A Shirt for All Seasons

Fake soccer shirts at a Hong Kong market in 2013. Can you spot how many names are still with the same club?  iStock

By Jonathan Castner
NAC

Stalemates, wayward strikes, and flops are as much a part of cup final lore as last-gasp comebacks and acrobatic volleys. For soccer fans, a cup final can often move the emotional needle – it can thrill, or it can bore. The relationship for collectors, however, is more complicated. The outcome of one cup final may or may not directly influence the value of existing memorabilia. Many variables are always at play.

Match-worn shirts – especially if notable – are a different story.  A milestone or a game winning cup goal will certainly add value. Unfortunately, a lot of match worn gear is priced high, out of reach or in some cases, overvalued. Pele’s NY Cosmos shirt worn at the start of the 1976 season brought over $8,000 at Dallas based Heritage Auctions in 2015. Sotheby’s pulled Geoff Hurst’s 1966 World Cup Final match worn shirt in 2016 after it failed to meet a minimum 300,000 GBP bid.

Recent sales suggest that many new collectors now prize long-term consistency over one moment of brilliance. For many, the UEFA Champions League is a great place to start. It has a well-established online market with signed shirts selling for a few hundred dollars on eBay. Its teams are rated among the world’s most popular according to Forbes, and American viewers can watch most of it on Fox Television.

The competition, previously known as the European Cup, features the top teams from each of Europe’s 54 national football associations. The 2017/18 Champions League campaign started last June and will now conclude with two heavyweights – Liverpool and Real Madrid – in the Final. The teams will square off on May 26 in Kiev in front of 300 million plus viewers (three times the number of Super Bowl viewers). Regardless of the outcome, shirt values will remain high well after the final whistle. After all, there is no offseason. Incessant media coverage, merchandising, and a month of global summer exhibitions are just part of an ever-expanding value equation.

Historical success plays a major part in popularity and no other European club has more of it than Real Madrid, winners of 33 Spanish League titles and a record, 12 Champions League trophies. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have one of the game’s most recognizable stars and this year’s Champions League leading goal-scorer.

Autographed shirts of FIFA World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo sell for around $350 and have brought up to $2,000 on eBay when framed.  When it comes to the big teams, deals can be had too, and team-signed shirts can bring substantially less than individually signed items. Real Madrid autographed shirts sold for $200 and $225 in 2016 at Christiana Auction Gallery in Wilmington, Delaware and that’s about where they start on eBay.

While Madrid’s 4-3 aggregate win over Bayern in this year’s Champions League Semifinal was hardly decisive, it did prolong a recent one-sided affair. Bayern Munich and Real Madrid have met 23 times in the Champions League, with Madrid winning the last seven matches.

Dubbed “FC Hollywood,” by German media, Bayern Munich won the Bundesliga 28 times and the Champions League 5 times. In April 2018, individual signed Bayern shirts sold for average of $250 on eBay.

Like Madrid, Liverpool just squeaked through its semifinal – a 7-6 win on aggregate against AS Roma. The teams met before – in the 1984 final – a penalty decider that went to Liverpool. A recent search on eBay revealed more than a dozen vintage Liverpool shirts from the 1984 season – with several signed – that were purchased in the last five years. Those in good condition sold for an average of $250.

1989 Liverpool team- signed ball

Liverpool memorabilia is not rare. But it is popular and for good reason. The Merseyside club won 18 league titles, 5 Champions League trophies, and like the other clubs mentioned here, its additional triumphs have been omitted for the sake or space. The 1984 Roma shirt is a harder find. Searches yielded just two higher priced items – a 1984 Roma tracksuit for $160 and a Roma program of the 1984 European Cup Final – but no shirts. There is considerably less demand for Roma gear – partly because of its more modest success – 3 league titles, nine Coppa Italia titles, and the 1961 Fairs Cup (today’s Europa League).

Some additional intrigue from this matchup could affect one shirt price for years to come. Last year, AS Roma sold its budding star Mohamed Salah to Liverpool for 42 million Euros. This season, the Egypt international repaid the faith with 43 goals. In April, his autographed shirts sold on eBay for an average of $275. Salah, who has been linked with a summer move to Real Madrid and Barcelona, could drive that higher with a strong display for Egypt at this Summer’s World Cup.

