Is There Money to Be Made in Football Programmes?

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Picking up a programme is part of the routine of heading to the football. Have you been collecting them? Or maybe you want to get into the hobby and need a place to start.


Well, with this guide, we’ll show you the rarest of the rare when it comes to footie programmes and advice on how to snag a bargain.

Looking back

Football programmes launched around the same time as 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.

One of the first programmes printed was Aston Villa’s ‘Villa News and Record’. 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 the years went by, programmes progressed to offer an A4 size along with the standard pocket-sized print, with clubs opting for the one that suited them best. 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 main purpose of modern-day football programmes is to reveal 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.

Am I in the Money?

Football programmes often sell for a decent 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 realize the treasure you have sitting around your home.

In 2013, Sotheby’s New Bond Street saw the oldest-known FA Cup final (between Old Etonians and Blackburn Rovers in 1882) sell for £30,000. The year before that, a programme from Manchester United vs Bristol City’s 1909 FA Cup final sold for £23,500.

As a collector, what should you keep your eye out for?

The Big Money

So, which programmes are the hidden gems? 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!

One of the more obvious desirable programmes is the 1966 England vs West Germany. 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 ccoloring— 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.

One super-rare programme is from the canceled Manchester United vs Wolverhampton Wanderers match in the wake of 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 tforthose involved in the disaster by leaving the team page blank.

If you’re looking for rare programmes without spending too much, top selections are a 1931 Exeter vs Leeds for £500, a 1932 Arsenal vs Manchester City for £520, and a wartime copy of England vs Wales for £750.

What to Look for

Here’s some things to bear in mind if you’re starting out collecting programmes:

  • Age — anything over 50 years old is most collectible.
  • Popularity — programmes with an iconic footballer on the cover or detailing a famous match are the most prized and valuable.
  • Rarity — if there are many available, this will bring the value down.
  • Condition — creases, missing staples and water damage all harm the programme’s price, so ask for a photo before you pay.

You’ll want to look out for FA Cup final match programmes, as they are valuable, and programmes that mark a first or last match for a manager or player.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.

UK fans love football programmes, so it’s a fun hobby to get into collecting them. So, why not keep yourself football-focused until the new season kicks off by learning more about the hobby?

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