Throughout my years collecting
billiards and snooker memorabilia, certain things became clear, for example;
nameplates on billiards and snookers cues began to appear sometime around the
1870's and can be very revealing as to determining both the age and
authenticity of cues if a little observation and knowledge is applied.
Before nameplates began to
appear on cues the maker's name, if there was one, was often seen stamped on
the flat of the cue and can often help if you are interested in when such a cue
was made. Care needs to be taken here though as these cues must not be mistaken
for the cheaper "club cue" that was produced, pretty much, throughout the
history of cue making.
The early examples, providing
the condition is good, would almost certainly have the old billiards taper
which is very thin through the shaft and tapering wider towards the tip end
often up to 12mm at the tip itself. The butt sizes of these cues would be much
wider than the average cue today.
Actual nameplates though began
appearing on cues as I stated earlier in or around the 1870's and would have
been, virtually without exception made of ivory. The wording on almost all
these ivory plates should have an almost sepia brownish-black look to it as
opposed to the more common black lettering seen on plastic badges. This is
because the lettering was done by way of a "hot foil" process; the letters
literally burnt into the ivory. This is arguably the best way of wording such
nameplates, because even if the cue has been played with over a very long
period, the lettering usually remains readable and intact. Certain letters are
often a little indistinct as the ivory has hard and soft areas and sometimes
the letters can wear more in these harder areas as they are not burnt quite so
deeply. It must be remembered that Ivory is material from a living creature and
so is an organic not a synthetic and uniform material.
You will notice on these ivory
plates that they are completely smooth and the lettering can not be felt as you
run your finger over the surface of the badge. Many of these early ivory plates
bear the names of the leading billiards players of the day such as W J Peall, W
Cook or J Roberts.
Should you own one of these cues
with an ivory plate, you can be sure that it is old. Because when we get to the
1920's ivory was beginning to be phased out with the invention of various forms
of plastic, this meant that nameplates would now be engraved much in the same
way that they Would be today.
The engraving on these plastic
nameplates can often be felt or if held in certain lights, can be seen as it is
cut into the badge itself. If the owner of an old cue is still unsure, then
other tips are to look closer at the plate to see if he or she can see a
beautiful pattern in the plates itself, as ivory is most unique in this way.
Often it has a criss cross pattern almost like a watermark in banknote that
changes in different light.
Also worth noting is that the
very fancy styles of letters and scrollwork found on some plates usually means
that it will be plastic as the earlier ivory plates are a little more simple in
design and style.
Finally a point worth knowing is
that there is a type of artificial ivory known as ivorine, a close inspection
should reveal that this material replicates the lovely patterns of ivory by
having very straight lines on it's surface. It looks almost like a grain
running through it. This ivory substitute started to appear on cues as early as
the turn of the 20th century.
Another decorative feature of
cue badges that can be seen alongside the writing is the pictures of billiards
players such as W J Peall and J Roberts to name but two, these are lithographed
onto the plate and can wear off quite easily. These so-called picture badge
cues have the pictures and wording always in a kind of black ink type substance
that rather resembles newspaper print. A light polishing of these badges can
often result in a fading of this type of printing, unlike the hot foil process
used for printing the ivory plates which even when sanded a little seldom makes
the wording less distinct.
I hope that I have explained
clearly, the basic evolutionary processes used in nameplate manufacture. At the
very least, I hope that I have given a basic guide to the rough age of some of
the cues that you may see around, but do be aware that fakes are about,
although theses are quite rare. A careful study of the general condition of a
cue, it's badge and the taper of it's shaft can often give this type of replica
away. That is to say an ivory plate on a cue that looks brand new should tell
the peruser something and make him think twice before investing his cash in
such a cue.
Thanks to my management
company 110SPORT, for giving me permission to write this article as 1 am
contracted to them and their Web Site.