Golden Football on Pedestal

The Most Expensive Football Memorabilia Ever Sold

Given the global popularity of football, it should come as little surprise that there is a thriving market for football memorabilia. Whether it is old match programmes to match-worn shirts, collectors will regularly look to purchase their own share of footballing history. Many items up for sale will not set you back too much but for the especially rare and/or iconic items, these individual pieces can fetch a lot of money indeed. Just how much, you might well ask? Well, let’s find out as we take a look at the most expensive bits of football memorabilia ever sold.

The list below will only focus on items that have been sold or put up for auction. Items that are more valuable than some on the list may well still exist, but their owners have not wished to part with them. In many cases this will be because the owner is a former player, who does not need the money and has a strong sentimental bond with the item in question. In such cases many players would prefer to keep the item within the family, and/or loan it to a museum, rather than sell it off to a private collector.

Chart That Shows the World's Most Expensive Football Memorabilia

Note that the Hand of God Match Ball and Geoff Hurst’s World Cup Final shirt were both unsold with the cost shown the highest bid received.

Hand Of God Shirt – £7.1m

In one very famous match, Diego Maradona not only scored the goal frequently dubbed as ‘Goal of the Century’ but he also had his ‘Hand of God’ moment. This outrageous incident, which went unnoticed by the match officials, saw the Argentine legend punch the ball just before England goalkeeper Peter Shilton was about to grasp it. Having quite literally beaten the keeper to the punch, Maradona then slotted the ball into an empty net, giving Argentina the lead in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final match.

Argentina ultimately ran out 2-1 winners of the match and they ended up going all the way in the tournament, lifting their second World Cup trophy. This makes the Hand of God moment all the more ‘special’ as, without it, there is a decent chance they never would have made it to the final. Although Maradona’s act of cheating did not go unnoticed by the England players, midfielder Steve Hodge still wanted to swap shirts with him after the game. Hodge loaned this iconic shirt to the National Football Museum in Manchester for many years and despite reiterating he was not looking to sell it in 2020, he had a change of heart a few months later.

In May 2022, the shirt went up for sale and it was expected to fetch between £4m and £6m. Such was the interest in the shirt though that it surpassed this estimate and reached a whopping £7.1m. This not only made it the most expensive piece of football memorabilia ever purchased, by a long way, but it was the most cash paid for a sporting shirt of any kind. Prior to this nobody had paid more than the £4.4m splashed out on a Babe Ruth Yankees top.

Hand Of God Ball – £2m (unsold – sale pending)

We have included this item on our list even though a sale has not yet been finalised. The ball that Diego Maradona used to score his Hand of God, as well as the Goal of the Century, went up for auction in November 2022 and attracted a top bid of £2m. The seller, which was the Tunisian referee of the quarter final match, Ali Bin Nasser, set a reserve price higher than this, however, meaning the item failed to sell. Negotiations continued post auction though to see if some compromise could be reached.

The reserve price was set higher than £2m because professional valuers estimated that the Adidas Azteca ball should have fetched between £2.5m and £3m. Still, a sale at £2m would make this comfortably the second most expensive piece of football memorabilia ever sold. This is an especially generous return given the only reason the ball is worth anywhere near this much money is because of Bin Nasser’s mistake in allowing the goal to stand.

Football Rule Book – £881,250

Vintage Fountain Pen and Writing

For over a decade this was the most expensive piece of football memorabilia ever sold. The historic football rule book, created in 1857, was once owned by the oldest independent football club still around today, Sheffield FC. The hand-written pamphlet itself included rules regarding key elements of the game such as indirect free-kicks, corners and the use of the crossbar.

These rules were used by the English FA, established a few years later in 1863, to help created a standardised set of laws for the game as the sport began gaining popularity all over the country. This very unique item, believed to be the oldest of its kind, was sold to an anonymous bidder in order to help fund numerous projects at Sheffield FC including the building of a new stadium.

FA Cup Trophy – £760,000

Chairman of Birmingham City FC at the time, David Gold, bought the FA Cup trophy during an auction in 2005, securing the item with a winning bid of £478,000. He claimed he did so because he wanted to preserve a piece of footballing history and keep it within the country, rather than see it go to some foreign private collector. The reason this particular FA Cup trophy has such historic significance is because it is the oldest surviving original. It was made as a replacement for the FA Cup that was stolen from a shop window in 1895 and was subsequently used in the competition between 1896 and 1910.

