The football memorabilia collections of John Crace

John Crace was a football fan and Tottenham supporter from a young age, but was often frustrated in his hobby as it was rarely possible to travel the long distance to see his beloved Spurs play at home.

Crace's choice of club was inconvenient, being 200 miles away, but in the World Cup year of 1966 he was inspired by the flair of Jimmy Greaves, and that was that. Generally the games only filtered back to him by radio, the Grandstand teleprinter, newspaper reports and, occasionally, television.

There was one other source of satisfaction: Charles Buchan's Football Monthly from which programmes could be bought via ads at the back. Programmes for all the matches Crace would have liked to go to - a substantial number started to build up in his cupboard.

The collection was put on hold as Crace shifted towards adulthood. He became a journalist and writer, penning books on cricket and tennis (though not yet football) as well as Baby Alarm: Thoughts from a Neurotic Father.

He is probably most famous however for his column The Digested Read which summarises and spoofs works from Bridget Jones, through Paul Auster's novels and most recently Peter Mandelson's memoirs.

Crace shares a different sporting experience with his son

Now more settled, Crace's collecting bug began to creep back. As he introduced his son to Spurs, he found himself collecting programmes and other memorabilia again - first ones for the matches the two of them went to, and then through eBay, and finally auctioneers.

Crace intends to collect a programme and ticket from every Spurs (Tottenham Hotspur) game that's ever been played. This completionist agenda takes him into the realm of the committed collector, as some of the programmes are extremely rare, and hence valuable.

Crace described the phenomenon when writing about an auction at Sportingold for British newspaper The Guardian:

"I have history with Lot 668, the programme for a 1970 friendly against Valetta in Malta. I've only seen it up for sale once before, and I missed out. I'm not going to make the same mistake again, which naturally means I will pay far too much for it."

1967 FA Cup Winners' medal
1967 FA Cup Winners' medal, sold for £4,230 at Bonhams
(Spurs beat Chelsea 2-1, as Crace will know)

Of course well-preserved sporting memorabilia often becomes more valuable as time goes by. This is borne out in one area of collecting in which Crace has already largely succeeded: World Cup sticker books.

Crace has completed every Panini book of 640 stickers except the very first, from 1970. This, however, is the most valuable and will draw four figure bids if offered for sale.

Completing such a collection requires some painstaking effort, but it should always be possible. "Unlike the football, it won't actually let you down," Crace explains. His son is happy to collect and swap stickers, though he considers programmes a step too far.

Whilst Crace collects for pleasure and does not readily reveal how much he spends, he notes that his spending compares well with paying the equivalent amount into a pension.

Pensions have hit a crisis, whilst the tangible assets in Crace's home have crept up steadily in value in recent years. Perhaps this childhood hobby can not only be enjoyed and passed down a generation, but prove to be a wise investment too - there aren't many things of which you can say that.


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