Memorabilia Madness in Manchester

By Daniel Etchells

Hundreds of collectors turned out for Greater Manchester’s annual Football Programme and Memorabilia Fair yesterday.

More than 20 of the country’s top dealers were on hand to satisfy their customers’ passion at Altrincham’s Cresta Court Hotel, in what is recognised as the biggest fair of its kind outside of London.

An incredible array of football programmes, books, badges and trading cards were on offer as collectors went in search of their most coveted items.

Event organiser John Litster, who is the editor of the magazine Programme Monthly, said there is still a major market for football memorabilia.

“There’s nothing better than a football programme for bringing back memories of matches and players,” he said.

“I think you’ve got to have an interest in the history of the game or the history of your club and, of course, football memorabilia is perfect for that.”

Having previously been staged in Manchester city centre since the early 1980’s, the hotel has hosted the event in the week between Christmas and New Year for the past five years.

Despite an impressive turn out of more than 200 collectors this time round, Mr Litster said the numbers are falling year on year due to the growth of trading on the Internet.

“Our main competitor is eBay because collectors can now build their collections from sitting in their bedroom,” he said.

“That’s the difficulty that the traditional part of the hobby has still got to come to terms with.

“There’s probably more people collecting because of the ease of access of the Internet but the old fashioned way of buying and selling has obviously taken a hit.”

Among the stallholders at the event was Colin Boulter from Leicester whose selection of Manchester United and Manchester City programmes particularly caught the eye of local collectors.

Mr Boulter agrees that the Internet has its advantages, however, he believes that memorabilia fairs still have their own unique appeal for collectors.

“Dealers have got loads and loads of stock here. People class themselves as dealers now on the Internet and they probably haven’t even got 100 programmes,” he said.

“But the thing we’ve got over the Internet is that you can come and see them (the programmes). You don’t get that on the Internet.”

Noticeably, the fair failed to attract a younger audience, which is perceived as a general problem by the dealers.

With children growing up and becoming accustomed to watching all-round coverage of football on the television, it is widely believed that they have minimal interest in the traditional means of exposing the sport.

 “In the era we (the older generation) were brought up in there were only programmes and magazines. There wasn’t Sky Sports and all these phone-ins,” said Mr Boulter.

“The newspapers never covered football like they do today.

“I think it’s a big problem in collecting full stop. Younger people just do not collect stuff; they just collect money or credit cards!”

Another dealer, Tony Coombs, added: “I think it is a bit of a worry. There are not so many people who seem to be coming through. You do see the odd one here and there but it seems to be the same old faces at the fairs.

“The cost of going to matches is enough in itself, let alone collecting football programmes as well!”

Collector Mark Edwards from Bolton continues to gather memorabilia despite a relative lack of interest from his own two sons.

Having started collecting as a teenager, Mr Edwards put his hobby on hold while he and his wife built a family, however, the Bolton Wanderers supporter is back on the scene and putting together quite a collection of programmes.

“I collect them, I catalogue them and I put them in folders. It’s just something to look back on,” he said.

He added: “I wouldn’t mind getting it valued in a few years time.”

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