Bidding fierce for old soccer programmes

PUBLISHED: 07:01 27 November 2001 | UPDATED: 10:54 03 March 2010

FOOTBALL programmes from matches featuring a local non-League team half a century ago have changed hands at about 20,000 times their original face value.

FOOTBALL programmes from matches featuring a local non-League team half a century ago have changed hands at about 20,000 times their original face value.

Auctioneers were staggered by the interest in the programmes when they came up for auction, with collectors telephoning in live bids.

When a person with a collection of 177 old programmes featuring Sudbury Town from 1947-56 put them up for sale they expected to net no more than £150.

But bidding shot through the roof, with a winning telephone bid of £2,400 securing the collection, which comprised of programmes originally sold for the equivalent of less than 1p in today's decimal coinage.

It was not the whole collection, but five programmes involving charity cup matches with Tottenham Hotspur that excited the interest of punters.

The White Hart Lane club regularly sent its A, or third team, to play the Suffolk club between 1950 and 1956 for games at both Friars Street and later at the club's new Priory Stadium.

Fifty years later, programmes for such matches are keenly sought by devotees of the famous London side, and followers of the club were alerted to the presence of the items in Sunday's collectibles sale run in a Norwich hotel by Suffolk-based auctioneers Lockdales.

The company estimates the five Spurs' programmes were responsible for about £1,000 worth of the bidding, making the items worth £200 each.

Steve Coxhead, a director of the firm, said: "We sell all sorts of collectibles and have auctioned football programmes before, but have never previously had so much interest in a collection from a non-League club. Obviously, the Tottenham connection was a key factor and we had many written bids, as well as those phoned in live during the auction.

"One lead bidder took the price up to £2,000 and dropped out, only for another telephone bidder to step in and take it further. The eventual under bidder has spoken to us today and now says he wish he had gone higher."

The Tottenham teams that visited Sudbury included players that made their names in famous Spurs sides of the past, including diminutive midfielder Tommy Harmer and forward Bobbie Stokes.

One of the Spurs teams also included Titch Dowsett, a young player from Chelmsford discovered by Sudbury and who joined the White Hart Lane before enjoying a long career with Bournemouth.

Full-back Ken Smith, now 76, who played 15 seasons with Sudbury during the period, said he was astonished at the latest going price for programmes from the era.

"Although Sudbury were semi-professional, I was an amateur and played for nothing, which also allowed me to represent Suffolk for many years," he said.

"It cost me money to play, and it was great to appear against teams such as the Spurs, who used to send down some good sides, with real class players. We could never have dreamed in those days that programmes could become so valuable. I bet a lot of people in the town will now be looking in their attics to see what they can uncover."

Darren Witt, a Sudbury programme collector, said he was aware that a couple of years ago a programme from a one-off friendly match involving the club and Chelsea back in the 1950s had fetched £100, but the weekend bidding set a new bench mark.

The programmes from the club's Essex and Suffolk Border League days included one featuring Ipswich A, when the Portman Road side fielded the following side: Bates, Hunter, Hewitt, Garnham, Burgin, Giles, Brown, Stiff, Clarke, Jennings and Perkins.

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