At first glance, the club would seem do date around 1880. The head is a nice size, but not overly large in any respect. The 4 1/2" hosel length and the 4 1/4" blade length are similar to what is found from that era. However, there is much about this light iron that does not meet the casual eye, but it all indicates that this club is very old, made no later than 1825 and possibly much earlier.
The 38" shaft in this club has a short section of whipping in the center that covers a knot on the leading side of the wood shaft. The auctioneer knows this because he saw this club approximately 30 years ago when it first came to market and did not have any whipping. It was memorable as the club is one of the very few with a knot in the shaft that the auctioneer has ever seen. Clubmakers long since have known not to use wood with a knot to make a shaft, as knots are rigid and prone to cracking from torque.
The accompanying closeup image of the whipping repair shows the elliptical grain pattern of the knot as it extends just beyond both sides of the whipping. Given the whipping on this shaft, it is likely there there is a smallish crack emanating from the knot. Even so, the shaft appears strong and should ever remain so as long as given proper care.
A second early element found in this shaft is its utter lack of symmetry. Turning the grip with one hand while holding the shaft with the other (hold tight but not so tight that the shaft will not turn when the grip is rotated) reveals that the shaft circumference is not perfectly round. There are lots of anomalies (flatter areas) both high and low on the shaft.
A third element that dates this club as really old is the wrought iron used to form the head has a strong grain. The metal is not as refined as what you will find in the typical irons made by Carrick, Gray, Wilson, etc. during the 2nd half of the 1800s. There is more slag in the metal. Plus the head is blackish in tone and oxidation, typical of wrought iron with a significant (as opposed to minimal) amount of slag.
The head is clearly not flat across the face. In relation to the top line, the toe at the sole is much lower than the heel. This is clear evidence of an iron made by a blacksmith before the cleekmakers of the second half of the 1800s were established. The hosel has exceptionally large nicking that is beautifully crafted and completely foreign in size and shape to the irons made after 1850.
Note also that cleeks made during the 1800s are characterized in part by having a topline that is only slightly angled or even parallel to the sole. The topline on this blade, however, is set at a strong angle in relation to the sole. The blade is 1 1/2" tall at the toe and only 7/8" tall at the heel.
Given that there are no other irons that share the shape of this iron with its low profile but nicely angled topline, the auctioneer sees this club as a custom order. It would fit the bill for someone who wanted a lighter than normal light iron for any number of reasons (think lady golfer, younger golfer, or a golfer's personal desires, etc) The auctioneer believes the only element on this head that is made to its normal size—thereby identifying in part the era from which it is made, is the nicking. If somebody ordered a smaller clubhead, there would be no reason to make the nicking smaller. That does not change the size of the head nor its weight.
The shaft has a notable warp that can be seen in the full length image included with this description. The sheepskin grip is original. The hosel pin looks to have been taken out and reset. There is no significant grinding or sanding or polishing around the pin hole on either side of the hosel. The auctioneer suspects that a prior owner took out the shaft to try and tighten up the head/shaft connection, which is now just slightly loose. Whatever the reason, the auctioneer has no question that this wrought iron clubhead has its original shaft. They both possess elements of great age.
The red smooth gutty ball shown in one of the images is not part of this lot, but is offered in this auction as its own lot.
This club is shown at the bottom in the accompanying group image.