Classic football shirts: check your wardrobe for hidden treasure

Classic football shirts are soaring in price. Have you got a winner in the wardrobe? Chris Carter reports

Die-hard football fans of a certain age will know only too well the highs and lows of following their favourite club through the decades. What many may not realise, however, is that the value of their football shirts over the years has only gone in one direction – up, according to research from online casino Casumo and vintage retailer Classic Football Shirts. 

“I think the popularity is driven by a few things but primarily nostalgia,” says Gary Bierton of Classic Football Shirts. “Every football supporter has memories – good and bad, and the shirt is the connection that takes you back to those moments in your life, whether it be watching the game on TV, getting your hero’s autograph, or recreating the goals in your back garden.” The designs were imaginative back then, particularly as you get into the early 1990s, and there’s also more of a feeling of innocence when looking back at the football scene 25 years ago. “I think that appeals to supporters today who want to buy into that history in a unique way, even if it’s not necessarily the shirt for their team and wear something that stands out.”

Pitch perfect

Design is “crucial” and many shirts, such as the “iconic Adidas masterpieces”, have become part of popular culture. You can still see football shirts today that pay homage to earlier incarnations. For example, Germany’s 2018 World Cup kit drew on elements of the historic kit from 1990, the year that West Germany lifted the cup for the third and last time before being reunified with its eastern half weeks later. And the Netherlands is rumoured to be working on a design inspired by the famous 1988 shirt for next year’s delayed UEFA European Championship. “It has been interesting to see how the football fashion trend connects with this,” says Bierton. Nineteen nineties shirts “that once might have been overlooked for being too bold or garish are now avidly worn as fashion pieces and shirt culture has touched even high fashion. This wider interest invariably affects the value”.

A punt on the future

Other factors that affect the value include what was happening on the pitch when the shirts were worn. The Leicester City shirt from 2015-2016, when the club surprised many to clinch the league title, is worth considerably more than the shirt worn by the East Midlands side during the previous season. Rarity is, of course, also important, as can be the extra interest that inevitably accompanies major tournaments. That can make buying football shirts a fun alternative way to place your bets before kick-off. Should a memorable event occur during the tournament, the value of the shirts can soar. But whether old or new, it’s worth rooting through the wardrobe to see which shirts you have. “The best shirts of the 2010s are already collectors’ items in their own right and will increase in value as their legacy and rarity builds,” says Bierton. 

The most valuable football clobber

Club shirts

Football shirts

1. Barcelona (1991-1992 away shirt)

£599.99 (RRP: £27.99, overall appreciation: 2,044%)

This rare shirt was worn in FC Barcelona’s first-ever European Cup triumph under Johan Cryuff – one of the most famous nights in the side’s history.

2. Napoli (1990-1991 home shirt) 

Worth £499.99 (RRP: £27.99, overall appreciation: 1,686%)

Napoli’s home shirt featuring the Scudetto shield and Mars sponsorship was worn by Diego Maradona in his final season in Naples.

3. Manchester United (1986-1988 third shirt) 

£449.99 (RRP: £24.99, overall appreciation: 1,701%)

To say third kits from this era are a rare commodity would be an understatement. This was also Sir Alex Ferguson’s first season in charge, and a classic Adidas design makes this one of the most valuable Man Utd shirts.

4. AC Milan (1999-2000 home shirt)

£399.99 (RRP: £34.99, overall appreciation: 1,043%)

This is a very rare home shirt worn in AC Milan’s centenary season and features a special club crest.

5. Arsenal (1991-1993 away shirt)

£374.99 (RRP: £24.99, overall appreciation: 1,401%)

This shirt from the north London team features an iconic bruised banana design that is typical of the bold creations from the early 1990s, and is extremely rare and increasingly sought after since Adidas soon afterwards stopped working with the side. This is a true collectors’ item.

International shirts

Football shirts

1. Netherlands (1988 home shirt)

£599.99 (RRP: £29.99, overall appreciation: 1,901%)

Arguably the most sought after football shirt of all time, the Netherlands 1988 features an Adidas geometric design. That, and the success of the team on the pitch, including Marco van Basten’s stunning goal that led to victory at Euro 1988, have made the shirt the most valuable international strip. The shirt debuted at the tournament and was not seen again.

2. USA (1994 shirt) 

£499.99.(RRP: £27.99, overall appreciation: 1,329%)

The stars-and-stripes “denim” Adidas design was worn by the host nation when the World Cup came to the US for the first time.

3. Soviet Union (1989-1991 home shirt )

£449.99 (RRP: £29.99, overall appreciation: 1,400%)

This shirt, with a bold vintage design, was the last shirt from the USSR to feature at a World Cup. 

4. Brazil (1978-1989 home shirt)

£399.99 (RRP: £22.99, overall appreciation: 1,640%)

This design was worn at the 1978 World Cup by the team dubbed the greatest ever not to win the competition.

5. Denmark (1986-1988 home shirt)

£399.99. (RRP: £34.99, overall appreciation: 1,329%)

Featuring a famous Hummel design and worn at the 1986 World Cup, this is one of the most popular collectable shirts ever made.

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