Most football fans will pick up a programme during the match, and plenty of people collect them. If you’re a fan yourself, you probably have a few programmes knocking around at home.
Did you know that some football programmes are worth serious money? Take a look through the following guide and find out if you’re sitting on a potential goldmine!
Why are programmes printed?
In 1888, the Football League began and with it, the first football programmes were 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.
It was Aston Villa with the ‘Villa News and Record’ that was one of the first printed programmes. 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.
Eventually, football programmes could be printed in either A4 or pocket-sized, and this varied between clubs. 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.
The use of football programmes in the modern day is as a key source of team information. 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.
Which programmes are worth more?
A rare football programme can sell for an impressive amount of money. 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.
The oldest-known FA Cup final programme from 1882 sold in 2013 for a whopping £30,000. The programme was for a match between Old Etonians and Blackburn Rovers. Prior to that, £23,500 was paid for a 1909 FA Cup final programme detailing Manchester United vs Bristol City.
Let’s take a look at the rarest football programmes. Do you have any hidden away?
The pages worth money
They’re a big part of match day, but which programmes have increased beyond the value of experience to become worth serious cash? 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!
In a shock to no one, the programme for 1966 England vs West Germany is highly collectable. 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.
In terms of rarity, they don’t come much rarer than the programme for the cancelled Manchester United vs Wolverhampton Wanderers match, due to the 1958 Munich air disaster. Also, the programme for the first match following the tragedy — the 19th of February 1958’s game between Manchester United and Sheffield Wednesday, is rare too. In this programme, the club showed respect to those involved in the disaster by leaving the team page blank.
Some less-pricey rarities include a wartime England vs Wales (£750), a 1932 Arsenal vs Manchester City (£520), and a 1931 Exeter vs Leeds (£500).
Things to look out for
There’s a few things to look out for when building a collector’s football programme stash:
- 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.
- Age — anything over 50 years old is most collectible.
- Condition — creases, missing staples and water damage all harm the programme’s price, so ask for a photo before you pay.
FA Cup Final programmes are always worthwhile, as well as programmes that were printed for a player’s (or manager’s) first or last match. Also, certain teams typically 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.
It’s a great hobby, collecting football programmes, and it can certainly pay off! So, why not keep yourself football-focused until the new season kicks off by learning more about the hobby?