Football's coming home... For Memorabilia Collectors

Though this year's 2010 FIFA World Cup may have offered England fans the usual dose of disappointment and heartache, while seeing great rivals like Germany and Argentina under the management of Maradona prosper,  to collectors and football memorabilia enthusiasts alike, the FIFA World Cup continues to be a source of fascination and investment.

As the furore surrounding this year's FIFA World Cup indicates, football is more popular than ever. The boom in Major League Soccer, surrounding the arrival of David Beckham, has seen the sport's popularity soar in the United States. Players like Messi, Kaka and Christiano Ronaldo have become household names in the U.S with the latter even collaborating with the Simpsons in a recent Nike advert.  Americans purchased the highest number of tickets for the FIFA World Cup Finals in South Africa this year, ahead of even English fans.

Asia has also continued to take a keen interest in all things related to football, with regular broadcasts of games from the top leagues of Western Europe. This year's FIFA World Cup has seen significant strides forward with the Japanese and South Korean teams both qualifying for the knock out stages of the FIFA World Cup for the first time on foreign soil.

Global Football Icon, David Beckham's match-worn Real Madrid No.23 shirt from the Champions league match v Bayern Munich 2004. For sale: £2,950

Rare football memorabilia continues to be a popular source of investment for football fans and collectors alike, but the next few years could see significant developments in the global investment market.

Over the years, the FIFA World Cup has become a rich source of rare collectible memorabilia. Yet, it was not until the FIFA World Cup of 1966, the last time England hosted the tournament and the only time they lifted the trophy that the market of collectible world cup memorabilia was born, thanks to a lion in a Union Jack t-shirt.

World Cup Willie represented the first mascot employed at a major world-sporting event. Created by the English Football Association, World Cup Willie heralded the dawn of a new era of collectible FIFA World Cup memorabilia. His image was on stickers, stamps, badges, tea towels, beer mats and he even had a theme song, sung by Lonnie "King of Skiffle" Donegan.

FIFA immediately recognised the success of such icons, and adopted a mascot for each of the subsequent FIFA World Cup Finals. The Olympic Committee too followed suit, introducing a mascot at the 1968 winter and subsequent 1972 Summer Olympics games.

Historically speaking, World Cup Willie played a huge role in the development of the mascot and as such holds a place of significance for not only World Cup fans, but also sports enthusiasts and collectors the world over. However, in terms of high-end collectible investment, collectors are perhaps better off looking a little closer towards the pitch.

Recent years have seen the auction of several sections of the Wembley turf played on during the 1966 FIFA World cup final. At a recent auction, the section of turf from which Sir Geoff Hurst struck the famous "they think it's all over" goal sold for £11,000 ($16,500), while some years ago, current Leeds United Chairman, Ken Bates purchased the section of turf on which England's third and infamous goal bounced for a £20,000 ($30,000).

Another dimension to the appeal of rare world cup related memorabilia is the historical context of the collectible. The 1938 FIFA World Cup was to be the last tournament of its kind for sixteen years and the eventual war saw the destruction of much of Europe, making memorabilia related to the finals rare.

That the finals took place in the soon to be invaded France and included a German team sporting their new Swastika flag, add further weight to the significance of the tournament. At a recent Sotheby's auction, a 48-page tournament programme, which were mass-produced for the public, sold for £3,000 ($4,500).

Items related to these Finals would be highly sought after, as would anything related to the controversial finals of 1934. The finals took place in Italy with the Italian team emerging victorious. However, the victory was be forever tainted with controversy, as many point to the influence Benito "Il Duce" Mussolini, on a number of key refereeing decisions. Programmes related to this tournament are now valued at just under £5,000 ($7,500).

Other historically significant rare memorabilia, relates more the development of the game. The weighty leather ball used during the 1930 FIFA World Cup final recently sold for £11,985 ($17,980) at Bonhams in Chester. This item will hold historical importance to fans and collectors alike in demonstrating how the game has changed as a form of entertainment over the years.

In the United Kingdom, the birth of institutions like the National Football Museum in Preston has also created increased historical interest in England World Cup memorabilia collections. Similarly, in the 1990s, West Ham Football Club purchased the FIFA World Cup winning medal and shirt of their most famous captain, Bobby Moore, for £150,000 ($225,000) from his widow. The items are now displayed within the club museum.

The involvement of institutions in the rare football memorabilia market could potentially lead to increased price competition and in turn improved auction prices for collectors.

Recent years have seen more and more England related memorabilia come up for sale, as the 1966 team look to cash in on their magnificent achievement. The late Alan Ball, put his 1966 winners' medal up for sale at auction a few years prior to his death, where it exceeded all expectations with a winning bid of £164,000 ($246,000).

Similarly, his international 'cap' from the same game sold for £43,200 ($64,810), while in 2001, Gordon Banks sold his 1966 FIFA World Cup winners' medal for an impressive £114,000 ($171,000). With more and more of the 1966 squad looking to auction off these rare, one-of-a-kind items, now represents the ideal time to become involved in the collectible memorabilia investment market.

Former England International, Stanley Matthews' match worn boots, sold for £38,400

As time goes on, items related to the 1966 FIFA World Cup will grow scarce and their value will rise to any potential investor.

Coupled with this, is the continued interest from the massive England fan base who often crave the nostalgia of success in a FIFA World Cup that no subsequent team has replicated.  There is the potential for many collectors and investors to come from the newly retired affluent, baby boomer generation that enjoyed their formative years at the time of England's victory.

