Q: My circa-1880, hand-made, hickory-shaft, brass-headed, lady's golf putter was a 16th-birthday gift to my mother. There's no maker's label. How much is it worth?
A: Your putter has greater sentimental than monetary value, said dealer Morton W. Olman, co-author of "Olman's Guide to Golf Antiques & Other Treasures of the Game" (Market Street Press, $20 postpaid from Mr. Olman, The Old Golf Shop Ltd., 325 West Fifth St., Cincinnati, Ohio 45202,  241-7797). Late 19th-century putters are common, and most old hickory-shaft clubs fetch around $15.
At Sporting Antiquities' golfing memorabilia auction in May, sets of four hickory-shaft clubs, some hand-forged like yours, were relative bargains, selling for around $55 per set, well below their optimistic $200 to $300 pre-sale estimates. Among the items sold, pairs of turn-of-this-century ceramic steins bearing hand-painted golfing scenes, by Ceramic Art Co., of Trenton, N.J. (a Lenox predecessor), averaged about $2,365. "Association items," anything associated with a great name in golf history, are at the forefront of collecting and brought top prices. A collector paid $35,200 for Jack Fleck's 14-karat gold, 1955 U.S. Open championship medal together with one of his golf balls, a photo and a letter of authenticity.
Be wary of fakes, warns "golfiana" collector Joseph S. F. Murdoch, of Lafayette Hill, Pa. For example, there are some old-looking, newly manufactured clubs and imitation feather balls like those used before 1848) on the market.
Interested duffers can join the Golf Collectors' Society: send $35 annual dues to Charles Yaws, P.O. Box 491, Shawnee Mission, Kan. 66201. Its next annual meeting is Sept. 23-25 in Palm Springs, Calif.
' Solis-Cohen Enterprises