A Collector’s Passion


While this month’s musings are inspired by one collector and her passion for tennis antiques, our reflections delineate three of the universal driving forces that impel collectors of every genre of antiques, including our specialty which is Adirondack/rustic antiques.

On August 30, 2018 The Jeanne Cherry Collection of Tennis Antiques will be sold at Morphy Auctions in Pennsylvania.

(View lots from a desktop or laptop computer at:

On mobile devices scroll to Lot 746 from this link:

Jeanne Cherry (1932-2017), the mother of Cherry Gallery’s co-owner Jeff Cherry, was the author of a landmark book on tennis antiques, a leading member of tennis collector societies in the U.S. and abroad, a mentor to other collectors, and an indefatigable huntress of tennis antiques.

Jeanne Cherry’s 1995 book on tennis antiques.

The depth and diversity of Jeanne’s collection reflect her interest in the entire breadth of tennis history and its related material culture.

Group of 27 tennis tintypes; Lot 877

She acquired antiques related to the game of tennis in every possible category—including books, ephemera, photography, equipment, clothing and accessories, toys and games, fine art, jewelry, decorative arts, and furniture.

The Renshaw cup won by the first American finalist at Wimbledon, Maurice McLoughlin, in 1913; Lot 820.
Jeanne Cherry Collection of Tennis Antiques
This oil on canvas of four women tennis players by Edouard Francois Zier (1856-1924) was one of Jeanne’s favorite paintings – it hung in a prominent area of her home where she passed by it many times a day; Lot 748
The Jeanne Cherry collection of tennis antiques.
An 1887 oil on canvas of a Victorian lady with a tennis racket; Lot 747
The Jeanne Cherry collection of tennis antiques
Tennis table service items including a dinner gong, toast racks, salt & pepper set, and knife rests; Lot 753

The following sections highlight three of the motivating factors that compelled Jeanne to amass and curate her collection of antiques and which, time and again, we have also seen propelling other people’s collecting passions.

1. Fascination with History

There is an intellectual component to being a good collector, and thereby to forming a good collection. Driven by her keen intellect and unquenchable curiosity about all things related to tennis history, Jeanne was as much a scholar of the sport as she was an enthusiast.

For instance, she loved periodically living in and often traveling to England, where the modern game of tennis had its earliest origins in the 16th century game of court tennis.

the Jeanne Cherry collection of tennis antiques
Estate collection of Cecil “Punch” Fairs, four-time Court Tennis Champion of the World, 1900-1910; Lot 820

Visiting museums, historic homes, palaces, and tennis courts in England and elsewhere helped her develop a grounded understanding of the broader social and cultural contexts that gave rise to tennis objects.

In addition to telling a cultural story, antiques tell a story of human innovation over time. Tennis racket shapes through the ages, for instance, are physical manifestations of how sporting practices evolved over decades and centuries.

The Jeanne Cherry collection of tennis antiques
Sample tennis racket head shapes; over 125 tennis rackets are grouped in Lots 776-818

Another area of tennis history that Jeanne found fascinating was how class and social norms played out, literally and figuratively, on the tennis court. She loved learning about and acquiring the “tennis costumes” that both men and women wore, and understanding how women in particular coped with clothing that in our modern judgment would have severely restricted any woman’s potential for athletic prowess.

the Jeanne Cherry collection of tennis antiques
Early tennis attire including dresses, camisole, belts, and a cap; Lot 842
the Jeanne Cherry collection of tennis antiques
Antique and vintage tennis shoes, Lot 902
the Jeanne Cherry collection of tennis antiques
Locking tennis skirt lifter used in the 1880’s to raise a dress hem to make it easier to play tennis; Lot 935

2. Social Aspects of Collecting

Humans are social beings, and as such we enjoy forming and joining tribes.

Jeanne’s personal appreciation of tennis antiques was magnified a hundredfold through her interaction with her tribe of other passionate collectors. Scores of people she met through collecting became good friends as she built personal relationships that extended well beyond their shared interest in tennis antiques.

Just as playing tennis or any sport is a social activity, so too is collecting sporting antiques.

We would also argue that the social impetus behind acquiring a category of antiques extends beyond enjoying meet-ups with other collectors to share finds and knowledge. Appointing a home with antiques, whether to accent existing decor or to recreate an entire historic setting such as the interior of a 19th century Adirondack Great Camp, is also at its core a social pursuit.

We decorate our homes not just to enjoy being surrounded by an aesthetic we love, but also to welcome others into that aesthetic. Having an ultimate goal of sharing one’s antiques-filled home with family and guests is a powerful social motivator for many of the collectors we have known.

the Jeanne Cherry collection of tennis antiques
A wicker tennis chair and vintage pillow that were in a welcoming corner of Jeanne’s home.

3. The Aesthetics of Antiques

The pure beauty of an individual object to an individual’s eye, even when untethered from its significance in the context of a thematic collection, is often a prerequisite for winning the favor of collectors.

the Jeanne Cherry collection of tennis antiques
Art Deco era tennis painting on silk, 85” x 52”; Lot 838

The above 1920s painting on silk, with its rich colors, crisp graphics and large size was a marvelous focal decorative element in Jeanne’s home and collection.

Likewise, this pair of garden chairs with crossed tennis rackets on the back, are aesthetically pleasing pieces of furniture that never failed to elicit appreciation from anyone who saw them, whether or not they had an interest in tennis.

the Jeanne Cherry collection of tennis antiques
Pair of wrought iron tennis chairs, circa 1920; Lot 837

Collectors of one of the most sought-after forms of traditional folk art, weathervanes, appreciate the sculptural beauty of diverse forms, from animals (such as horses), to objects (such as banners), to human figures (such as ladies of liberty). So while this tennis weathervane fits perfectly within a tennis themed antiques collection, it will also appeal to general folk art collectors in part because of its rarity, but also simply because of its beauty.

the Jeanne Cherry collection of tennis antiques
Fine molded copper woman tennis player weathervane, circa 1910; Lot 750

These are just a few examples of how antiques that have stunning visual impact in a room or outdoor setting have cross-over appeal to a wide range of antiques and decorating enthusiasts, all of whom, along with serious collectors, are united by the human need for aesthetic stimulation.

Process to Product and Past to Future

For us, Jeanne Cherry’s tennis antiques hold memories not just of how they were interwoven into her life and surroundings at home, but also of her process of finding them. Good things came her way, but even when the pickings were slim she reveled in the pursuit.

While walking the hot and dusty fields of the renowned Brimfield (Massachusetts) flea markets in July 2016 with Jeff, Jeanne found and purchased one of her rare tennis cameos, a favorite wearable antique that offered a glimpse into her passionate interests to anyone who noticed the subtle features of her jewelry.

the Jeanne Cherry collection of tennis antiques
White gold and diamond tennis cameo, circa 1920; Lot 767

One of the fascinating things about antiques is that as physical manifestations of a cultural group’s heritage they will always have value, even as popular tastes and interests come and go, shift and change.

Some of Jeanne Cherry’s tennis collection will take up new residence in libraries and museums for the public to enjoy, while most will go back into private homes. Thus, as is true with all significant antiques collections that come on the market, her collecting enthusiasm will live on as the antiques she once owned and loved will pass along to others to appreciate.

Jeanne Cherry collection of tennis antiques
Jeanne Cherry