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With all the major sporting collectors in town, Christie’s South Kensington (17.5/10% buyer’s premium) held their annual Tennis, Cricket and Traditional Sports sale on June 25. It sported a 71 per cent take-up by lot and netted £239,360.

The strength of the sale lay with the 136-lot cricket section. Headlining proceedings was a complete set of John Wisden’s Cricketers Almanack, 138 volumes ranging in date from 1864 to 2001. It is very unusual for a complete set to be offered as a single lot – early volumes in good condition are eagerly sought after – but it was the vendor’s express wish that these be sold together.

Although some of the earlier works were in poor condition, the set brought £35,000 from a UK collector – which sounds good value for money as a 1864 first edition that followed made £5500 and an 1865 second edition fetched £3800.

One of the most contested cricket entries was a one-page codicil, dated 25 September 1861, confirming the English cricket team’s readiness to play in the first tour of Australia and signed by the 11 team members. This early piece of cricket ephemera exceeded its speculative £1000-1500 guideline landing a winning £16,000 from a UK dealer.

An early lawn tennis racquet topped the tennis section when it was pursued to a triple-estimate £16,000. The mid-19th century Sphairistike tilt-head, pictured far right in our illustration was manufactured in London by French & Co. It had an ash head, original two-tone gut stringing, natural gut trebling and its original sheepskin grip and was consigned from a titled collector.

The inferior condition of two other Sphairistike tilt-head tennis racquets from the same consignment and with the same £5000-8000 estimate dampened bidding, but they still made £3000 (left) and £2600 (centre).