Football - going, going, gone to the middle classes
Among the 604 football lots in tomorrow's sale are David Beckham's jock- strap (with DNA certificate) valued at pounds 2,000; an item of chewing gum as spat out by Sir Alex Ferguson at White Hart Lane on 23 October this year when Spurs thumped Man Utd 3-1 (comes with copy of dental records), estimated at pounds 5,000; a half empty shampoo bottle, as used by David Ginola, plus a lock of his lovely hair, with video of him saying "I am a Footballer, not a Poofter." Expected to make pounds 6,000.
OK, so I've made those items up. But it could happen soon. After all, the Victorians collected locks from famous heads. Keats, Byron and Wordsworth could hardly go out without someone trying to snip a few strands.
So what is the reason for this sudden passion for football memorabilia and prices, which are rising more quickly than many sections of the traditional fine art world?
Firstly, the arrival of the middle classes. We've spotted them, heard their braying voices, seen them stuff their faces with smoked salmon bagels in the West Stands at Arsenal and Spurs for about 10 years now - but the massive rise in football memorabilia values is clear and factual evidence of their existence, putting their money where their braying mouths are.
Football souvenirs have existed for a hundred years. Postcards of famous players are almost as old as football. I was talking to my dear chum, George Graham, over the weekend and he is awfie proud of his collection of Arsenal postcards from 1904. He has only got 18 out of a set of 30, but thinks it's probably the best in private hands. (Woolwich Library, he says, have a whole set).
When such things were produced, they were cheap souvenirs, bought by kids, then mainly thrown away or lost. Grown-up fans didn't collect them because grown-up fans were working class, with no money or space to spare for collecting.
Hence there was no market, no dealers.
The first major sale of football memorabilia was held in 1989 in Glasgow by Christie's. Everyone was amazed when an FA Cup medal owned by Alex James, estimated at pounds 1,000, went for pounds 5,000. Since then, all the auction houses have joined in, big and small.
The middle classes know about auctions and are used to dealers - I mean art dealers - and they have bags of spare cash. Having arrived in football, they are now throwing their money about, looking for treasures and trophies, as proof of their passion and loyalty.
The other strand is modern football marketing. In the last 10 years we have seen the arrival of megastores, not just at Man Utd but at all professional clubs, selling every conceivable form of football tat.
Fans are now used to forking out for repro rubbish at every match. It's only a small step to forking out for interesting old stuff, once they realise just how cheap and nasty is the modern junk. At both Spurs and Arsenal, you now get many street stalls selling old programmes, handbooks and photographs.
I'm all for it, of course, as a collector. My only worry is what might happen next. At the moment, I would say that everyone buying football stuff is a genuine football fan, buying for fun, amusement, possibly even knowledge.
But if prices keep rocketing, investors and speculators will come in, with no interest in football. That's what happened in stamps. Then it could all collapse. All the same, have a look in the attic for those old Shoots.
Final Top Gear reviewTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
- 2 People all over the world are getting semicolon tattoos to draw attention to mental health
- 3 Van driver who comforted Clark Carlisle and called 999 after suicide attempt dies age 24
- 4 James Blunt was special guest on the highest-rating Top Gear episode ever
- 5 Baby rescued 1km out to sea after parents forgot about her
Bad luck, One Direction: Paul McCartney doubts success of The Beatles will ever be matched again
This is surely the best way to watch Jaws
The Crystal Maze: Richard O’Brien confirmed to return as more details revealed about show's rebooted format
James Blunt was special guest on the highest-rating Top Gear episode ever
Guillaume Tell's gang-rape scene caused uproar at the Royal Opera House – but the portrayal of extreme sex and violence on stage is nothing new
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture