Looking Back at Brunswick Cue Decals Through Time

 

My goal has always been to restore billiard cues to their original look and condition. Thus early on as I restored vintage cues it was necessary to address the need to replace badly damaged or missing Brunswick cue decals with a decal that was correct in every regard. I also reasoned that knowing when Brunswick changed from one decal design to another could be useful in dating antique billiard cues. Unfortunately from my research thus far, I have found that there is little literary information available that address how the billiard cue decal design evolved through time. Furthermore, information that has been published by one source is contradicted by another.

For example, the Blue Book of Pool Cues third edition page 189, gives specific dates when the early Brunswick billiard cue decals were in use. This publication says the eagle decal with the white outer ring was only in use from late 1800's to early 1900's. The eagle decal with the red outer ring is indicated to be in use from 1906 – 1920. Blue Book of Pool Cues publication also indicates from 1921 – 1925 an eagle decal with a gold outer ring and red field was used. And from 1926 – 1939 this same eagle decal had a green outer ring with either a red or yellow field. This Blue Book information is not consistent with the Billiard Encyclopedia, Third Edition bound book. On page 194 the Billiard Encyclopedia indicates the eagle decal with the red outer ring was introduced in 1912 and rather than 1906 as indicated by the Blue Book.

I have less than a complete collection of Brunswick Supply Catalogs, but from those that I do have, I noted the following regarding the dating of cues by their decals. The 1908 Brunswick Supply Catalog has pictures of billiard cues but none are shown to have decals. The two early white and red decals are both distinctive in that at the 12, 3, 6 and 9 o'clock positions around the outer ring there is what appears to be a decorative bell like feature that is not seen on the later Brunswick decals. In the 1912 color Brunswick Supply Catalog there are cues with both the white or the red decal with the bell like outer design. If the Blue Book of Pool Cues were correct, one should only see the red ringed decal in the 1912 book. The 1915 Brunswick catalog with a color fold out shows only white decals. Here are a few of the other catalogs that I have and the color of the decal shown: 1917 – white; 1924 – white; 1926 – red. In 1928 the color Brunswick Supply Catalog for the first time, that I can find, shows a Brunswick cue with a decal without the decorative outer bell design. This 1928 color catalog shows the outer ring to be white, which I have yet to see on a Brunswick cue.

I have not been able to find credible evidence as to specific years when Brunswick changed cue production from one cue decal to another. I suspect there was no across the board change in the cue decal in a given year. It is likely that more than one type of cue decal may have been used in the same year, so one must be careful to not use the decal to date a Brunswick Cue. If you have more tangible evidence of when certain Brunswick Billiard cue decals were in use please contact me.

Without being specific as to the date when Brunswick made a change from one style of decal to another, here is what we do know with some certainty. The very first Brunswick billiard cues, that identified the manufacturer, had a pressed stamp rather than a decal. In pictures #1 and #2 below you will see the cues are stamped J.M. Brunswick Chicago and H.W. Collender CO. N.Y. The cue in Picture #1 can more easily be given a date range when produced since it was before J.M Brunswick merged with Julius Balke in 1873 to become J.M. Brunswick and Balke. The cue in Picture #2 was manufactured some time before 1884, as this is when H.W. Collender merged with the other two companies to form the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company. I do not have an example of a billiard cue with a pressed stamp J.M. Brunswick and Balke or Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company but they likely exist. If you have such a cue, please send me a picture and I will update this section of the web site.

 

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Picture #1

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Picture #2

 

At some point in the late 1800's or early 1900's the Brunswick cue went from pressed stamp identification on the cue to a cue identified with a decal. All of the decals used by Brunswick up through the round eagle decals in the late 1930's were a silk screen lacquer decal printed on duplex paper and adhered to the cue with a thin layer of varnish. It is easy to recognize an old unapplied varnish fix decal as the image that you see when you look at the decal is from the back side. The application of a varnish fix decal is more difficult to create and apply but if one is to accurately restore a cue you must use a varnish fix decal on these early Brunswick cues. To learn more about varnish fix decals go to the Cue Decal Re-creation section of this web site.

