Lot # 47: Maponite Composite Ball 1898, Gutta Percha Substitute

Category: Golf Balls

Starting Bid: $100.00

Bids: 16 (Bid History)

Time Left: Auction closed
Lot / Auction Closed

This lot is closed. Bidding is not allowed.

Item was in Auction "Desert Mountain Collection",
which ran from 8/30/2022 6:00 AM to
9/17/2022 8:00 PM

Stamped "Maponite" on both poles, this golf ball was made from maponite in the late 1890s by The Maponite Limited Co.  It is in outstanding original condition.  It shows only light use, with a couple of faint strike marks, and the original paint shows only light wear.  The fact that Maponite golf balls were made during the gutty ball era but were not made from gutta percha is a pretty big deal and dang good history. 

According to a short article titled "What is Maponite" in the July 14, 1898 issue of Golfing and Cycling, Maponite "is claimed to be a perfect substitute for rubber" and was being used in place of gutta percha to make golf balls. 

The makers of maponite were hoping to take the golf market by storm and not quit there.  A full page advertisement offering shares of stock in Maponite, Limited appeared in the July 15, 1898 issue of Golf magazine. A copy of that ad is included in the accompanying images.  The ad describes Maponite as a great material for making golf balls, cricket balls, tobacco pouches, spring blocks for railway carriage buffers, belting for engines, and axle dust-guards for railway carriages.  The ad further announces that "Mr. Horace Hutchison and Mr. S. Mure Ferguson, both in the top rank as amateurs, have pronounced [the Maponite golf ball] equal to, if not superior to, any other ball, and have accepted a seat on the Board of the Company."   

Buried in the small print was a statement that it would be approximately three months before the company would be "in a position to supply the public with golf and cricket balls in large quantity."  The company needed money to scale up.

It was not smooth sailing right out of the gate.  Over a year later, the Maponite ball makers had been dealing with a few issues and the ball was still not available for sale. The September 8, 1899 issue of Golf Illustrated commented that "The Maponite Golf Ball will, in all probability, soon be on the market.  A golf ball made of this substance has been the subject of prolonged experiments which are now reaching a most satisfactory conclusion.  The new ball has a longer carry and run than any ball made out of gutta percha, and it never loses its shape as the 'gutty' balls do."

An article about Maponite, Limited in the May 4, 1900 issue of Golf Illustrated states that Maponite balls were manufactured by Maponite, Limited at Hythe, a village some two miles south-east of Colchester. it concludes with a brief account of the production process:

"We were shown the various stages through which Maponite passes, from the mixing room where the various ingredients are brought together and intermixed by an ingenious system of revolving buckets, up to the painting room where the manufactured ball, looking for all the world like a black Silvertown, receives its successive coats of snow white paint at the hands of an army of small boys.

"Mr. MacMahon [the production manager] informed us that the great difficulty to be contended with was the tendency of Maponite in its plastic state to swell under the enormous pressure which it is subjected to. The ball is left in the mould for one hour, and during that time men are employed in constantly tightening up the two halves of the mould as they get loosened by the expansion of the material inside."

In the December 21, 1900 issue Golf Illustrated reported that "the Maponite ball has steadily increased in popularity, owing to its excellent flying qualities, its resistance to hard knocks, and its wonderful cheapness.  There is no better 6d. ball on the market."

That upbeat comment did not hold much sway on the market, at least not according to the March 21, 1902 issue of Golf Illustrated which reported: "Golfers will be sorry to hear that the Maponite Company which started about four years ago under such promising auspices has got into difficulties. The Maponite golf ball did not prove a success, and this was greatly due to the difficulty experienced in producing a ball of uniform quality. The other products of the company have done fairly well, and it is to be hoped that with some better management it may yet do well."

Any success that Maponite products actually enjoyed was short-lived. The company was liquidated on January 17, 1903.  The introduction of the Haskell rubber-core ball at turn of the century was the parting blow, quickly rendering the gutta percha and any other solid ball obsolete.

Those few Maponite golf balls that made it to this day are lucky to be here. 

This ball is 3rd row right in the group shot in the accompanying images.



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