The cue, as we know it today, started looking like it needed to look in order to play the game of billiards on a raised up table in the early to mid 1400s. The very earliest cues are called Geofreys, and are simply a slowly tapering wood stick, with the typical beveled butt-end to make it easier to play a ball that was lying very close to, or against, a rail.
The "maces", with their cupped heads, were also designed the way they were to make those same rail shots possible.
Almost certainly originating in France, in the 1400s, and because the butt end was called the "tail" of the cue or the mace of those days - which - in French is "que" - when a player shot with the butt - or tail - end, it was referred to as "shooting with the que". That name was gradually adopted by one and all.
As most wealthier players tended to have their cues custom made by experienced furniture makers, some very elaborate examples exist and are considered true prizes when acquired. At least they are by me.
Comprehensive collections of truly "antique cues", built between the years of 1400 and 1850 are understandably few and far between. We spent the last 40+ years building our collection and have long hoped to write a book on the evolution of the billiard cue.
I think I was a member of this forum way back when, but will sign up again to offer my insight into the subject. Though we've just now (as of 2019-10-15) put up our collection for sale, we're still hunting for more special pieces.
My wife and I wrote the book - "Pool & Billiard Collectibles" and have long appreciated the amazing history of the game. We're Mark and Connie Stellinga, living in Tiffin, Iowa. Feel free to leave an inquiry about the assortment of exceptional antique billiard items we have available.