I think most believe there is one eagle decal for both the white ringed eagle decal and the red ringed eagle decal. SUCH IS NOT THE CASE. If you had looked at as many of the original eagle decals as I have in the past 10 years, you would see dramatic differences in the white and red decals and in fact Brunswick used variations of each of these decals. I often wonder why Brunswick chose to modify the art work for say the white or red decal during its years of use. Perhaps Brunswick changed suppliers for these decals, and in fact the new decal manufacturer modified the decal slightly because they did not have access to the original art work. Whatever the reason, if we could only know when these modifications in design were done, then perhaps we could more correctly determine the age of a particular cue.

The first Brunswick decal appeared on cues around the turn of the 20th century as noted in old Brunswick catalogs and is likely the one shown in Picture #3 and #4 below. These two pictures are two views of the same decal so that you can see the detail around the cue. The focal point of the decal is a gold eagle holding a "monarch cushion" banner. It is bordered with a white ring with the "The Brunswick-Balke-Collender CO." name in bold print. Note the bell like feature at the 12, 3, 6, 9, clock positions around the outer ring. Also note the brown swirl in the bell and the tinting in the eagle's wing. Pay particular attention to the vibrant gold ink used in the both the white and red eagle decals. With gold prices fixed, many printers actually used gold dust in the lacquer inks in the silk screen process. As gold prices began to rise printers went to other pigments rather than gold dust in the ink. These new inks did not hold the bright gold look and instead took on a dingy green cast over time which is prevalent in most of the eagle decals with red wings.

 

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Picture #3

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Picture #4

 

Picture # 5 below is an original decal from a Brunswick Fish Pole. This decal has slight differences from the decals in Pictures #3 and #4 above. Notice the banner, which is streaming below the "monarch" side in the decals in Pictures #3 and #4, is thicker and the banner touches the inner circle. Compare the above banner to the one in picture #5 and you will see the Fish Pole decal streaming banner is thinner and it does not touch the circle. Also look at the neck of the eagle in the decal in picture #3 & #4. The neck is thicker than on the eagle in Picture #5. These differences in decal design are small but very noticeable if you begin to study the decals in detail. The differences could also help to put cues in approximate date order if there were records or catalogs that show when Brunswick used particular decals. I suspect the decal in picture #5 is the second decal design used by Brunswick on their early 1900's cues based on when the Fish Pole cue was first introduced. These Brunswick decal design details are critical if one is to recreate reasonably correct decals for cue restoration projects.

 

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Picture #5

 

The two views of the decal in picture #6 and #7 are what I believe to be the first of the red eagle decals. The reason being is the eagle in the decal in picture #6 & #7 is thinner in its neck area and more closely resembles the eagle in picture #5. There are however noticeable differences from the earlier white ringed eagle decals shown above. For example the eagle has 6 tail feathers in the white decals above while this red ringed eagle in picture #6 & #7 has one rounded tail feather. The left wing of the eagle below disappears into the outer ring while its wing tip shows in the white decal. The balls at the top of the outer bell are larger in the red decal (Picture #6) as compared to the white decal (Picture # 4). Examine what looks like a belt buckle at the bottom of this red decal in Picture #6. It is more rounded in shape than the ones in the white decal in pictures #3 & #5. This eagle in pictures #6 & #7 has a mean looking beak unlike any other of the decals. While there are many other differences I could call your attention to, I leave you with one last observation -- note the black lettering in the "The Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co." in the white ringed decal as compared to the gold print in the lettering of the red decal in Picture #6. This noticeable difference has apparently been over looked on some replacement decals on the market.

 

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Picture #6

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Picture #7

 

The two views of the red ringed eagle decal in Pictures #8 and #9 below is quite different than the one in Picture #7 above or the white ringed eagle in picture #3. Compare tail feathers in the eagle in Picture #8 to those above. These tail feathers are jagged and point to the right. Look at the very bottom of the outer red ring -- there are 9 black streaks in the lower center part of the ribbon on the ring in Picture #8 while only 6 black streaks are in banner in Picture #6. Look at the thickness of the eagle's neck in Picture #8. You cannot see the cue below the beak in this eagle while you can see it in all of the previous eagle decals shown above. There are several more differences between the eagle shown in Picture # 8 and # 9 when compared to the others. Can you find them?

