressive feat on its own. The market for Tiger's autograph continues to climb as quantity has yet to intersect with demand and likely never will. The two golf balls on the block this week not only showcase the rarity of a golf ball signed by the legend but also provide a lesson in the evolution of Tiger's signature. In the earliest days of his storied career, between 1992-1995, Tiger's 'T' resembled the number 7 while the first letter was also disconnected from the rest of his name. By 1995, his 'T' was sometimes found to blend into the 'G' in his time which has also featured a deep swoosh that drops below any other letter in his autograph. By the late 1990s and early 2000s, the consistent and clean Tiger auto we know of today had matured into its final form, with only minor adjustments found on the curvature and alignment over the past decade. The Titleist Pro 90 golf ball pictured on the left is an early career, possibly rookie-year example. This edition of Tiger's auto is often forged but the signature has been authenticated by JSA and carries all of the structure and integrity one would expect from the rising stars penmanship. The Titleist also displays evidence of use and the wear found on the signature highlights one of the reasons why signed golf balls of this quality are so rare, as the dimples create a challenging canvas that leads to a limited supply of readable examples. The Nike golf ball pictured on the right is one of the most immaculate signatures one could find on a piece of Tiger memorabilia. The flow and structure of the signature would pin it to the 21st century and based on the connectivity of his entire name, it is likely Tiger signed this ball after 2008 but before 2019. Both lots offer a collector the opportunity to secure high-quality Tiger autographs that simultaneously show the development of his signature and the longitude of his career.
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