The price of sporting prowess: 1966 and all that

Forty years after England's World Cup victory, salerooms are doing brisk business in memorabilia, fuelled by interest in this year's tournament. Terry Kirby reports
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The Independent Football

As World Cup fever reaches its peak towards the end of June - by which time England will know whether they are through to the quarter-finals in Germany - an evocative reminder of a July afternoon at Wembley 40 years ago will go up for sale in London.

Christie's announced yesterday that the shirt worn by George Cohen, one of the full-backs in England's 1966 World Cup winning team, which had been in the possession of the family of one of Germany's players, will be auctioned on 27 June. The red reminder of national glory is expected to fetch £15,000 to £20,000.

The market for memorabilia associated with England's 1966 win is growing as the years pass without another English team winning the tournament. Shirts, medals, programmes and souvenirs from the nation's most glorious sporting triumph have all gone on sale in recent years.

Members of the 1966 England team have cashed in by selling their medals and shirts, sometimes to fund retirements lacking the financial cushions available to today's players. Companies have sprung up selling items such as replica shirts, signed by surviving members of the team.

Success in Germany would create another huge market - what prices might be paid by collectors of the future for David Beckham's match-winning shirt? But the value of such items is also going to be undermined by several factors - the fact that England players may have several shirts available for the match, should they reach the finals, as opposed to the one and a spare issued in 1966. Another factor is likely to be the sponsors - would Nike not want Wayne Rooney's winning boot for future promotional purposes?

David Convery, head of sporting memorabilia at Christie's, said: "The market for 1966 memorabilia has never been better, and is now being boosted by interest in this year's competition."

He said it was difficult to predict the effect of an England win this year on the 1966 market. "Quite a lot of the 1966 stuff has been sold already and I think there would be a dip in prices, but high prices are still likely to be paid for significant items from the era."

Mr Convery's dream item for sale would be the shirt worn by the captain, Bobby Moore. It's whereabouts are unknown to Moore's widow, who sold his medal and other memorabilia to the museum at West Ham, his former club, for £150,000.

Mr Convery estimated the shirt would fetch between £150,000 to £200,000 or even higher. The world record price for a football shirt at auction is the £157,750 paid in 2002 for Pele's 1970 World Cup shirt. He added: "It would be great to find it. The last rumour was that it was in some East End pub."

The official programme

Many of the minor ephemera from the final - such as programmes, tickets, original photographs and newspaper supplements - are easily available to collectors, either through eBay or sold by auction houses like Christie's. Stickers, pendants, keyrings or mugs bearing the symbol of the tournament, "World Cup Willie", a small lion, are also available. Among the items on sale on eBay yesterday included original final day programmes from £40 to £100, as well as tournament programmes for £20. Original tickets were going for about £10. David Convery, head of sporting memorabilia at Christie's, said yesterday that the market for all football related collectable items had escalated over the past few years. In 1989, Christie's first sale of such items had netted £50,000; last year, sales reached £2.2m. "It used to be golfing memorabilia that everyone sought, but now football has completely overtaken it. There is lots of 1966 material out there, but the value depends on such matters as whether it was signed by a player or players and, if so, which ones."

Collectability rating: ****

The shirts

The record price for a 1966 shirt is £91,750, for Sir Geoff Hurst's, bought at Christie's in 2000 by Gordon Mousinho. He also owns Roger Hunt's shirt, for which he paid £17,250 in 1999. The Hurst figure is expected to remain the record. When George Cohen's match shirt comes up for auction on 27 June, it is expected to fetch between £15,000 and £20,000. Nobby Stiles, Ray Wilson and Jack Charlton still have their shirts, while Martin Peters' spare shirt from the 1966 final is also on sale on 27 June and is expected to fetch £1,000-1,500; it is thought to have been given to the team's bus driver, Sid Brown, by the captain, Bobby Moore.

Collectability rating: *****

The players' medals

The sale of World Cup medals has proved a lucrative source of income for several players as they reached pensionable age without the kind of retirement package present-day footballers can bank on. The highest price so far has been £164,800, paid last May at Christie's for the medal of Alan Ball, the youngest member of the team, which set the world record for a football medal and an item from the 1966 World Cup. Ball, now 61, who played as a midfielder for Blackpool and Everton, said he was selling the medal to provide for his children and grandchildren. He also sold his cap for £43,200.

