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The World Of Collectable Football Shirts

The World Of Collectable Football Shirts

If there is a magic blend which helps any collectable grow in value then perhaps it is a sense of history, availability and a strong emotional tie of some sort. With all these criteria in abundance, it is hardly surprising that the area of collectable football shirts has exploded in popularity over the last few years. From the grubby match-worn tops of international icons, to the bold and beautiful vintage designs of our favourite local non-league team, old football shirts can be an instant portal to another moment in time. The time you stood on the stands with your dad cheering too loudly to notice the cold, or the time you – and an entire nation – held your breath as that crucial penalty was taken. And arguably more than any other item of clothing, the humble football shirt has become the embodiment of all that symbolism and raw emotion for the beloved game. It is hardly surprising therefore that as interest in collecting football shirts has increased, then so too have the prices.

 

Finding your colours

The first football team uniforms began to appear in 1870 and for the next century the humble shirt would remain a largely utilitarian item defined by its colour, stripe and number, but with little else of note. That was until 1976 when Kettering Town became the first UK club to put their sponsor’s name (Kettering Tyres) on their shirts. This seemingly inconsequential act helped trigger a seismic shift in the way clubs and sponsors began to think of their shirts, no longer just as functional items, but as an 11-man billboard that millions of eyes would be glued to for 90 minutes at a time. Whilst increasing revenue for the club, bolder and more diverse designs were quickly being produced, which in turn created a golden era of football shirts for today’s collectors to go foraging around for.

Like any good collectable there is never a single thing that spikes people’s interests in vintage and retro football shirts but a range of factors melting together to form a pleasing whole. For some it is the chance to obtain the strip from a specific game or season which was either personally or nationally memorable. Understandably many are also happy to pay a premium to own a small original piece of their sporting heroes (or failing that a faithful replica), but as role models can be found from all around us those names are not just limited to the Beckhams, Ronaldos and Messis of this world. Of course, that’s just where it all begins. With the internet at our fingers one season’s shirt soon morphs into a collection from both home and away games, opposing teams, full line-ups and consecutive years.

But while the nostalgia and history of when a shirt was created is of course one important side of the equation, there are also a growing band of people not just mothballing their treasures behind glass frames, but realising that here is something vintage and special which they can wear around town too. For these people attributes such as great design, comfortable measurements and of course uniqueness matter. The collectors know that the collars on the older designs help give a slightly more formal look that is great for nights out, and the solid cotton of old shirts give a faded vintage vibe that even Superdry can’t recreate.

 

Do your homework first

For those looking to invest their time and energy into collecting football shirts then as always it pays to learn as much as you can and to be discerning. This helps you not just to be able to spot the multiple fakes out there which always appear when anything becomes move valuable, but also to help you work out the growth potential of a possible find.

Though prices fluctuate enormously, you don’t necessarily need to spend big to start collecting. Even if your budget is relatively small, there are many lower value examples out there that will progressively increase in value.

While polyester replica shirts are of course fine for a knock about down at the park, these things will never command the respect (and thus prices) which collectors crave for.  To see any real financial value in a shirt it needs to be really either match issued or better yet match worn. Since the football merchandising business has become so important these days many clubs will release slight variations on their strip for particular games and these small variations can matter not just in pinning down which game it came from, but in the quantity produced as well. Thankfully older shirts were usually made in smaller volumes as the world before the internet forced most clubs to limit their selling to attending fans, postal orders and local/national shops only. There were also plenty of kits produced specifically for a single game including those merely given away and never sold. All these factors of course add to the desirability among collectors and fans.

At the top of the wish list are those shirts worn during the game by a player. Mud, sweat, and even a bit of blood can add to the presence of the piece and if you are lucky it may have been signed by the player or squad members as well. Kindly players are often all too willing to peel off and donate their shirts to a fan but do beware of signatures. If they were signed, then all too often it was a rushed and half-hearted affair with wild squiggles common that look like they could have been from anyone – and are therefore notoriously easy to fake. In essence, when it comes to match worn shirts, provenance is key.

 

So how much is it worth?

Like anything in life there are no absolutes when it comes to pricing football shirts and in most cases it is down to what someone is willing to pay on the day. Common shirts naturally trade for mere tens of pounds and are great for wearing, but as the shirts get rarer the prices begin to rise sharply. For instance, a replica England away shirt from Euro ’96 (the last international tournament held on home soil) is worth around £80. If it’s an example with sponsor patches on the sleeves then it’s worth closer to £200. A standard ‘Beckham’ printed Manchester United shirt from the 1996-97 season will make around £350-£500 and a squad signed match worn United shirt from the 1982-83 season will make nearer £1000. If you’re lucky enough to have a popular Juventus Kappa shirt from 1980 stashed in the wardrobe then you could be looking at around £1500 with the assumption that this will continue to go up. Similarly, the iconic orange Holland shirt from Euro ’88 trades for over £1000.

From here prices begin to rise quickly. Alex McLeish’s shirt from the 1983 Aberdeen v Real Madrid game made £4,700 at auction and a Juventus blue and yellow match worn strip from the 1996 Champions League final is currently worth over £10,000. In truth as the player and match becomes more iconic the prices will exponentially increase, so near the top of the market Pele’s match worn Brazil v Scotland shirt recently sold for an eye-watering £38,000 at auction.

 

How much further can prices rise?

Although the prices for some football shirts may already seem high, it is important to put everything into the perspective of the wider sporting collectables industry. While interest in football shirts has only really begun to grow over the last few years, one only needs to look at the US Baseball and basketball fields to see where the prices could reach. Both of these sports have been collected for many decades now so their prices have had far longer to mature. In both instances the top of each field is far higher that football’s, with Jerry West’s 1960s Los Angeles Lakers shirt selling for $80,000 at auction a few years ago and Mickey Mantle’s game worn Yankees baseball shirt from 1966 achieving $270,000 in 2015. It is also worth remembering that as football continues to grow in popularity across Asia and America many new wealthy fans will enter the bidding wars in earnest.

Of course, at the end of the day collecting football shirts is not just the money but the emotion and the memories. There is something for every pocket, every team and every lover of bold and iconic vintage design. And that’s really the best thing in truth, a collectable item as diverse and embracing as the great game itself.

 

Our Range

We have a number of signed football shirts currently in stock including Thierry Henry (illustrated above), Cristiano Ronaldo and the England World Cup squad of 2002.

PM Antiques & Collectables are also helping Woking Football Club retail this season’s special release third shirt (illustrated left). £5 from every shirt sale will be donated to NHS Charities Together.

We’re always on the lookout for more football memorabilia to add to our range and there has never been a better time to sell. With only a few clicks, it’s now easier than ever to request a free quotation. Visit our Sell page for more information.

 

Contact Us

Looking to buy antiques and collectables? Take a look at our product pages for more information and to browse our latest stock. Feel free to contact us on 01932 640113 or phil@pm-antiques.co.uk if you have any questions or enquiries.

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