Snead and Hogan square off in a battle for the ages
1954 Masters Championship Gold Medal Won by Sam Snead. Most
golf historians rate this 1954 edition solidly within the top ten
of all Masters contested to date, a tournament that required ninety
nail-biting holes to reach its conclusion, the final eighteen a
head-to-head battle between the two greatest players of their day,
Ben Hogan and Sam Snead. After this iconic pair found themselves
deadlocked at 289 at the close of four rounds, a Monday playoff
circuit would result in a match that the legendary Bobby Jones
would describe as the "greatest round of golf I've ever
seen." Snead's victory over his friend and nemesis would prove
to be his final Major, adding still greater luster to a piece with
no shortage thereof.
There's a very good reason why the collecting hobby is so rarely blessed with an opportunity at ownership. First of all, there is a great deal of uncertainty over the kinds of awards that were given out in the early years of the Masters Tournament. Even the official Masters website cannot be considered authoritative. Research by our best consultants indicates that no medals were awarded at all until 1951, at which time the winner began receiving a Gold Medal and the runner-up a silver medal. At that time, prior winners were permitted to buy Gold Medals to commemorate their past achievements. Not all of the champions were willing to foot the bill for a Gold Medal. Over the years, the design of the Masters Gold Medal has changed only once. The later version has a sharper strike and edge than the original version and the driveway in front of the clubhouse appears prominently in the later version but not in the earlier version.
Snead's example is the earlier model, and those who refer to the later version represented by Ralph Guldahl's 1939 medal that sold in our February 2013 Platinum Night auction will note the distinction. Since the Masters is the youngest (but perhaps the most coveted) of the four Major Championships, and because the awarding of gold championship medals for the years prior to 1951 cannot be fully ascertained, and because most of the winners are major (rich) stars who have either retained their medals or donated them to museums (Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, Nelson, Woods, etc.), there is really no opportunity for a collector to acquire a Masters Championship Gold Medal.
Jack Snead reports that his father could recount every shot he and Hogan struck during that tense eighteen-hole playoff, and that he carried this medal in his pocket for a few years after the win and talked about the match for the rest of his life, considering the victory the greatest and most gratifying of his career. Snead's trophy from the 1954 Masters, a later creation presented retroactively, commanded $191,200 in our August 2013 Platinum Night auction. This medal is the prize he was awarded at the time of his win.
It measures 1.75" in diameter and weighs 1.7 ounces. Gold content is stamped at bottom of obverse at "10K." As the photos clearly show, the detail is outstanding and the condition is Near Mint. The front of the medal depicts the famous clubhouse along with the driveway surrounding the Founders Circle. The perimeter reads, "Augusta National Golf Club." Verso features the familiar Augusta National logo (map of the USA with the flag coming out of the State of Georgia), and it reads, "Masters Tournament" and "Sam Snead, Winner, 1954." Letter of provenance from Jack Snead.
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