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A buyer’s guide to vintage sporting goods


The area of sporting goods successfully fills an enthusiast niche in the world of collectables.

Collecting sporting memorabilia is perennially popular among all ages, and people start collecting for many reasons; they may desire a connection with a favourite team or individual, their collection may be driven by nostalgia or an appreciation of fine craftmanship. Or it may be the financial implications that attract someone to collecting vintage sporting goods. Whatever the motivation, collecting vintage sporting goods has a long history, but it wasn’t until the Victorian era that most of our contemporary sports were formalised and collecting, as we recognise it today, began in earnest.

Practically every sport is represented in the world of vintage sporting goods collectables and many collectors will concentrate their focus on one sport. However, within each sporting category, you will find further sub-categories including cards and coins - who remembers the albums of football stickers? An incomplete World Cup sticker album from 1970 reached in excess of £1000 on an auction site, art and literature  (programmes, books, magazines, pictures and sculptures), equipment (racquets, rods, clubs, sportswear) and awards (trophies, medals, cups, plaques).

The most collectable items are usually associated with the early sport, a particular player or an important competition or match. If we look even closer at the collector of vintage sporting goods, we will find that some concentrate not just on a particular sport but on a specific team within that sport.

In terms of accessibility, collecting vintage sporting goods is an ideal area for novices and experts alike, as it caters for all budgets, with items like autographs and photographs starting from a few pounds. Don’t be fooled into thinking that sports related paper goods will always offer the cheaper option however; in 2010 the original copy of the rules of basketball sold for just under £3m in New York! New collectors can also cut their teeth on ceramics with a sporting theme, as these can sometimes be a cost effective option.

The beginner collector will often favour the popular sports such as golf, rugby and even American baseball as all of these have well established collectable markets. However, it is important not to underestimate the popularity and age of other sports including angling and fishing, and of course the traditional countryside sports of hunting and racing. It is perhaps with these sports that the collector of ceramics comes into their own, with companies such as Beswick having fine examples of hunt-related figurines.


With a long history, this area of collectables continues to grow; collectors of vintage angling paraphernalia normally focus on equipment, with particular interest in reels, creels and rods. There is also a market for prized catches that have been preserved by a taxidermist.


The interest in golf-related sporting goods reached a pinnacle in the 1980s and ‘90s when the market saw huge attention from Japanese and American collectors. However, today tastes have changed and pieces such as 19th century golf balls and early 20th century clubs, that previously achieved healthy and buoyant prices, could represent a way into the market for the novice collector. Interestingly golf related ceramic pieces have lost none of their popularity and have therefore held their prices.


Collecting vintage cricket goods and memorabilia has a history almost as old as the game itself, with a healthy market at home and abroad. The long history of the game has ensured that early examples of cricket bats and almanacs for example, in good condition, continue to command good prices. For the collector of ceramics and art, the age of the sport means that there are many, highly desirable pieces.


Vintage football goods enjoy the highest demand for UK collectors, with certain items, such as programmes and medals having been collected for years. It is the market for kit that has slowly grown over recent years, linked perhaps to older fans and collectors, and even players themselves, selling their personal collections. An example of this is the sale of match medals by the 1966 World Cup winners; Nobby Stiles’ medal achieved £160,000 in 2010.

As with all areas of collectables, the key in sporting goods is rarity and the collector has to be aware of the many contemporary replica items that can be found on the market. Wherever possible, look for provenance with an item, for example is someone selling an autograph the person who acquired it originally? Can anyone verify it is genuine? If ever you are unsure, seek out a reputable antique dealer who will be able to authenticate items for you.

When looking for vintage sporting goods to buy, a collector visiting Hemswell Antique Centres can be confident in the expertise of our dealers. With over 400 dealers displaying their pieces across four buildings, and with over 6,000 items available online, Hemswell is the ideal location for finding special pieces. For the dealer, we offer a superb location which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors. During the current restrictions, when only essential traders are operational, your items can still be viewed and purchased online, with all the groundwork for shipping done for you.

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