Antiques Column with Michael Dowse
Every summer as the Wimbledon Tennis Championship rolls it’s tennis balls onto our television screens once again I feel a certain nostalgia for our old family sitting room and the sight of my mother groaning, cheering and jumping up and down to her darling of the centre court Virginia Wade.
1977 was an especially good year for me as not only did it see me marry my childhood sweetheart but it also saw my mother’s efforts to help Virginia on her way to victory finally vindicated as she was crowned Queen of the centre court.
Tennis despite being a relatively young game, invented in 1874 by Major Walter Wingfield, has many avid memorabilia collectors and early rackets are very sought after.
From the mid 1870s and the 1930s the shape of the tennis racket changed enormously, so early examples with their asymmetrical heads can be very valuable regardless of any association with a known player. Those however associated with legendary players like Fred Perry are a true collectors dream and can attract thousands of pounds at auction.
Presentation trophies too are collectable though novelty items which reflect the popularity of the early game are also of interest. Teapots, clocks and particularly jewellery were produced, a wide range of which featured racket and ball motifs. Wimbledon specific memorabilia is always collectable.
Programmes from the 1930s and earlier are now very rare and a must for collectors. A particularly popular programme would be from the first Championship held at the present site in Church Road in 1922. Programmes before this when the club was located in Worple Road, also in Wimbledon, are extremely sought after, especially from the First Championship held in 1877, when would you believe, only 160 people attended.