Always pick up a football programme? Here’s the rarest

Do you pick up a programme for the match when you visit? Most football fans do, as it’s a nice little souvenir of the game if nothing else.

Some are even worth serious cash. If you’ve been collecting, it’s worth having a look through to see if you’ve got any hidden gems. In this guide, we’ll show you what to look out for.

The origins of football programmes

The origin of the football programme shares its beginning with the Football League, which started 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

‘Villa News and Record’ is the title of one of the very first printed football programmes and was published 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.

As time went on, some football clubs moved away from the pocket-sized print to adopt the bigger, A4 size. 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.

Football programmes are generally used as an information source regarding the playing teams. 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 should I look out for?

Collectors are indeed willing to pay 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.

A programme for the 1882 FA Cup final match between Old Etonians and Blackburn Rovers sold in 2012 for £30,000 as one of the oldest of its type. In 2012, a programme from Manchester United vs Bristol City’s 1909 FA Cup final sold for £23,500.

Let’s look now at some of the rarest examples of football programmes.

The rarest programmes

If you’re a serious collector, you’ll want to have a few good rarities to show off. 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!

If you have a programme from the 1966 England vs West Germany match, you likely already know its worth. 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.

As a result of the Munich air disaster of 1958, the match between Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers was cancelled, and the programmes marked for destruction. As such, the few copies that slipped away are very rare. 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.

Additional rarities in the world of football programmes are a 1931 Exeter vs Leeds (£500), a wartime England vs Wales (£750), and a 1932 Arsenal vs Manchester City (£520).

What makes them rare

Consider the following factors when buying programmes for your collection:

  • 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.

You can’t go wrong with FA Cup Final match programmes, as they tend to retain their value over time, as well as programmes for a player’s first or last game. 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.

Add another element of excitement in going to the match by collecting programmes, it’s definitely worth the investment. So, why not keep yourself football-focused until the new season kicks off by learning more about the hobby?

This article was researched and created by leading UK printing company, Where The Trade Buys.



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