It’s FA Cup final weekend – which means the Covid-ravaged football season is almost at a close. But any sense fans have tired of a season that’s now lasted almost a year is way off the mark. In fact, there has been a boom in football-related collectables.
Interest in old programmes, shirts and other memorabilia was initially fuelled during the 100 days of lockdown when no football was played, with fans going through cold turkey looking for another type of football fix. And with stadium turnstiles still firmly locked shut, the trend shows no sign of abating.
Robert Stein, of sports auctioneer Sportingold, says: ‘It is unbelievable – interest has been going through the roof. Lockdown really raised the love of buying historic collectables that are related to football teams.
‘Everything from programmes to shirts – even old ticket stubs can sell for hundreds. And this interest in memorabilia is still on the rise.’
Glory: The original Jules Rimet Trophy was stolen before the 1966 World Cup kicked off
GET WITH THE £4,000 PROGRAMMES
Modern-day programmes are rarely worth much money – it is the rare old leaflets that command most attention among investors.
In June, auction house Sportingold sold an 1891 Royal Arsenal football programme for £4,000. It was particularly collectable because during this era the team played south of the river in the London suburb of Plumstead – and not north in Highbury.
But it is still a bargain compared to the most expensive programme sold. This was an 1882 FA Cup final programme between Old Etonians and Blackburn Rovers –just ten years after the first FA Cup final was played – that went for £35,250 in 2013.
Stein says: ‘Football programmes for top teams between the wars are doing a roaring trade at the moment. You can pay £3,000 for a book of 1920s Chelsea programmes when a few years ago they fetched a few hundred.
‘Survivors for northern clubs are particularly rare – so also fetch good money. Programmes from the 1930s for teams such as Newcastle, Sunderland and Manchester City can sell for £200 each. Because of international appeal, Manchester United programmes from this era go for up to £400.’
Until the 1960s, the vast majority of football fans crammed into stands and only a few paid for a seat and were given a ticket.
Stein says: ‘There are matches such as the 1945 Stamford Bridge Chelsea friendly against Dynamo Moscow where 100,000 fans came to watch – with the vast majority of them standing.
‘As few as 3,000 seated tickets were sold on the day and survivors can fetch £750.’
England World Cup winning shirt
This is the top worn by Geoff Hurst in the 1966 World Cup final against West Germany. Hurst scored a hat-trick to ensure England won at Wembley 4-2. He sold the shirt for £91,750 in 2000.
Sheffield FC rulebook
A guide that provides the foundation for modern football. It introduced concepts such as free kicks for fouls, allowing players to head the ball, teams to change sides after half-time and the offside rule.
The oldest surviving FA Cup
This trophy was made for the 1896 final and sold in 2005. It replaced the original stolen in 1895 from the window of a Birmingham sports shop after Aston Villa had won. A new FA trophy was made in 1910.
Jules Rimet Trophy replica
The original World Cup was stolen in 1966 from a public exhibition in England. It was found seven days later wrapped in newspaper at the bottom of a hedge by a dog called Pickles. To prevent a further theft this replica was made to give to winners.
SHIRTS WORN IN CLASSIC GAMES
It is those football shirts that have been worn by players in a match that are the most sought after as an investment.
Stein says: ‘Modern tops are particularly valuable because football stars that wore them rarely give them away. For example, find an early 2000s shirt worn in a match by Arsenal striker Thierry Henry and you have at least a £1,000 collectable if you are able to prove its provenance.’
But Gary Bierton, of soccer top trader Classic Football Shirts, believes if such rarities are out of your reach then you might consider a modern football shirt produced for fans from a particular year – but only if it has great historical significance.
He says: ‘Nostalgia is the driving force. In the modern era shirts from the 1980s and 1990s hold particular allure with their imaginative designs during a time when there was a sense the game still had some innocence and was not all about money.’
Among the most collectable modern shirts is the Liverpool Football Club top worn in the 1989/90 season when this season’s Premier League champions team last won the league. The Adidas top fetches £350 but originally cost £28.
The ultra-rare blue third kit shirt for Manchester United worn in the 1986/87 season when Sir Alex Ferguson arrived at the club used to cost just £25 – but now collectors will pay £450 for the unusual top.
RULEBOOKS, MEDALS AND TROPHIES
Football can be a cruel mistress, and many top teams of the past have failed to maintain their match-winning form – though are still collectable.
Sheffield Football Club, formed in 1857, is believed to be the oldest football club in the world. It initially followed its own ‘Sheffield rules’ before adopting those of the England Football Association in 1877.
Perhaps it should have stuck to this system – that included goal posts just four yards apart instead of the modern day eight – because, unlike its fellow city teams of Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday, it now languishes in the lowly Northern Premier League – and even now plays its home games in Derbyshire.
But it still beats all the soccer competition on investment values. An 1858 Sheffield FC rulebook sold for £881,250 in 2011.
Aston Villa beat fellow West Midlands side West Bromwich Albion 1-0 in the 1895 FA Cup final.
The trophy was displayed in a sports equipment shop window in Birmingham – from where it was stolen and melted down into fake half crown coins.
Villa were fined £25 for allowing the theft and the replacement got sold for a record £478,400 in 2005.
Winner medals for players in the modern era rarely come up for sale – as super-rich pampered stars can easily afford to keep hold of their mementos. But players in earlier eras often sold medals after careers ended just to make ends meet.
The proudest moment in English football is undoubtedly winning the World Cup in 1966. Player Alan Ball – who set up the third goal in the win against West Germany – sold his winners’ medal for £164,800 in 2005 to help support his family.
The England goalkeeper Gordon Banks sold his winning medal for £124,700 in 2001 to help his three children buy their first homes. The highest paid Premiership player at the moment is Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea – who earns a reported £375,000 a week for standing in goal.
It would take him around three days of wages to earn enough to buy either of the two World Cup winning medals.
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