Football memorabilia: turning your hobby into a money-making activity

For some football fans, collecting football memorabilia can become obsessive! But do they know which editions to look out for or the worth of what’s laying around in their loft space?

In this article we will explore the most highly prized programmes in history and offer you advice on how you can get started collecting rare footie programmes and making some money today…

The arrival of the first football match programme

After the Football League was printed in 1888, it wasn’t long after that the first football match programme was created. 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.

Few might know, that 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.

In the following decades, the size of football programmes 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 football programme remains 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 will collectors pay for a football programme?

There are collectors out there, prepared to pay lot of money 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.

One that went down in history: 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.

Guidelines for football programme collectors

To begin with, here are four key features to help you make sure 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.

Remember that any programme from an FA Cup final match holds value, as does any booklet that was perhaps the first or final edition of a player’s/manager’s career (i.e. the last game David Beckham played for Manchester United).

Also, make a note that certain teams’ programmes 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.

Many fans in the UK and beyond enjoy getting involved with collecting football programmes — particularly when you track down a rare edition or grab a great bargain. So, why not keep yourself football-focused until the new season kicks off by learning more about the hobby?

Where The Trade Buys are print experts and retailers, based online and in the UK. As well as being a leading UK display panel supplier, they specialise in promotional and office print services for small and large businesses.


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