The definitive guide to buying vintage football programmes

Among the memorabilia you can find at auction, football programmes are an inexpensive and fun way to enhance your enjoyment of the national game. And given what’s in them, they are probably the most informative too.

A collection of international football programmes

This collection of football programmes from UEFA Champions League, World Cup and other international tournament matches was sold for £42 at Ryedale in June 2022.

What to buy

If you follow a particular club and want to learn more about its history or want to relive matches you attended, acquiring old programmes is a great way to do it. It is usually easier to find the programmes from the home games of your club because that is how collectors tend to organise them and then sell them when they want to hand their programmes on.

Some fans have an interest in a particular player and like to buy programmes from all the matches they played in, with the first and last matches being the most important.

Other fans have an affinity for a competition, be that a domestic cup match or international and World Cup games, while other fans like to have programmes relating to clubs from a specific area (usually lower or non-league clubs).

However, football programmes also offer a good way to research and understand a particular place at a given period in history. Leafing through old programmes will give you a flavour of the town or city of the club and you will find adverts from local firms offering services, items for sale or employment.

These are true signs of the times; many of these firms will no longer be in business and their old adverts may be one of the few remaining ways to know they ever existed and appreciate the way things were.

Five football programmes from the 1930s

Showing how older football programmes can attract higher values, these five programmes from the 1930s all featuring matches between Watford and Swindon took £220 at Wessex Auction Rooms in July 2022.

Old programmes also show you what stadia from bygone eras looked like – a far cry from today’s modern, safer structures. You can enjoy looking back at footballers’ haircuts (a 1980s mullet, anyone?) and the kits that the teams used to wear (great fashion disasters of yesteryear).

Where to buy

When you are looking for something as specific as a programme about a particular football club from a particular year or a particular players, online listings are the best place to look. You can search for exactly what you want whereas if you go to a fair or market you cannot know what will be on offer until you get there.

Football programmes are sold regularly at auction so there are plenty of listings for you to look out for on Usually a set of programmes is sold together rather than each programme being sold separately. This is because a typical single programme is worth very little by itself and it would take an auctioneer all day to sell a collection item by item.

Football programmes featuring Bobby Moore

This is a small part of a collection of vintage football programmes covering every match Booby Moore played for West Ham United's first team home and away (excluding just two European away matches). It sold for £1200 at Stacey's in May 2022.

Often programmes will be offered for sale at auction in a set by year or years if they are part of a collection. Occasionally a programme will be sold by itself if it is particularly rare or important.

An example of a rare programme is one from postponed matches. In many cases the programmes would have been printed only for the match to be called off due to bad weather. The programmes would not have been sold and generally most of them would have ended up being thrown away.

A football programme featuring a postponed match

This programme in mint condition featured a match between Manchester United and Luton Town in 1983 that was postponed. It sold for £650 at Stacey's in May 2022.

Condition and price

For collectors, the condition of the programme is paramount. They want the ones that have not been folded or torn. You may be less concerned about that and thus you can buy the ones you want more cheaply as fewer people will be bidding for them. That said, if a programme contains some brief writing from the person who bought it on match day such as changes to the team line-up, the weather, the score or the attendance then this can be useful information and may enhance a programme’s value.

Older programmes are generally scarcer and so sell for higher prices. In the 1960s there was a major boom in collecting football programmes so prices from this period onwards can work out as little as 10p per programme because so many copies of the same programme are still available and collections are sold regularly.

A collection of Norwich City vintage football programmes

A bid of just £10 was all that was needed to secure this lot of 132 Norwich City football programmes from the 1980s at Nick Barber Auctions in May 2022.

What to do next

Decide how much you’d like to spend and use the search facility on to find football programmes coming up for sale.

You can filter your search by, among other things, price and by location of the auction house to narrow down your selection.

To research recent prices at auction to see how much different football programmes sold for you can also try out the Price Guide.

If you are new to bidding check out our guides to buying at auction – it’s easy once you know how.

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