If you’re a football fan, you might have collected a few football programmes over the years. It might be one of the things you have horded away for years, and now you’re at a stage in life where you need to make a little money. Selling items that you’ve collected and no longer have a need for is a right of passage for many university students. Sadly, we sometimes need to part with that old, vintage shirt we loved, or that collector’s edition comic or video game in order to pay for boring things like bills, rent, or food…
But if they’re just laying around, football programmes can be a great way to make a little extra spending money. In this guide, we’ll show you which can fetch the best prices.
A brief look at the beginning
The launch of the Football League in 1988 was joined by the first football programmes being printed. 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. The ‘Villa News and Record’ for Aston Villa was one of the first programmes to be published. 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.
Programmes changed from pocket-sized to A4, though the choice to use either was down to the club. 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, the modern football programme stays true to its roots 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 money could you make?
Collectors are willing to part with some serious cash to get 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. Then, a few years 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.
Which editions and prints in particular should you be on the lookout for in your collection?
The rarest football programmes
Football programmes encompass a record of the matchday experience. If you’re looking for an important, collectible item; 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!
Naturally, the 1966 England vs West Germany programme is highly sought-after. 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 for games that didn’t go ahead are often rarities too. The edition from the game that was cancelled following the 1958 Munich air disaster (Manchester United vs Wolverhampton Wanderers) 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.
Not all programmes go for thousands, but can till fetch a good price. Other more cost-effective collectible programmes 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 to look out for
Generally, these are the elements collectors will consider when scouting out worthwhile programmes:
- 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.
FA Cup final match programmes tend to hold value. So do any booklets that were perhaps the first or final edition of a player’s/manager’s career (i.e. the last game David Beckham played for Manchester United).
Certain teams can also increase the value of certain programmes. 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.
There’s always a possibility that you’ve been sitting on a hidden treasure when it comes to football programmes, especially if you’ve had them for a few years. So, why not keep yourself football-focused by learning more about the hobby?
This article was researched and created by Where The Trade Buys, a leading UK supplier of pop up displays for trade shows and events.