The FA Cup has a long and romantic history and was dreamed up by Charles William Alcock, an old Harrovian, who played on the winning side in the first final of 1872, when Wanderers defeated the Royal Engineers. Since that first final, it has been the dream of every footballer to play in the FA Cup Final and come away with a winner’s medal.
The 1937 FA Cup Final, between Sunderland and Preston North End was won 3-1 by Sunderland, with Sandy McNab having a great game. His gold winner’s medal and red and white striped Sunderland shirt sold for £4,000 and £2,400 respectively in 2006. In 2004 cup final medals raised £2,000 at Budd, an auction house specializing in sporting memorabilia. The three match officials at the FA cup also receive a medal struck in silver gilt, and these quite often come up at auction and usually fetch in excess of £100.
The Football Association Challenge Trophy, to give the FA Cup its official name, is the most instantly recognizable piece of silverware in British football and has an iconic status with supporters. There are one or two very attractive collectables that have appeared over recent years, one being an impressive full-size replica produced by Portmeirion around 1980. It was the intention to market this on a commercial basis, but manufacturing costs proved too high and only a handful of replicas were made. When one was recently auctioned at Budd’s it fetched £2,400.
Carlton produced a miniature replica of the trophy to commemorate the 1927 FA Cup Final, which was won by Cardiff City – this was the only time that the FA cup left England in its entire history. The Carlton miniature is valued at around £250-350.
Before the opening of Wembley Stadium in 1923 the FA Cup was staged at various venues, one being the Kennington Oval, the now defunct Crystal Palace and Chelsea FC’s Stamford Bridge. Pre-Wembley memorabilia is scarce and therefore expensive. A world record price for a football programme was achieved at Budd’s with a single sheet example for the 1889 final at the Oval between Preston North End and West Bromwich Albion, it went for £19,000 in May 2006. The Tottenham Hotspur v Sheffield United 1901 programme, which was played at the Crystal Palace, fetched £18,000. The final was extra special as Spurs were still a non-League team at this time and had managed to beat all professional clubs they encountered on their way to the trophy.
As the competition became more popular companies began to produce advertising material inspired by the cup, in order to boost sales. There was an illustrated vesta case produced by Coleman’s Mustard to commemorate Bradford City’s 1911 FA Cup final win and this was sold at Budd’s for £300 in 2005.
Wembley Stadium hosted the first FA Cup on 28 April 1923, between Bolton Wanderers and West Ham. Wembley Stadium was then the largest football arena in the world and could hold 100,000 spectators. With this capacity it was thought not necessary to allocate tickets, which was a decision that came back to haunt the organisers. The game was massively oversubscribed and probably most people have seen the images of the policeman mounted on a white horse. The 1923 FA Cup Final has been known over since as the ‘White Horse Final’. An original newspaper depicting the scenes was recently sold for £400. Memorabilia for the 1923 final is much in demand and an illustrated match programme was recently sold at Budd’s for £950, while an unused match ticket achieved a hammer price of £2,000.
Because of the chaos of the 1923 final much more attention was paid to safety and stewarding. If you want to start collecting FA Cup memorabilia, the enamelled steward badges, issued for each final, are a good entry level. The tradition of community singing before kick-off began in 1927 and there was a song sheet issued with each match programme detailing the schedule and words. These songsheets have been overlooked in the past, but are now becoming popular with collectors and a 1927 song sheet fetched £400 at Budd’s.
One of the most famous finals is the 1953, Coronation Year FA Cup Final. The great Stanley Matthews had been on the losing side in two finals and at last got his winner’s medal after a great match, where Blackpool beat Bolton Wanderers 4-3. A limited edition print of the ‘Matthews Final’ was produced and signed by Sir Stanley shortly before his death in 2000. This would sell at auction for around £100.
Tradition is that the winning side of the FA Cup Final hold a celebration banquet at a top London hotel on the evening of the match. The menus produced for this are very popular collectables and if you can get an autographed menu, it would enhance the value. A menu signed by the great Tottenham Hotspur team of the 1960s sold at Budd’s for around £650.
With the opening of the new Wembley future collectors will be hunting down memorabilia of the first FA Cup Final played there.