The modern version of tennis is credited to a Welsh major named Walter Clopton Wingfield, who patented the game in 1874. Wingfield gave his pastime two names: the Greek derived “sphairistike” and “lawn tennis.” Not surprisingly, the second name stuck.

Within a year, the All England Croquet Club at Wimbledon had added lawn tennis to the diversions offered to its members, and in 1877, the words “Lawn Tennis” were formally added to its name. That was also the year the club held its first championship in men’s singles. Tournament play for what we now call the U.S. Open began in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1881. Thus, the first two tennis Grand Slams were born—the first French Open was played in 1891, the Australian Open arrived in 1905, and in 1915 the U.S. Open moved to Forest Hills, New York.

For collectors of tennis memorabilia, anything from the 19th century is a prize, be it a wooden racquet strung with gut or an early trophy, although such pieces are mostly the stuff of museums and exclusive private collections.

More accessible are items from the 1920s, the so-called golden age of tennis. On the men’s side, when Bill Tilden wasn’t winning Wimbledon, René Lacoste (of crocodile-logo-shirt fame) was. Helen Wills Moody was the star among female players, winning Wimbledon eight times in the ’20s and ’30s, which stood as the record until Martina Navratilova won her ninth in 2000.

Vintage tennis memorabilia from the years between the wars include sports posters advertising matches at Wimbledon, the availability of courts at a luxury resort, or the latest Slazenger or Spalding tennis balls. More recently, posters from Roland Garros, site of the French Open, have gained a following. Ticket stubs to any of the Grand Slams are also collected.

For some reason, vintage tennis racquets are not as expensive as you might think they would be. Some people collect racquets of famous players. Jack Kramer swung a wooden Wilson, and his namesake racquet was introduced in 1948. Rod Laver and John McEnroe, whose on-court demeanor could not have been more different, both used a Dunlop Maxply, while Bjorn Born played with Bancrofts and Donnays.

Arthur Ashe was a racquet pioneer, playing a Head metal-and-plastic racquet called the Arthur Ashe Competition in 1969—its flat face was distinctive but did not last in tennis ci...

Today, the most widely collected tennis items are probably tennis-ball cans, from cardboard to metal, and player autographs. Collectors and fans look for signatures on everything from tennis balls to photographs, trading cards, and magazine covers.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Vintage Tennis Balls

Vintage Tennis Balls

Brad McCall serves up the definitive vintage tennis ball site ('hermetically sealed fresh under pressure'). Browse … [read review or visit site]

