Buying an old cue




If you are buying a cue to use as your own ‘playing cue’, the decision is quite a simple one, however if you are buying a cue in the hope that it will one day appreciate in value, the decision is a little more complicated.

The definition, for many people of a collectable cue is one that they can buy cheaply and sell for a profit. This is not the best way to look at the matter in my experience as often the people selling the older cues often have an inflated idea of their value due to the sentimental aspect of the cue, from their point of view.

I remember once talking to a gentleman who believed that his cue was worth between three and four hundred pounds, I had recently purchased one that was identical for sixty five pounds but chose not to disillusion him as he had no intention to sell.

When buying an old cue to keep as a collectable item, even if you do not intend to sell it, requires you to buy with care so that as your knowledge increases you do not become disappointed with your acquisitions.

Below I will record some guidelines that are intended to help you buy with confidence;


From 1890 to the end of the 1960’s most new cues made were 58” long.


Tip sizes have always been a subject of discussion but a tip size of less than 10 millimetres is not seen as ideal.


The vast majority of older cues were made as a single piece cue; ie they did not include a brass joint. There are some exceptions even for cues made around the turn of the century, but for the most part, a cue that has been cut is of little or no interest to a serious collector.


Iif the butt of a cue is lacquered, this must be even and not too chipped or scratched as it makes the cue look unsightly. Some people remove the lacquer; this slightly reduces the value of a cue from the collector’s point of view but might enhance the feel from a player’s point of view.


if a cue has been re-drilled and re-weighted, the peg in the end of the cue will not be original. This reduces the value of a cue but as it doesn’t alter the general appearance of it, it does not reduce the value too much.


The taper of the shaft and indeed the butt of an old cue, if either of these tapers is altered, the value of the cue is reduced. Anything that alters the original appearance of a cue reduces its value. Often looking down the cue like a man shooting a rifle can reveal these alterations; the line of the shaft should flow from tip to splice.


The issue of traightness depends a little on the individual, I have one or two cues that are slightly bent but as they are extremely rare and they cost me significantly less than a mint condition version, I am glad to have them. The rule of thumb here is straight is best but age and condition can influence a purchase even if slightly warped.


If a cue has a screwed in badge or a disc badge, it is best if the letters are readable and the badge is complete, cracks are sometimes inevitable due to age and wear but missing portions are a serious detractor to value.

I have seen an original Burwat Champion and a Peall cue with “new” badges on them, I concede that if the badge on the cue was broken or lost, the cue looks nicer with a reproduction badge in place. Of course if detected this reduces the value of the cue considerably from a collector’s point of view.

Wood used

The wood used for the shafts, many different woods have been used over the years for the shafts of billiards and snooker cues, examples include Ash, Maple, Hornbeam, Pear wood, Birds Eye Maple and Greenheart. Of these ash is by far the most common with maple a second choice of many players. Most of the time the wood used for the shaft does not affect the value of a cue. Mannock cues usually have a pearwood shaft, ash and maple versions are considered slightly rare.


Cracked butts or movements of the splices. These factors come under the category of damage. If possible try to avoid buying a cue with cracked or damaged splices or butts, they can be repaired by a good cue maker but are no longer original once done so detract from the originality of the cue and so its value.


Machine-spliced or hand-spliced, the points of a cue are where the butt joins onto the shaft, if the points away from the badge end of the cue are rounded then chances are that the cue is hand-spliced, if they are pointed then they are probably machine-spliced. Some cues, like the Mannock have both, others have painted on splices so pay careful attention to this issue. Machine-spliced cues are much less valuable than hand-spliced cues as a general principle, seek advice if you are unsure.

I hope that this brief guide is useful to you when buying old cues, if you have any doubts please feel free to e-mail with your queries, I will do my best to answer them. Please remember that a picture is like a thousand words so if you can send a picture of any cues that you wish to talk about, it will make our communication more certain and hopefully more rewarding for us both.

Good hunting
David Smith

© Copyright January 2003 David Smith

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