ABOUT ME AND THIS SITE
Welcome to my website. First, a little about me so that you know who I am. I want to brag just a little, so you'll know that when I say a cue "hits good", I have some idea what I'm talking about.
I've been a pool player for many years. I like all the games, and have played and gambled on everything from snooker to three-cushion, but in recent years play more one-pocket than anything else. I've played in tournaments all over the country, and still play competitively. In 1970, I took 2nd in the National Collegiate Championships held in Lawrence, Kansas in straight pool. My high run was 85. So, I may not be a champion, but I can play a little, and I know when a cue feels good in my hands.
As I became more interested in cues and cue collecting, I became active in a number of related organizations. For a number of years I served as a business consultant to the American Cuemakers Association, and am still an Associate Member. I was on the Board of the American Academy of Cue Art for six years, and now serve as the Executive Vice President of the International Cue Collector Show. This is the premier cue event for high end collectors, and is held in a different location each year. It attracts the top collectors, casemakers and cuemakers from around the world.
I am proud to represent a small number of top cuemakers. I'm especially proud to represent several makers who only have one or two dealers. I pride myself in selling only cues that play well, first, and look good, second. I am sometimes open to trades, but generally prefer to trade "up" rather than "down." I am always trying to improve the quality of the cues I sell and hold in my inventory.
I have the largest inventory of custom made cases for sale by various cuemakers in the world. I am a dealer for a number of the very best casemakers. I believe in cases that are beautiful, but functional, at a reasonable price. John Barton is making some of the best cases these days. Good cases are scarce. Ron Thomas has retired, GTF cases are no longer being made, Jim Murnak seldom takes orders (his holster business is thriving), and Whitten has a long wait-list.
SPECIAL COMMISSIONED CUES
Several years ago I collaborated with cuemaker Andy Gilbert, and Bob Hergert, the master scrimshander, and commissioned a very special "theme" cue based on the story of The Lord of the Rings, which I was able to introduce at the ICCS in Santa Fe in 2009. I was pleased that it came out to be everything I hoped it could be. It recently gained international attention, being featured in an article in the March, 2010 issue of Pool & Billiard Magazine.
I also collaborated with Pete Tonkin on a very special cue that is now pictured on the site, one I call "The Mountain Cue." It follows a native American theme, using the symbol for mountains as the centerpiece of the handle. Pete estimated it has about 740 separate inlays! In addition to the "Mountain" motif, it uses a traditional "Frog Foot" design and a "Fish back" symbol to decorate the grip wood, with tons of ivory, silver veneers, and blue lapis and coral to add a blue and red color theme. This cue is featured on the site, and can be found on the index page under "Cues Not For Sale."
One other commissioned cue worth mention is the "Santa Fe" cue by Richard Chudy. I waited almost two years for this cue but it was well worth the wait. I had him use a design he'd used twice before, with different woods and inlay materials, and added a new ring design he had developed. It turned out to be a beautiful cue.
One thing you will notice about many of my cues is that they're built by cuemakers who began their association with pool as a player, and later became cue makers. I think this is very important because only a reasonably good player can distinguish between a good hit and a mediocre or poor hit, and therefore, only real pool players can make consistently good hitting cues. Being a player myself, I know that there are cue makers who do excellent artistic and creative work with great craftmanship, only to produce a beautiful cue that hits poorly. My first criteria after seeing a cue I like is to hit some balls. If I don't like the hit, I have no interest in the cue regardless of its beauty or price.
I often hear comments about the values of cues. I believe they are an excellent investment. I know they have been for me. Buying a good cue is like investing in the stock market, but with less risk involved. Smart stock investors buy "value" stocks. Smart cue collectors should do the same. In cues, value generally means a good combination of price and who made the cue. You get what you pay for. Don't expect a cue that you purchased for a couple of hundred dollars to go up in price. If you buy a cue from one of the production line companies, you'll take a hit in depreciation before you walk out the door. If you buy a custom, one of a kind cue from a top-name cuemaker, you may be able to play with it for many years and still sell it for a large profit later. My Gus Szamboti cue has gone up more than 1500% in value since I first purchased it. I have others that have doubled or tripled in value.
There are several cue makers today who are making cues that I believe offer excellent values. Sometimes you can get in early and buy a cue or two from a cue maker who is going to build a big reputation. I love Josswest cues, but it's too late to find many bargains on them today. Ginacues are some of the most beautiful made, but Ernie Gutierrez is no longer taking orders, and the pre-owned ones that are still in "new" condition generally command a price significantly higher than his original retail price.
On the other hand, cues don't have to represent a huge investment. Josh Treadway of Missouri, Chris Nitti in Florida, and Cory Barnhart of South Carolina make great player-level cues for as little as six to eight hundred dollars. You'll have to wait a year or so, but when you get one, you'll have a good playing cue as well as a good investment. Andy Gilbert cues offer great value for the money... great workmanship, nice designs, and a solid hit. Travis Niklich makes good player cues, although I think you can expect that more of his future cues will be at the "higher" end. Mike Durbin in Illinois has become a top cuemaker in recent years, and is making excellent cues that are still very affordable. Finally, I have to say that Dave Kikel of Colorado is one of the best cuemakers around, and consistently makes cues that are near perfect in everyway, and play a ton. You can see a nice selection of his work on my site.
The point is, there's a good choice for anyone serious about playing pool. A good cue costs less than a good set of golf clubs, and I challenge any golfer to come close to using his clubs a fraction of the hours that I've used my playing cues!
However, if you're looking at cues as an investment, be cautious of getting caught up in the frenzy over whomever is the latest "fad" cuemaker. There are a number of cuemakers who make good cues, but because of a false demand created by cue buyer hysteria, their prices have been artificially driven up beyond any reasonable logic. Leave those to the buyers who have money to throw away on bragging rights.
Having said all this, I have to add that to really enjoy cues, you have to just enjoy them for their sheer beauty and form. Buy what you like. The craftsmanship and design work being accomplished today by the top ten or fifteen American cue makers is truly something to behold. Moreover, cue making is one of the few art forms that effectively combines art and function. My fanciest and most expensive cues are also great playing cues, so there's no reason a collector/player can't have the best of both worlds... a beautiful cue that hits a ton.
My final word is this: no matter whether you collect cues, cars, or coins, always buy the best you can afford. In fact, pay more than you can afford... you'll be happy you did later. Something that was cheap to start with will never grow in value the way something nice will. Buy from a recognized "name" maker, buy the highest quality you can, and in the best condition you can find. I know there are always exceptions, but when collecting, buying the best you can always pays off down the road.