 

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Picture #8

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Picture #9

 

The two views of the red decal shown in Pictures #10 and #11 are yet again different from the red decals shown above. For example, note the black high-lighting below the letter "B" in Balke in the upper outer ring in the decal in Picture # 10. It is missing below the letter "B" in Picture #9. All of the lettering and highlighting is different in these two decals. I call your attention to the green tint in the eagle in the #10 decal as compared to the prior gold eagles -- most notable is Picture #7. This greening effect is a good indication that the cue in Picture #10 is not as old as the one in Picture #7 since the silk screen printer has gone from gold dust in the ink to a not so good gold substitute that has aged over time.

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Picture #10

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Picture #11

 

Picture # 12 is an original decal on a Brunswick Valcanite cue. You can clearly see how the gold ink in this cue has changed to a green cast which indicates this cue is not as old as a cue with a bright gold looking decal that incorporated gold dust in the silk screening ink.

 

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Picture #12

 

Just when you think you have seen all of the Brunswick decals a new decal appears.  Look at the decal in picture #12a.  You have to look no further than the tail feathers on the eagle to see that it is different than any of the other early red decals shown above.  I wonder where it fell time wise in the Brunswick ever changing red decals.  I also wonder why the chances were being made. 

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Picture #12a

 

According to the Blue Book of Pool Cues, by Brad Simpson, the decal shown in Picture #13, and two views of the same decal in Pictures #14, and #15, were being used on Brunswick cues between 1921 and 1925. That is pretty definite timing don't you think? These decals below are very distinctive in that the decal no longer incorporates the bell shaped design at the 1, 6, 9 and 12 o'clock positions of the decal. While I do believe this is the next varnish-fix decal to be used on a Brunswick cue, I do wonder about the date when it was first used. I do see that in the 1926 Brunswick catalog's color fold out, that the cues still clearly show a red decal with the bell shaped ornamentation. It is safe to say the decals shown below were in use in the late 1920's to early 1930's -- however I have yet to find a catalog showing the decal in Picture #13 in 1921. It always cracks me up to see an eBay listing for a cue that gives the specific date of manufacture. I wonder where these people get their information.

I will bet that when you looked at the two cue decals in Pictures #13 and #14 you saw the same decal. Not so quick. Look at the eagle's eye in each decal. Picture #13 is a small eye with a line trailing to the left of the eye. The other eagle looks to have gotten a black eye in a fight. Compare the feathering in the legs of these two decals. Do they look the same to you? Wouldn't it be nice to know when Brunswick went from the one design to the other? If we knew that, we could then more correctly date the two cues that are shown below.

 

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Picture #13

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Picture #14

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Picture #15

 

The decal in Picture #16 is the same eagle as the two views of the decal in Pictures #14 & #15. The only real difference is the color of the outer ring. One is gold and the other is an army green. My printer is fairly certain the gold is actual gold dust. He feels they went to the green outer ring most likely because of the increasing cost of gold for the lacquer ink in the screening process

 

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Picture #16

 

If all of this is adding to your confusion, let's go a step further. The eagle in the decal in Picture #13 is the same as the eagle in Picture #17 and the two views of the decal in Pictures # 18 and #19; yet the outer ring in these decals are gold and another shade of green -- so we have two shades of gold and three shades of green on the outer ring. I have had cues with original green ringed decals which are very bright green and others that are very pale army green. I wonder if this color difference is from ink that has faded over time or was it a different pigment use in screening the decal. While I do not have the rare example to show you, the same eagle decal shown in the two views in Pictures #18 & #19 also came with a yellow center. Red and yellow pigments are mixed to make orange. Do you think the printer could have run out of red pigment and printed a few decals with the yellow center?

 

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Picture #17

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Picture #18

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Picture #19

 

Don't let anyone tell you with certainty that they have a cue manufactured by Brunswick in a particular year as evidenced by the type of decal applied in the factory. There are not enough records to say precisely when Brunswick used a particular decal. In the past 10 years I have likely spent more time than most obsessing over the timing of these decals and the best I can say is: During the period from 1900 to 1940 Brunswick decals were applied to cues possibly in the order shown above, without being too specific about the date.

WE DO KNOW THAT BRUNSWICK MASS PRODUCED MORE BEAUTIFUL CUES THROUGH TIME THAN ANYOTHER MANUFACTURER, HOWEVER, WE WILL NEVER KNOW FOR CERTAIN WHEN THE COMPANY WENT FROM ONE STYLE CUE TO ANOTHER WITHOUT ACCURATE PRODUCTION RECORDS FROM BRUNSWICK. DISCOUNT ANY PERSON'S CLAIM THAT A CUE WAS PRODUCED DURING A PARTICULAR PERIOD.

BRUNSWICK'S WILLIE HOPPE CUE DECALS:

While I have focused most of my attention on restoring antique cues of days gone by (1850 to 1940), I have found many people of my generation have a great interest in the restoration of Willie Hoppe cues. I suspect the 1950's – 1960's billiard players held Willie Hoppe cues in the same admired regard as golfers of this era held Wilson Staff golf clubs. Thus, I have immersed myself in a study of the Willie Hoppe cue decals and how they have changed through time. I wanted to be certain that during the restoration process of a Willie Hoppe cue a very correct decal is applied where the decal had previously been lost due to the poor water slide adhesive process used on these cues.

For twenty to thirty years in the early 1900's Brunswick had been producing a very attractive cue with four multi-colored veneer Berger points. In general these were referred to as Titlist points or 26 ½ cues. In 1940 Brunswick introduced the Willie Hoppe cue named for the world famous carom billiard champion who had won 51 world titles between 1906 and 1951. The Willie Hoppe Cue had very attractive and distinctive multi-color veneer Berger Points like those seen in Picture #20.

 

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Picture #20

 

The Willie Hoppe cue came in two models; the two "piece", "Willie Hoppe Professional Cue" and the one "piece", "Willie Hoppe Titlist Cue". Decals for both of these first versions of the Willie Hoppe cue are shown below in pictures #21, #22 and #23. For the first time Brunswick used a water slide decal on its cue rather than a varnish fix decal. You will find a discussion of the differences "Varnish Fix and Water Slide" in another section of this web site. The simplicity of the decal, as well as cost to apply, surely led to the change. I have included picture #22 as I have seen it many times. It is a screen printing error where the screen was not properly indexed and a second border is seen in the upper left of the decal. Notice the similarity of the font style for "Brunswick" and "Willie Hoppe" on both cues. This first two "Willie Hoppe Professional" cues came with an ivory and black fiber butt cap as can be seen in Picture #21.

 

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Picture #21

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Picture #22

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Picture #23

 

The decal is found on the butt of the cue in the pictures above. There is also a Willie Hoppe signature on the forearm of the cue. The Willie Hoppe signature on the forearm of the first Willie Hoppe Professional and the Titlest cue is shown in Pictures #24 and #25. Note that the two "i"s in Willie are dotted. Look also at the "H" and the "p" in Hoppe as they are distinctive from the same letters in a second version of the Willie Hoppe forearm signature.

 

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Picture #24

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Picture #25

 

Most people believe that the forearm signature in pictures #24 and #25 is the only signature used on the forearm of the first (early 1940's) vintage Willie Hoppe cues shown in Pictures #21 or #22. I however have restored two Willie Hoppe Professional cues with decals like those in Pictures #21 and #22 that had a different forearm signature. These cues had the forearm signature shown in Pictures #26 and #27. Notice this second signature does not have the "i" dotted in Willie. Also note, the different "H" and "p" in Hoppe for this second signature.

I expect that it was late in the production cycle for the first Willie Hoppe Cue, with the decal shown in Pictures #21 and #22, when Brunswick made the change to the forearm signature shown in picture #26 and #27. The Willie Hoppe decal used on cues has changed several times since the first decal in 1940. To my knowledge, only the first early 1940's version of the decal is found on cues with either one or the other of the two different forearm signatures. The forearm signature has remained the same as the one shown in Pictures #26 and #27 with all subsequent decals that include a forearm signature. If you, the reader, have evidence that this is incorrect please share your information with me and I will make changes to this web site.

 

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Picture #26

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Picture #27

 I have had several people e-mail me -- questioning the statement that the first Willie Hoppe cue and decal ever came with the second signature.  As they say a picture is worth a thousand words.  In pictures #27a, #27b and #27c below you will see the first Willie Hoppe decal with the second signature.  It is easy to verify it is the same cue from the background in the picture.

 

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Picture #27a

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Picture #27b

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Picture #27c

 

 

Somewhere near 1945 and for the next 5 or 6 years Brunswick came out with a second "Willie Hoppe Professional" and "Willie Hoppe Titlest Cue" with a new version of the decal as seen in Pictures #28 and #29. Compared to the earlier version of the decal, you can see changes to the font style (example, compare the "B" in Brunswick) used as well as placement, size and style of the Willie Hoppe signature. Notice also the dots on either side of the word "Cue". This is the only one of four Willie Hoppe blue decals where the center of the dot is white in color. These Willie Hoppe cues, as well as all future cues with a Willie Hoppe forearm signature, are like the ones shown in Pictures #26 and #27. The shade of blue used in the silk screen process changes from one version of the Willie Hoppe decal to another. This second version of the Willie Hoppe cue still had the ivory Hoppe ring as part of the butt cap.

 

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Picture #28

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Picture #29

 

Starting at about 1951 and for the next ten years the "Willie Hoppe Professional" cue had a decal like that shown in Picture #30. Again notice the change in font style.  Check the "B" in Brunswick. The "W" in the Willie Hoppe signature almost touches the "B" in Brunswick. If that isn't enough to convince you there are differences, check the open lower loop in the "P" in Hoppe. Others have pointed out that the font style used in the Brunswick logo on this decal has not been found on any other advertising piece. The ivory Hoppe ring is gone from the butt cap on this cue. My guess is cost and concerns for the preservation of the elephant prompted this change. I have also noticed a change to lesser quality control on this cue as compare to older cues. The black fiber joint rings and but cap do not align themselves well with the wood or brass. Others have suggested that the black fiber may have swelled over time. I do not think that is the case. I think the cues came from the factory with joint rings and butt caps already miss-aligned.

I need some help from the reader. I have yet to find a one piece "Willie Hoppe Titlest" cue that has the same style as the one shown in Picture #30. Did Brunswick drop the one piece Willie Hoppe cue before 1960? If you have this vintage of Brunswick catalog that shows the one piece Hoppe cue, please send me a copy and I will update the information shown here.

 

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Picture #30

 

While I do not have a date certain, let's say for most of the 1960's, Brunswick came out with a fourth version of the "Willie Hoppe Professional" decal shown in Picture #31. I am certain that if you have followed the discussion thus far you can pick out for yourself the different font style, placement of signature and shade of blue from earlier Willie Hoppe Professional decals. On some of these style of decals and on later Brunswick cues that had decals, you will also notice a perforation in the decal. My guess is the perforation was an indication of the production date of the cue. If you have a more definitive idea as to why the decal is perforated let me know and I will update this web page.

 

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Picture #31

 

Although I cannot give you the dates when changes were made, shown below (in order of use) are the last two Willie Hoppe decals used by Brunswick.

 

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Picture #32

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Picture #33

 

While far from complete, I have included other decals or stamps used by Brunswick. Unfortunately, I do not have enough information to explain when these cue decals were used. If you have pictures of other Brunswick decals and would care to send me a picture, I will add your decal pictures to this page of the web site. Thanks.

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Picture #34

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Picture #35

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Picture #36

 

If you have a billiard cue that you wish to have restored, a cue you wish to sell, or other billiard items you wish to sell, you may contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 928-468-6405.

Please do not contact me for appraisals as this is a business better left to others.