Score big profits with football memorabilia

We all know there are three lions on a shirt, but how much money could there be in your pocket if you invest in football memorabilia? And what - or more importantly, whose - items make the best buys?

If you want an idea of how barmy the market for football memorabilia has become, forget the £24,000 paid recently for George Best's shirt from the 1970 FA Cup fifth round. Instead, look to the recent burglary of the £1.2m Merseyside home of Wayne Rooney's parents. The robbers ignored the surrounding opulence and went straight for a cup final shirt, several England caps, the 2004 BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year trophy and a World Cup 2006 shirt. Some people will do anything to get their hands on football memorabilia and when items are connected with specific players and events, they become even more valuable.

Who tops the table?

Pele's number ten shirt from the 1970 World Cup final went for £157,750 in 2002. Shirts worn by Eric Cantona and Bobby Moore in their last league matches for Manchester United and Blackburn Rovers respectively each sold for £3,600. Then there's the ball with which David Beckham missed a crucial penalty against Portugal in Euro 2004 a masochistic fan paid £18,700 for the offending object.

How strong is the market in memorabilia?

According to David Convery, football memorabilia specialist at Christie's, there will always be a market for memorabilia, although "how strong is anyone's guess". But "if you have an item relating to a known player then it will not diminish in popularity", he tells The Scotsman. But while Best and Pele will always be remembered as legends, the stars of players such as Paul Gascoigne have waned and the price of items linked with them has followed suit. However, exceptional pieces will always draw interest, such as the England shirt that Gazza cried on in the team's semi-final loss to West Germany in the 1990 World Cup. It sold two years ago for nearly £28,680.

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Investments besides football shirts

And it's not just the shirts. Match programmes "always sell well", says Dan Davies of Bonhams Auction House in Chester, "especially pre-war ones and ones associated with the main clubs". In the 1930s and 1940s, programmes were printed on poor-quality paper, and in far smaller quantities than today, so their rarity makes them desirable. Autographs also fetch good prices. However, with items now going for record prices, finding a bargain is increasingly tough. That's why, just as traditional investors seek out undervalued and unloved companies to buy, collectors should look for up-and-coming players and get hold of anything associated with them, such as shirts and medals. Of course, if discovering the next Bobby Moore were that easy, England would have picked another World Cup winning team long ago.

Jody Clarke

Jody studied at the University of Limerick and she has been a senior writer for MoneyWeek for more than 15 years. Jody is experienced in interviewing, for example in her time she has dug into the lives of an ex-M15 agent and quirky business owners who have made millions. Jody’s other areas of expertise include advice on funds, stocks and house prices.