The price beat the previous record of £124,750, paid in 2001 by a collector for the medal presented to Gordon Banks, the goalkeeper. Left-back Ray Wilson is believed to have sold his for £80,000 while George Cohen's failed to reach the £60,000 reserve and is now on display in the trophy lounge at his former club, Fulham. Most of the team hung on to theirs, but Bobby Charlton's is on permanent loan to the Manchester United museum and Bobby Moore's medal is now in the West Ham museum.

Collectability rating: *****

The oil painting

Among dozens, if not hundreds, of items associated with the 1966 triumph available on eBay yesterday was this 6ft by 4ft oil painting of what many consider to be the most iconic image in modern sporting history. It was sold for £350. The sight of Bobby Moore, hoisted by his team members and holding aloft the Jules Rimet trophy, was one to gladden the hearts of all sporting fans. The solid gold trophy had been stolen earlier that year in London and found, apparently abandoned, by a dog called Pickles in south London. The Football Association had in the meantime prepared a bronze replica, which was discreetly swapped with the real thing as the Wembley celebrations began to wind down.

Collectability rating: **

A Wembley seat

The demolition of Wembley stadium in 2003 created a market in items associated not only with the scene of England's historic World Cup victory, but also events such as Live Aid. Pieces of turf and chairs are among the items sold off and have since found their way onto internet auction sites. Spirit of Sport, a company dedicated to selling sporting memorabilia, is currently offering numbered Wembley seats at £149.99 each, each signed across the back by Sir Geoff Hurst. "You never know, you may have sat in this very seat!" says Spirit of Sport, adding: "The seat in itself represents 35 years of Wembley history and with the addition of Sir Geoff's signature makes this a sought-after and highly collectable item of memorabilia."

Collectability rating: ***

Signed replicas

The continued interest all things associated with 1966 has led to a burgeoning market in specially created memorabilia, mostly sold through the internet and auction houses. One site, Spirit of Sport, is currently selling a range of items, many emblazoned with the signatures of members of the 1966 team, such as replica shirts, prints of team photographs and from the day itself, as well as signed copies of players autographs. All have certificates of authenticity and are in limited editions. The most expensive item is a presentation set consisting of a replica 1966 top, signed by eight members of the team and a current England home shirt, signed by 20 players from the current squad. It costs £1,195. Other items include books, such as signed copies of autobiographies by George Cohen and Sir Geoff Hurst, for £29.99 each and a signed England replica shirt for £299.99. Mark Woodhead, managing director of Spirit of Sport, said the company, which has been going for seven years, contracted players to sign limited numbers of books or shirts. He added: "This year's World Cup is ensuring that it is a bumper time for us. Interest in 1966 items has never been higher, particularly among buyers from the Far East."

Collectability rating: **

The champagne

This bottle of 1966 Dom Perignon champagne was offered for auction last week to raise funds for the Bobby Moore Fund for Cancer Research. The charity was set up by Moore's widow, Stephanie, following his death from bowel cancer in 1993 at the age of 53. The bottle was signed by all 10 surviving members of the 1966 team.The fund was hoping that it would sell for more than £5,000. Sadly, bidding petered out at around £4,000 and the bottle was withdrawn from sale.

Collectability rating: *

Bobby Moore's boot

Stephanie Moore, widow of the most respected footballer ever to lead England - and that includes David Beckham - receives, she says, about 100 e-mails a day pleading for souvenirs associated with her husband. Most of the Moore memorabilia, including his medal, is in the museum at West Ham's ground in east London, although she still has his boots. This bronze cast is one of eight made from his right boot by the sculptor Philip Jackson. It will be auctioned at Christie's on 31 May in aid of the Bobby Moore Fund for Cancer Research, the charity set up after his death from bowel cancer in 1993. The sale will include other sporting memorabilia, including replica shirts and a signed photograph of Moore and Franz Beckenbauer.

Collectability rating: ***