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Getting a good deal with football programmes

Football memorabilia and collecting special editions of sporting items is a passion for many people — but how do you get a good deal?

Here, we’ll explore the history of the football programme and the most expensive items on record. Check out the most highly prized programmes in history and get advice on how you can get started collecting rare footie programmes today…   

Football programmes through time

When the Football League started in 1888, programmes began to appear. 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.

Aston Villa’s ‘Villa News and Record’ is one of the earliest known programmes in the sport. Soon, 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.

Football programmes began to get bigger as the years went on, going from pocket-size to A4. From a single sheet of basic info, football programmes into thick, glossy books crammed with trivia, statistics and high-resolution photos that fans loved to buy before every match.

Modern programmes give key details of players and teams, just like the old days. 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.

Selling football programmes

People are willing to pay a lot of money for programmes they want. 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.

Sotheby’s New Bond Street sold the oldest-known programme from a FA Cup final — Old Etonians vs Blackburn Rovers in 1882 — for £30,000 not long ago. While a single-sheet programme from the 1909 FA Cup final between Manchester United and Bristol City went for £23,500 in 2012!

But what programmes do you need to look out for?

The best football programmes for collectors

Many of us still choose to buy a programme before a football game. However, how collectible are old editions, and which should you search for if you want to bag a truly special edition?

Want something special? Try locating 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!

As you’d imagine, the 1966 England vs West Germany programme is exceptionally popular as a collectible piece. 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.

The 1958 Munich air disaster was a highly publicised, tragic event and the programme that relates to the game in question (Manchester United vs Wolverhampton Wanderers) can go at auction for around £10,000. In this programme, the club showed respect to those involved in the disaster by leaving the team page blank.

There’s also the 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.

Advice for collectors

Bear the below in mind to get a good deal:

  • Popularity — an iconic footballer on the cover or detailing a famous match are the most prized and valuable.
  • Age — over 50 years old is most collectible.
  • Rarity — rare items go for more.
  • Condition — creases, missing staples and water damage all harm the programme’s price, so ask for a photo before you pay.

Any programme from an FA Cup final match is worth collecting, as does any booklet that was a first or final edition of a player’s/manager’s career.

Particular teams are typically also more valuable than others from a programme perspective. 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.

Author bio

This article was created on behalf of Where The Trade Buys — a specialist in display boards — by Louise Richardson. Louise is a copywriter at digital marketing agency, Mediaworks. After graduating with a degree in Media Production from University of Sunderland, Louise completed a post-graduate course in Magazine Journalism at PMA Media Training in London before becoming a freelance writer, where she wrote articles for multiple industries. Prior to her position at Mediaworks, Louise was a content writer at travel agency, Hays Travel, and digital marketing company, Visualsoft.






Writer and news enthusiast. Enjoy the simple things in life. A coffee on a Sunday morning listening to your favorite tracks. Take the time to love the world around you and enjoy life! Then work on something that you're passionate about.

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