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England's oldest club is trading a painting for the deed to its real estate

December 03, 2015

You know a club has serious historical credentials when it's the place that coined the terms "medal play" and "Calcutta."

Royal Blackheath, outside London, is considered to be England's oldest club -- and one of the oldest in the world. But since its inception in 1608, it has sat on ground owned by the British Crown.

That land has been put up for sale, and to buy it, the club is auctioning off its prize possession -- an 18th century painting of club captain Henry Callender by Lemuel Francis Abbott.

Bonhams auction house is administering the Dec. 9 sale, and estimates the portrait -- which shows Callender in his red captain's jacket holding an ancient putter -- to sell for $900,000 to $1.2 million. The painting has hung in the Blackheath clubhouse since at least the early 1800s.

That score will go toward purchasing the freehold for the club's land, which is currently administered by The Crown Estate.

For the bidder who has some change left over from his or her million, the actual putter Callender is holding in the painting is also up for bid in the same auction. The stubby, circa-1780 club is expected to fetch $75,000 to $120,000.

The club should easily be able to pick up a tastefully-done reproduction to cover the light spot on the paneling and have enough left over for the deed.