Certainly the most popular and valuable iron clubs as playable currently seem to be from Scotland. Tom Stewart irons with a clay pipe cleek mark are very desirable, and if you can find them with heavier weights and reasonable lengths, make great players. Stewart’s foundry was prolific, and his clubs were shipped all over the world. Usually they were shafted at their destination and often display the names of the merchant or golf pro who was the end seller. George Nicholl is probably the second most desirable manufacturer among the Scottish makers, especially his precisions. William Gibson of Kinghorn was also a prolific iron maker whose clubs can be identified by the star cleek mark. Particularly playable are his Star Maxwell, Stella, and Aykros models. Robert Forgan’s later clubs are also much sought after, and have a flag-in-the-hole cleek mark. Somewhat lesser known cleekmakers, but whose clubs are often very playable include, Winton-diamond cleekmark, Cochrane using either a bowknot or a Knight, Hendry and Bishop identified with a bishops hat or”mitre”, and Condie whose cleekmark is a rose.
Of Scottish woods, Jack White would seem to be the most desireable. White was “The Open” winner in 1904, and among others made woods for Bobby Jones in his prime, including the famous “Jeanie Deans” driver. To my way of thinking, by 1925 the American Manufacturers had become the equal, if not superior to the Scots, where wood head clubs are concerned. Many of the MacGregor, Wilsonians, and Spauldings were better than the average UK made brassies, spoons, and drivers. Although the Americans got a later start, with practically no production previous to 1890, by 1930, advances in design technology and production techniques, were coming mostly from this side of the Atlantic. Undoubtably this was due to an explosion in popularity here in the US, driven by the successes of Francis Ouimette, Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, and Gene Sarazen.
Of the American irons, Spauldings flanged Bobby Jones Kroflites, and their generic cousin the “custom mades” of 1933, are by far the best. Also worthy of note are the MacGregor Duralites, and Radites, and Burkes “long Burkes”
As many of the clubs in this era tend to be on the light side, especially woods, particular attention should be payed to the swing weights and lengths of clubs when purchasing or appraising. Also it should be noted that while most of the clubs we have discussed in this article are primarily valued for their playability, the value of some, are based on their collectability. Namely, Tom Stewart FO (Francis Ouimette) and RTJ (Bobby Jones), along with the Spaulding, 1933, Bobby Jones, flanged Kroflites.
In summary, there are a lot of great old golf clubs, still valued for their playability, from both the UK and the US.