Early badges



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Early badges and how they evolved

First in an occasional series of pieces by Dominic Dale
Snooker historian, collector and professional player

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.

Dominic Dale

Thanks to my management company 110SPORT, for giving me permission to write this article as I am currently contracted to them and their Web Site

Cues n Views © Copyright January 2003 David Smith
Pictures and Articles courtesy of 110SPORT

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