Collecting football memorabilia — is it a worthwhile investment?
If you already collect football memorabilia as a hobby, you’re not alone! Lots of people share this passion, as well as their love of football. But do they know which editions to look out for or the worth of what’s laying around in their loft space?
We’ve pulled together some interesting facts and top tips so that you can get started collecting rare footie programmes and making some money today…
The release of the first programme
1888 saw the arrival of the Football League, and the first match programme followed not long after.
Unlike today, the aim of a programme was to keep score and it was made up of a single sheet detailing the teams and match date.
But which football programme did fans get their hands on first? One of the first programmes to be published was The ‘Villa News and Record’ for Aston Villa. Soon after, the football programme took on a weightier format of between four and eight pages, while the covers became more attention-grabbing and attractive. During and after World War II, a paper shortage cut the number of programmes that clubs could produce — making any that were released very collectible today.
As time went on, football programmes changed in size. They grew from pocket-size to A4, with some clubs preferring the smaller option and others opting for the larger format. From a single sheet of basic info, the availability of saddle-stitch book printingand a growth in popularity turned football programmes into thick, glossy books crammed with trivia, statistics and high-resolution photos that fans loved to buy before every match.
Today, the purpose of the football programme remains very much the same — giving spectators key details of players on each team. Although today, the programme can also act as a mouthpiece for the club in question, allowing managers and players to speak to fans via interviews and club statements.
Can you make much from investing in football programmes?
Rare football programmes have the potential to earn a high price tag. In 2012, a family from Ipswich managed to make around £46,000 by auctioning off a set of football programmes they stumbled across in their house, which goes to show how easy it is to not realise the treasure you have sitting around your home.
Some might remember when the Sotheby’s New Bond Street auctioned off the oldest-known programme from a FA Cup final — Old Etonians vs Blackburn Rovers in 1882 — for £30,000, while a single-sheet programme from the 1909 FA Cup final between Manchester United and Bristol City went for £23,500 in 2012.
There are so many programmes worth investing in but which editions should you watch out for in particular? And are there any which could be lying in your attic that you’d be willing to make a profit on?
The most valuable football programmes
The match day for many fans begins with the anticipation of collecting a football programme. But how collectible are they and which should you search for if you want to bag a truly special edition?
Do you want some advice on which sought-after programme to go after to get started? Try finding the first Wembley final programme from 1923, which details the match between Bolton and West Ham United and is worth around £1,000. Alternatively, there’s the programme from the one and only time a non-English club lifted the FA Cup — Cardiff City vs Arsenal in 1927 — which ended with a score of 1-0 and has a value of about £2,500!
One worth a huge amount of money is the 1966 England vs West Germany programme. But be warned; there were three reprints of the original, so tracking down a bona fide version is tough. If you want to be sure you’re buying an original, check the weight and colouring — the reprints are more lightweight, while the front cover of the original is a deep, royal blue. Different paper types are also used for the team pages in the original, but not in the reprinted versions.
Programmes printed for a memorable game are also popular so, bear that in mind too. For example, there is an edition that was printed for the game that was cancelled following the 1958 Munich air disaster (Manchester United vs Wolverhampton Wanderers), which can go at auction for around £10,000, or the programme for the first match following the tragedy — the 19th of February 1958’s game between Manchester United and Sheffield Wednesday. In this programme, the club showed respect to those involved in the disaster by leaving the team page blank.
More affordable programmes to think about collecting, include a wartime England vs Wales international programme — which once sold for £750 — a 1932 Arsenal vs Manchester City — which reportedly made £520 — and a 1931 Exeter vs Leeds copy — which reached a decent £500.
What features to look out for
Keep the following key features in your mind to help ensure you’re getting a good deal before you buy a programme:
- Age — anything over 50 years old is most collectible.
- Rarity — if there are many available, this will bring the value down.
- Popularity — programmes with an iconic footballer on the cover or detailing a famous match are the most prized and valuable.
- Condition — creases, missing staples and water damage all harm the programme’s price, so ask for a photo before you pay.
It’s also important to know that certain football teams hold greater monetary value than others when it comes to programme collecting — although, programmes from your team’s past will be more personally valuable to you. Sides such as Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Spurs, West Ham, and Arsenal are all highly sought after and are worth keeping an eye out for if you want a particularly valuable item. The Football Programme Centre is also a good source of advice if you’re keen on becoming a serious collector.
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