TIPS

In June retailers will start to sell uniforms for the upcoming year as the European club season runs from August to May. Depending on opposition and location, a team will wear one of several different uniforms on any given match during a season.

Stay away from fakes. Brands such as Nike, Adidas, and Puma produce three basic grades of uniform that are distinguished by material and stitch.  Retailers sell two versions – a replica, which costs around $80 and an “authentic” or “official” shirt which can set you back $120. Most shirts are sold sans numbers and names. You can add those for another $15-20.

The third uniform – in limited supply and highly prized by collectors – is dubbed “match official,” and made to be worn by the player in match play.  A team may have several shirts available for each of its rostered players on any given match. Those worn and unused (aka “match unworn”) in special competitions may be donated, sold at auction, or given away.

Buyers should scrutinize listings and contact the seller for additional documentation if necessary.

TERMS

Because of the popularity of English Premier League memorabilia, new collectors can familiarize themselves with common English terms. In England, a full uniform is also known as a kit, and a jersey is usually known simply as a shirt. Cleats are known as boots. Sorry, shorts and socks are just shorts and socks. Here are some more.

Pitch – another term for field.

Ground – another term for field, stadium, or site of play.

Stand – literally one section of the stadium. Traditionally a ground was made up of a series of separate covered stands – with each usually named for a famous club figure. Many nostalgic fans loathe modern stadiums that are oval, fully enclosed and sometimes devoid of character.

Terrace – a section of the stadium without seats. Fans are required to stand and sing. Stadiums without terraces are known as “all-seaters.” Want to know why English football has so few terraces? Read the Taylor Report.

Cap – an international appearance. Up until the early 20th Century, a national team would award an appearing player with a hat, hence the name.

CUP HIGHLIGHTS

There are cup finals across Europe in April and May. Here are a few:

UEFA Europa League Final, Lyon, May 16 – Athletico Madrid vs. Marseille

Notable shirt sales:

Antoine Griezmann match unworn Champions League Athletico Madrid vs. Juventus – 2015. $767.41. Sold February 17, 2015 on eBay UK.

Athletico Madrid – 2016 team signed shirt. $245. Sold March 2, 2016 on eBay.

 

FA Cup Final, London, May 19 – Manchester United vs. Chelsea

Notable shirt sales:

Team signed Manchester United home shirt – 2017. $349.99. Sold December 16, 2017 on eBay.

Framed Eden Hazard signed Chelsea shirt – 2016. $425.79. Sold May 1, 2018 on eBay.

 

German Cup Final, Berlin, May 19 – Bayern Munich vs. Eintracht Frankfurt

Notable shirt sales:

Manuel Neuer match-worn Bayern Munich Champions League shirt vs. Zurich 2011/2012 season. $1,623.70. Sold April 23, 2012 on eBay UK.

Jerome Boateng match worn 2017/18 Munich shirt signed by team. $250. Sold November 22 on eBay.

 

French Cup Final, Paris, May 8

PSG 2, Les Herbiers 0

Notable shirt sales:

Neymar signed PSG shirt – 2017. $215.22. Sold February 9, 2018 on eBay.

PSG team signed shirt – 2017. $399. Sold December 31 on eBay.

 

Spanish Cup Final, Madrid, April 21

Barcelona 5, Sevilla 0

Notable shirt sales:

Lionel Messi signed Barcelona shirt – 2017. $524.91. Sold April 24, 2018 on eBay.

Andres Iniesta Barcelona Champions League match worn shirt – 2016. $420.33. Sold February 5, 2018 on. eBay.

 

Italian Cup Final, Rome, May 9

Juventus vs. AC Milan

Notable shirt sales:

Paulo Dybala signed Juventus TIM Cup Final shirt – 2016. $250. Sold April 23, 2017 on eBay.

Hakan Calhanoglu unsigned official AC Milan shirt. $170. Sold February 17, 2018 on eBay.

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