Collecting football memorabilia is a passionate hobby for many footy fans — however, but not everyone realises the financial value of what may be lying around their lofts.
But, which editions should you seek out first? Here, we’ll explore the most highly prized programmes in history and offer you advice on how you can get started collecting rare footie programmes today…
The match programme: where do its origins lie?
It all started with the launch of the Football League in 1888. 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.
Fans have witnessed many changes occur to football programmes over the last number of decades. 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 printing and 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’s programme still does what it originally set out to do by 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.
How much can the sell for?
You can read about many instances where a collector has forked out a sum of cash for a rare football programme. 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.
Not so long ago, 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.
The football programmes fetching the most money
Football programmes are still as important today as the brew at halftime is — but how collectible are they and which should you search for if you want to bag a truly special edition?
A real diamond to uncover is 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!
If you’ve been following football for a long time, you might recall that 1966 England lifted the World Cup against West Germany, the programme on that day will of course be potentially one of the most highly prized programmes in sport. 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.
Things to look out for when collecting
Begin simply with the following four key features, to make sure you’re getting a good deal:
- Age — anything over half a century is most collectible.
- Rarity — if there are many available, this will bring the value down.
- Popularity — iconic players or matches on the cover will increase value significantly.
- Condition — creases, missing staples and water damage all harm the programme’s price, so ask for a photo before you pay.
You can expect bigger clubs to potentially wield a higher financial value than smaller based clubs — 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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