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    

2016 Topps Allen & Ginter Maria Sharapova Framed Mini AutoMaria Sharapova 2016 Topps Allen & Ginter Framed Black Auto Autograph #d 24/25Wimbledon 2015 Tennis Ball Signed By Serena Williams With Coa From WtaMaria Sharapova 2016 Topps Allen & Ginter's Auto Autograph Card #aga-msh Tennis2015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Roger Federer Big Finish Holo Silver Auto #ed 3/52015 Leaf Q Roger Federer Tennis Pure Auto Signed Autographed Card2015 Leaf Q Roger Federer Platinum Auto AutographA Rafael Nadal Game-used & Signed Custom Nike Tennis Match Shirt. Maria Sharapova 2016 Topps Allen & Ginter Mini Framed Autograph Ssp A&g BackPrince Boron Vintage Series 110 Leather Grip 4 3/8 19947 Tennis Racquet RacketMaria Sharapova 2016 16 Topps Allen & Ginter Sp Auto Autograph Ssp Mini TennisThree Autographed Tennis Balls Roger Federer Bjorn Borg & Martina NavratilovaMaria Sharapova Tennis 2016 Topps Allen & Ginter Framed Mini Auto Autograph Ssp2015 Roger Federer Leaf Q Pure Auto Tennis Star Autograph Rare Sp 2015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Roger Federer Jumbo Swatch Blue Foil Auto #ed 01/102015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Roger Federer World Class Bronze Auto Autograph B2015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Roger Federer Jumbo Swatch Red Foil Auto #ed 5/72015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Roger Federer Big Finish Silver Auto #ed 10/252015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Roger Federer Base Silver Auto Autograph #ed 01/252015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Roger Federer Base Gold Auto Autograph #ed 06/10Maria Sharapova 2016 Topps Allen & Ginter (2) Card Lot Relic Sp Non Auto Tennis2015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Roger Federer World Class Silver Auto #ed 04/252016 Topps Allen & Ginter Maria Sharapova Used Relic Sp Tennis Star2015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis John Isner Jumbo Swatch Red Auto Logo Patch #ed 09/102016 Topps Allen & Ginter #aga-msh Maria Sharapova Auto Russian Tennis Champ2016 Wimbledon Tennis Mens Final Official Programme - Andy Murray V Milos RaonicMartina Hingis Signed 11x14 Tennis Photo Auto Autograph Psa/dna Coa 2015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Andy Murray World Class Gold Auto Autograph #d 07/10John Mcenroe Nike Serve & Volley PosterRoger Federer 2015 Leaf Q Silver Parallel Auto Tennis Vintage Andre Agassi Front/bk Print T Shirt Nike Size Xl Genuine Rare Court ClubRoger Federer Wta Auto Autographed Signed CardErnie Baker Wimbledon Dons Original 1964 Speedway Photograph2016 Topps Allen & Ginter Maria Sharapova Athlete-worn Relic Sp Tennis Rare Maria Sharapova 2016 Topps Allen & Ginter Framed Mini Auto Ssp Card Tennis2016 Topps Allen & Ginter 59 Card Relic Lot! Sharapova Trout Tanaka Stanton Etc 2015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Nicole Gibbs Queens Of The Courts Holo Silver Auto 5/5Maria Sharapova 2016 Allen & Ginter Relic Card Fsrb-mshVintage Dunlop Black Max Pro Midsize Graphite Tennis Racquet Unstrung Racket New2015 Leaf Legends Of Sport Martina Navratilova Auto Autograph2015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Martina Navratilova Big Finish Silver Auto #ed 24/252015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Sebastien Grosjean World Class Printing Plate Auto 1/12015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Vasek Pospisil Jumbo Swatch Auto #ed 19/252015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Sebastien Grosjean Blk Printing Plate Swatch Auto 1/1Maria Sharapova 2016 Topps Allen & Ginter Full-size Relic Fsrb Jersey/shirt RedSubbuteo Football Team Number 63749 "wimbledon" New2016 Allen Ginter Mini Maria Sharapova Hand Numbered /25 Athlete TennisAna Ivanovic Signed 11x14 Tennis Photo Auto Autograph Psa/dna Coa Anna Kournikova Signed 16x20 Tennis Photo Auto Autograph Psa/dna Coa2015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Nicole Gibbs Black Printing Plate Swatch Auto #ed 1/12015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis John Isner World Class Holo Silver Auto 4/52015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Anna Karolina Schmiedlova Printing Plate Auto 1/12015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis Elena Vesnina Magenta Printing Plate Swatch Auto 1/12015 Leaf Ultimate Tennis John Isner Black Printing Plate Swatch Auto #ed 1/1Antique Clay Tennis Court Line Painter Baseball Lime Slurry Iron Wheels Rare!7 Vintage Tennis Rackets Wilson Signature Jack Kramer Chris Evert Van Dillen ++Old Vintage Tournament Tennis Balls Made In Great Britain Unopened Paper LabelDominika Cibulkova Signed 11x14 Tennis Photo Autograph Psa/dna CoaVintage Donjoy, Yonex, Head Etc Lot Of 5 Graphite Etc Tennis Racquets2016 Allen & Ginter No Number Back Mini Maria Sharapova Tennis Player Ssp