For a trophy that cost just £25 to make at the time, paying nearly half a million quid may seem a lot but Gold ended up making a tidy profit from it. This is because 15 years later Gold wanted to cash in on his trophy and so he put it up for auction, where this time it sold for £760,000. The winner of the auction was initially a mystery but it was later revealed to be Manchester City owner Sheik Mansour, as if his trophy cabinet was not big enough already!

Erling Haaland Football Card – £325k

Black Dollar Bills Icon on Yellow Background

Everything that features on this list is from a major match or competition, something of genuine footballing significance. There is one exception though, with this being a football card featuring Erling Haaland. As a superfractor card, it was the only one of its kind in circulation and released during his first season playing for Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga. Produced by Topps, this physical card (rather than being some sort of NFT) sold for a record-breaking $442,800, the largest amount ever paid for a physical football card.

It may seem crazy that a card, no matter how rare, can go for more money than the likes of a World Cup winner’s medal but sporting cards are big money, at least in North America. Over in the US, in 2020, a Mike Trout baseball card sold for $3.9m and this is a part of the world taking an increasingly keen interest in football. The buyer of the pristine Haaland card must have been predicting that a) there will continue to be a growing market for such cards and b) Haaland will enjoy an extended reputation as one of the best players in the world. Should both of these prove true, the buyer may be able to flip the card for a nice profit in the future.

Geoff Hurst 1966 World Cup Final Shirt – £300k+ (unsold)

England Flag at Angle

The football shirt worn by none other than Sir Geoff Hurst in the 1966 World Cup final originally sold at an auction back in 2000 for £91,750, with the winning bidder a die-hard Tottenham fan who attended the final himself. At the time this smashed the record for a football shirt, with the previous record being the £44,000 paid for the shirt worn by Bobby Moore in the same match. Property investor Andrew Leslau, with the help of several keen collectors, then bought the shirt themselves in 2008 for an undisclosed fee. Leslau did not wish to keep the shirt long though as in 2010 he put the shirt up for sale for £2.3m, around 25 times the amount it sold for just a decade earlier.

Somewhat predictably, this asking price proved much too steep and the shirt went unsold. It eventually went to auction in 2016, with a valuation of between £300,000 and £500,000 but went unsold after failing to meet the reserve price. There were several bids placed though and a great deal of interest so should the reserve price be lowered in future, it is likely to sell within the estimated figure.

Jules Rimet World Cup – £254,500

FIFA went above and beyond to purchase the Jules Rimet trophy, the silverware handed to the World Cup winners between 1930 and 1970. They paid as much as £254,500 in a 1997 auction, which was over 10 times the reserve amount. The last country to be awarded this original trophy was Brazil, winner of the 1970 World Cup, when winning it for the third time. Thirteen years after this though it was stolen from its display case and was not recovered.

The fact FIFA paid so much for this trophy then strongly suggested the original had been found and they were now desperate to ensure its safety. Clearly, they did not do their research though as it later turned out the trophy they paid so much money for was merely a replica, not the silver original. Producing replicas was strictly prohibited by FIFA but the English FA decided to make one in secret after the original was lost and later recovered by Pickles the dog. The bronze replica is barely worth more than the materials produced to make it and was subsequently donated to the National Football Museum in Manchester.

Alan Ball World Cup winner’s medal – £252,000

We have shirts, footballs, cards and trophies and now it is time for medals to feature on this list. Alan Ball’s World Cup winner’s medal had previously sold at an auction in May 2005 for £164,800, a world record for such an item at the time. Skip forward to 2022 and Ball’s World Cup items found themselves back up for sale following the death of owner Edwin Davies, former owner of Bolton Wanderers.

Here his medal sold for twice the pre-sale estimate of £120,00 while the shirt he wore in the final sold for £164,000 and his blue England cap fetched £145,000.

Pele World Cup Shirt – £157,750

Brazil Fabric Flag

Although this is the cheapest item to sneak onto our list, the shirt worn by Pele in the 1970 World Cup final is likely worth a lot more than the fee paid in March 2002. An anonymous telephone bidder paid £157,750 for the shirt at the time, more than three times the estimated sale price. General inflation on such items, plus the sad death of the footballing legend in December 2022 will only have made this shirt far more valuable today though, assuming its whereabouts are still known of course.