Furthermore and perhaps most significantly, is the knowledge that in six years time, it will be the fiftieth anniversary of the 1966 victory, which could lead to further interest in all things Willie and World Cup. 

Collectors should look to build a significant collection of rare, mint condition pieces, with any autographed memorabilia, adding significant value. Today, an unsigned 1966 World Cup First day cover is available at a starting price of £25-30, a relatively low amount.

At a recent Christie's auction, eleven 1970 Mexico FIFA World Cup first day covers, each signed by teams including England, Germany, Brazil and Italy and with a estimate of £1,500 ($2,250) sold for over double that amount coming in at £3,120 ($4,680). Ten years ago, rare collectibles like these would have fetched a tenth of the £1500 ($2,250) estimate.

One of the most unique features of FIFA World Cup memorabilia is that it can on occasion transcend its football origins. This is most evident in the growing market for official world cup posters related to specific finals. These posters from dating from 1930 to 1990 have provided extremely popular due to their artistic content coupled with their significance.

Today, the 1930 Uruguay Official world cup posters are the most sought after. These posters were designed by famous artist Guillermo Laborde and can command a price of anywhere between £15,000-20,000 ($22,500-30,000) at auction, because of their rarity and the art deco style employed by the artist.

At the lower end of the scale, a poster designed by artist Carvosso for the 1966 FIFA World cup can fetch up to £1,200 (£1,800) at auction, with a similar valuation attributed to the 1974 official poster design. More recently, mixed media artist Alberto Purri designed the official world cup poster for the 1990 finals, which comes with a valuation of £500-700 ($750-1,000), already ten times what it was a decade ago.

These rare pieces of sports memorabilia, represent the perfect link between art and sport, and are the ideal investment for any buyer with a passion for profit and football.

At present, these pieces of memorabilia are relatively cheap, but with prices already increasing by ten times in a decade, these pieces have huge profit potential for any would be investor.

In terms of world record prices, World Cup football shirts and medals are where the big money is.

In 2002, Pele auctioned off the Brazil shirt he wore during the 1970 Mexico FIFA World Cup Final for a massive £157,000 ($235,500). The shirt was worn during the famous 4 - 1 final demolition of Italy, in which Pele scored and  played the perfect assist pass for Carlos Alberto to score the most famous Brazil goal in World Cup history.

The investment potential for World Cup Final memorabilia like shirts and medals has clearly developed in the last decade. In a recent football memorabilia auction at Christie's Julio Olarticoechea, one of the Argentinean defenders from the Diego Maradona inspired team fo the 1986 FIFA World Cup victory, auctioned off both his World Cup final shirt and winners medal.

With Olarticoechea a relatively unknown name, having spent a single season in Europe playing in France, Christies put an estimate of £2000-3000 ($3746-5619) on the shirt. However, the auction saw this rare piece of sports memorabilia eventually sell for an impressive £4,800 ($8,990). The 1986 winner's gold medal had an estimate of £12,000-18,000 ($22,476-33,714) but eventually came in at £19,200 ($35,962). These prices would indicate that while big stars like Pele and Gordon Banks can garner world record prices, at the other end of the scale, lesser-known world cup winners still command significant figures and offer huge investment potential. The value of Maradona's shirt from the 1986 quarter final with England is estimated at £200,000 ($300,500), the potential value of the shirt used during the 1986 final could be double this. If icons like Messi or Kaka reach this years final, we could see yet further interest in the market, as recent world cup final shirts are proving equally popular.

Within the same Christies auction, Italian midfielder Simone Perrotta, part of the World Cup winning team of the 2006 Germany finals, put his shirt from the final up for sale. Perrotta played sixty-one minutes of the final before going off and Christies placed an estimate of £1,000-1,500 ($1,500-2,250) on the lot. However, the shirt eventually sold for £2,640 ($4,945), almost double the estimate.

Geoff Hurst's spare shirt
sold for £8,800 ($12,200)

World Cup final football shirts offer a unique investment opportunity to collectors. Collectible shirts like these are one of kind items, representing a piece of significant football history. Because of the unique nature of these pieces of sports memorabilia, they remain greatly sought after, whether autographed or not.

To date, 18 different teams of eleven men have lifted the trophy, with substitutes also used in later finals, which leaves us with the potential market of just over two hundred shirts, a small one with great investment potential for the future.

The value of Perrotta's world cup shirt has the potential to rise further in value, given that it is only four years old and has already smashed estimated prices.

The evidence would suggest that FIFA World Cup final shirts have huge potential for growth for any collector.  Furthermore, if any of these shirts were autographed, their value would soar yet again.

The creation of mascots like World Cup Willie created a new world of World Cup collectible memorabilia. Yet the best investments available today remain those with unique historical value.  

From shirts, posters and autographs to turf and tickets, football memorabilia investment offers the collector the widest range of options imaginable.

More importantly, these collectibles exist in a market that has a proven record of impressive sales figure.

The huge increasing global fan base created by iconic players like the South American Kaka or African Drogba, will continue to drive prices for such collectibles up. Investing in such items, now, rather than later, could be a wise choice.

In a few weeks Geoff Hurst's shirt used during the 1966 final is to go up for sale with a starting price of £2,300,000 ($3,450,000). If the valuation is met, there could be significant changes in store for the market as a whole.


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