The Wheelmen

The Wheelmen

This elegant tribute to turn-of-the-century bicycling includes memorabilia, photographs, and an index of 3140 bicyc… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Genuine Rio 2016 Olympic Torch + Workforce Uniform + Tennis Official BallAntique Vintage Baseball Catchers Mask Alex Taylor & Co. New York2016 Leaf Metal Tennis Martina Hingis National Pride Super Prismatic Auto 1/12016 Leaf Metal Tennis Roger Federer Base Blue Prismatic Auto 01/102016 Leaf Metal Tennis Serena Williams Base Cyan Printing Plate Auto 1/1Vintage,original,rare 1997-1999 Wimbledon Home Shirt By Lotto .size Large. Mint.Lot(58) 1927-87 Churchman Golf Tennis W/ Jack Nicklaus Trevino Evert, Psa (pwcc)2016 Leaf Metal Tennis Jimmy Connors Pride Magenta Printing Plate Auto 1/12016 Leaf Metal Tennis Caroline Wozniacki Base Blue Prismatic Auto 25/252016 Leaf Metal Tennis Roger Federer National Pride Purple Prismatic Auto 4/7Three Autographed U S Open Tennis Balls Bjorn Borg John Mcenroe And Navratilova2016 Leaf Metal Tennis Martina Hingis Pride Purple Prismatic Auto #ed 08/102016 Leaf Metal Tennis Anna Kournikova Base Blue Prismatic Auto 13/152016 Leaf Metal Tennis Andy Murray Base Pink Prismatic Auto #ed 04/101985 Nike Promo Tennis John Mcenroe Psa 10 Gem Mint (pwcc)2016 Leaf Metal Tennis Anna Kournikova Base Red Prismatic Auto #ed 2/22016 Leaf Metal Tennis Serena Williams Fastest Serve Purple Prismatic Auto 1/6Roger Federer Signed 2012 Topps Allen & Ginter Card Psa Dna Autograph AutoRoger Federer Signed 2012 Topps Allen & Ginter Mini Gold Psa Dna Autograph Auto2016 Leaf Metal Tennis Martina Navratilova Auto2016 Leaf Metal Tennis Caroline Wozniacki Base Yellow Printing Plate Auto 1/12016 Leaf Metal Tennis Andy Roddick Base Blue Prismatic Auto 17/251936 John Player & Sons Tennis Hi-grade Complete Psa Set Don Budge Moody (pwcc)Vintage Puma Boris Becker Pro-line Winner Tennis RacketSubbuteo L/w Wimbledon TeamRoger Federer Signed 2012 Topps Allen & Ginter Mini Psa Dna Autograph Auto2016 Leaf Metal Tennis Jimmy Connors Pride Black Prismatic Auto #ed 6/71926 W512 Strip Card Tennis William T. Tilden #36 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc)2016 Leaf Metal Tennis Martina Navratilova Pride Pink Prismatic Auto #ed 4/72016 Leaf Metal Tennis Anna Kournikova Base Pink Prismatic Auto #ed 7/72016 Leaf Metal Tennis Andy Murray Prismatic Auto Refractor AutographAntique Tennis Racquet Bracing Tool-repairs & Restring-alloy&wood-pat. App. For!Lot(60) 1927-87 Churchman Golf Tennis W/ Jack Nicklaus Trevino Evert, Psa (pwcc)2016 Leaf Metal Tennis Serena Williams Fastest Serve Prismatic AutoAnna Kournikova Signed 11x14 Tennis Photo Auto Autograph Psa/dna CoaLot 5 Antique To Vintage Wooden Tennis Racquets Rackets Sports DecorWimbledon Championship 2016 Towel And Bag And Greg Rusedski Autographed Ball!!!2016 Leaf Metal Tennis Victoria Azarenka National Pride Gold Prismatic Auto 1/12016 Leaf Metal Tennis Andy Murray Base Pink Prismatic Auto #ed 01/102016 Leaf Metal Tennis Petra Kvitova National Pride Super Prismatic Auto 1/12016 Leaf Metal Tennis Ivan Lendl Pride Black Prismatic Auto #ed 1/72016 Leaf Metal Tennis Elena Dementieva Pride Magenta Printing Plate Auto 1/12016 Leaf Metal Tennis Jimmy Connors Base Blue Prismatic Auto 19/25Vtg 80s Adidas Stefan Edberg Sweatshirt Top Pullover Atp Tennis Ivan Lendl 2015 Leaf Q Roger Federer Silver Pure Glass Auto2016 Leaf Metal Tennis Martina Narvatilova Base Purple Prismatic Auto #ed 07/101930 Rare B/w Original Cf Wallace Postcard Of Wimbledon Team, Excellent!2016 Leaf Metal Tennis Jimmy Connors National Pride Autograph Red #1/32016 Leaf Metal Tennis Jimmy Connors Prismatic Auto Refractor AutographVictorian / Edwardian Solid Bronze Tennis Racket S Shape Buckle Belt Hook 2016 Leaf Metal Tennis Nicole Gibbs Base Black Printing Plate Auto 1/12016 Leaf Metal Tennis Elena Dementieva Base Yellow Printing Plate Auto 1/12016 Leaf Metal Tennis Shuai Zhang Base Cyan Printing Plate Auto 1/12016 Leaf Metal Tennis Elena Dementieva Pride Black Printing Plate Auto 1/12015 Leaf Q Sports Heroes Tennis Roger Federer Auto Roger Federer Signed 2005 Ace Authentic Tennis Card Psa Dna Autograph Auto2016 Leaf Metal Tennis Ivan Lendl Base Blue Prismatic Auto #ed 20/25Anna Kournikova Signed 16x20 Tennis Photo Auto Autograph Psa/dna Coa2016 Leaf Metal Tennis Shuai Zhang Base Blue Prismatic Auto #ed 08/50Dvd Wimbledon 2013 - Andy Murray Champion - A Grand British Slam. Brand New