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    

Afc Wimbledon Signed Football 2015/2016Roger Federer 2015 Leaf Sportkings Green Background On-card AutoRoger Federer (wimbledon) Signed Tennis Cap With Coa2016 Leaf Sports Heroes Roger Federer Gold 2/5 Autograph2015 Leaf Q Roger Federer Jumbo Jersey Autograph #17/252015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Martina Hingis Big Finish Gold Auto #d 05/102015 Leaf Q Roger Federer Blue Pure Auto On Card #18/25Lot Of (10) Anna Kournikova Signed 16x20 Tennis Photo Auto Autograph Psa/dna Coa2015 Leaf Q Roger Federer Silver Pure Auto Autograph On Card 12012 Topps Allen & Ginter A&g John Mcenroe Auto Autograph Tennis Legend Roger Federer 2015 Leaf Q Silver Auto2015 Leaf Q Roger Federer Silver Pure Auto Autograph On Card 12015 Leaf Q Roger Federer Auto 2015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Andy Murray Jumbo Swatch Auto Autograph BronzeUnopened Vintage Johnny Walker Tournament Tennis Balls Tin Litho Can Antique Old2015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Caroline Wozniacki Base Gold Auto Autograph #ed 08/102015 Leaf Q Roger Federer Pure Acetate On Card Autograph Pa-rf12015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Martina Navratilova Big Finish Holo Gold Auto #ed 1/1 Antique Sterling Wood Tennis Racquet 2015 Leaf Q Ivan Lendl Red Autograph Auto #04/10 Ssp Tennis Great!Vintage Head Composite Edge Brand New Never Used Tennis Racket Old Stock2015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Ivan Lendl Big Finish Holo Silver Auto #ed 1/52015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Jimmy Connors Base Gold Auto Autograph #ed 03/102015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Jimmy Connors Big Finish Holo Silver Auto #ed 2/5Antique Flat Top Tennis Racket - Lillywhite Circa 1890Rare Andre Agassi 1988 Panini Supersport Sticker Card #199 Bgs 9 1987 Rookie RcLot Of 2 Vintage Crescent & Pennsylvania Tennis Balls Tin Can Box Cylinder Anna Kournikova Signed 11x14 Tennis Photo Auto Autograph Psa/dna CoaAfc Wimbledon Vs Plymouth 2016 League 2 Play-off Final - Programme & Teamsheet2015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Martina Navratilova Big Finish Holo Silver Auto #d 4/5Panini Football Stickers 1991 - Wimbledon SetAntique Dw Granbery Wood Flat Top Tennis Racquet Columbia New York Orig. StringsNike Agassi Sampras Tennis Shirt Vintage 90s M Medium2015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Ivan Lendl Base Gold Auto Autograph #ed 01/102015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Elena Vesnina Big Finish Holo Gold Auto #ed 1/12015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Agnieszka Radwanska Base Gold Auto Autograph #ed 03/102015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Shelby Rogers Bronze Base Gold Auto Autograph 09/102015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Martina Navratilova Base Gold Auto Autograph #ed 04/10Kei Nishikori 2013 Ace Tennis Authentic Grand Slam National Pride Auto #np-kn12015 Leaf Q Autograph Auto Ivan Lendl2015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Anna Kournikova Base Gold Auto Autograph #ed 02/102015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Nick Kyrgios Base Gold Auto Autograph #ed 08/102015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Andy Murray Wotld Class Holo Silver Auto #ed 4/52015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Shelby Rogers Queens Of The Court Gold Auto #ed 01/102015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Sloane Stephens Base Gold Auto Autograph #ed 02/102015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Shelby Rogers Queens Of The Court Gold Auto #ed 04/102015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Shelby Rogers Bronze Base Gold Auto Autograph 05/102015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Shelby Rogers Red Jumbo Memorabilia Swatch Auto 09/10Table Tennis Yemen Arab Republic Federation Rare Pin BadgeTable Tennis Bahrain Association Federation Rare Pin BadgeVintage Classic Leather Tennis Bag - Excellent Condition Vintage Polo Sport Rl White Cap Hat Big Logo Golf Tennis Made In Usa RareRoger Federer Signed 7 Times Wimbledon Champion EnvelopeLeague 2 Play Off Final Afc Wimbledon V Plymouth Argyle 30/06/2016 Mint Cond2015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Victoria Azarenka Big Finish Holo Silver Auto #d 2/5Wimbledon Speedway---memories Of Wimbledon Speedway---double DvdMaria Sharapova, Anastasia Myskina, Anna Kournikova Scrapbook Women's Tennis Wta2015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Victoria Azarenka Base Gold Auto Autograph #ed 03/102015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Shelby Rogers Red Jumbo Memorabilia Swatch Auto 02/102015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Shelby Rogers Red Jumbo Memorabilia Swatch Auto 05/10