The craze around football memorabilia seems to be reigniting once again. But, many fans now aren’t sure of what to look for and how much an item they already own in storage could be worth.

In this guide, we’ll look at which football programme editions have sold for the most money and offer you advice on how you can get started collecting rare footy programmes today…

Football match programmes: what’s the history behind them?

The launch of the Football League in 1888 saw the release of the first printed football programme. 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.

If you know a lot about your football match history, you may have heard of the Villa News and Record for Aston Villa — one of the first programmes released. 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 collectable today.

More recent programmes provide information about players on a specific team. 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.

What price to pay for an old programme?

Many collectors are prepared to spend a great deal of money on certain football programmes. 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.

If you’ve started your research, you may have read that recently, New Bond Street auctioned the oldest-known programme from a Football Association Cup Final for £30,000 — detailing Old Etonians vs Blackburn Rovers from 1882. Similarly, in 2012, the single sheet programme from 1909 between Manchester United and Bristol City sold for £23,500.

Football programmes of high value

Football programmes are a significant part of a match day for most fans, but are they collectable?

Research indicates that the first Wembley final programme dating back to 1923 between Bolton and West Ham United is worth just £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!

It’s worth noting that cancelled game programmes are potentially valuable too — take the Manchester United vs Wolverhampton Wanderers game in 1958 following the Munich air disaster. This can go to auction for around £10,000. However, once rescheduled, another programme was created where the club showed respect to those involved in the disaster by leaving the team page blank.

Some key advice for new collectors

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 same goes in the current betting for the Premier League, where those same sides are battling it out at the top half of the division. Football prediction sites like show the latest odds for the Premier League with Manchester City as the current 1/500 favourites for the title after opening up a sizable gap in top spot, but Manchester United did beat them at the Etihad recently and will be hoping to cause a huge shock in the title race at 150/1.

Along with keeping an eye out for those big teams, you can grab yourself a good deal when it comes to football programmes, by keeping the following in mind:

Age — anything over 50 years old is most collectable.

Rarity — if there are many available, this will bring the value down.

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