I'm a collector - all because I was frightened in the womb

There's a football memorabilia sale at Sotheby's on 7 December, which I'll probably go along to, as I've become a born-again collector. Here's a selection of some of the 604 lots to be sold. What do you think they are worth?

Don't cheat by looking at the end of the column. Just guess the sort of estimates Sotheby's has put on them. OK then. To make it simple, just guess which is the most valuable item out of these ten:

1) England cap as worn by Bobby Moore against Bulgaria.
2) Fire screen commemorating FA tour of South Africa, 1910.
3) Spurs number 19 away shirts, as worn by Darren Anderton.
4) Eric Cantona's number 7 Man Utd shirt, autographed.
5) Replica of Jules Rimet trophy, 1950.
6) 1930 World Cup Final programme, Argentina v Uruguay.
7) 1921 FA Cup Final programme, Spurs v Wolves.
8) Copies of Shoot! magazine, 1974-82.
9) Official poster for 1930 World Cup.
10) David Beckham's number 7 Man Utd shirt, autographed.

I won't be bidding for any of these. They are out of my price range, and not my thing really - well, I might make a small bid for the Spurs prog, if it looks like going cheap. Unlikely. The collecting world has gone fitba crazy, fitba mad, it's taken away the little bit of cents we had, we had, we had. Six months ago I sold my stamp collection in order to concentrate on football. Bad timing. Just when the prices really rocketed. I have been acquiring football stuff since 1966, when I carefully put away my World Cup Final programme and ticket, but that was accumulating as I went along, keeping what I happened to have, rather than going out and actively collecting.

When I was collecting stamps, I was here, there and everywhere, so many silly collections all over the place, so I decided from the beginning of my football collecting to concentrate on three areas. Spurs, of course - handbooks, programmes, anything really, as long as it's old, ie, pre-1960s. Alas, after Man Utd, Spurs is about the most expensive club to collect.

Second, England-Scotland programmes. This was done deliberately, by looking at catalogues, talking to dealers and picking an area that's currently very cheap. Programmes for international matches are hardly collected. Understandable, in a way. Fans are far more attached to their clubs than their countries.

Third, prewar books about football. These are hard to find, but so far they are not too expensive. Even the most expensive and rarest won't cost more than a few hundred pounds.

What I don't collect are things such as shirts. These are where the really mad prices are being paid. (Bobby Moore's 1966 World Cup shirt sold for £44,000 in September this year.) I wouldn't know how you display a shirt, and anyway, how can you be really sure it was worn by a famous player?

I much prefer paper memorabilia, especially printed stuff. I enjoy looking back at what hacks in ye olden days wrote about football. I also like the vignettes, the artwork, the typography. Shirts seem pretty boring to me.

I'm already making the same mistakes I made with stamps. I tend to go for quantity not quality. With stamps, I would always buy five cheapo Penny Blacks with faults, thins, no margins at £20 each instead of getting one good example at £100. As all collectors know, when you come to sell, the expensive item will almost always have gone up proportionally more than the cheap ones. Hence I find myself buying five tatty 1930s Spurs programmes for £20 each instead of one good one from 1912 for £100.

But it's brightened up my going-to-the-match life, these cold afternoons and evenings. At Spurs and Arsenal, in the streets round both stadia, there are stalls where I haggle. Not many are selling old stuff. It's mainly garish modern souvenirs and tat at both places, but there are a couple of stalls at each ground where I get rid of a few quid each game.

It's hard to explain why I collect. Or anyone collects. Anal retention, escaping from real life, compensating for teenage psychological damage, having one's dummy taken away in the cradle, being frightened by a tall dark stranger in the womb who looked like Vinnie Jones. Yeah, all of that. Collecting is a disease, a form of solitary madness.

The joy is in the gathering and the hunting, the completion of a self-created task, rather than the actual owning or displaying. I do have stuff on my bathroom walls, but most of my treasures just lie there, in piles, gathering dust. When I'm old, much older than today, with nothing to do, I'll sort them.

Next year, they are going to sell off Wembley, the whole stadium. I intend to bid for one of the seats, one of those I sat on in 1966. Gawd knows where I'll put it. She'll go spare if I try to hang it on the bathroom wall.

By chance, the world's most valuable piece of football-related memorabilia is also going on sale - L S Lowry's famous 1953 painting, Going to the Match. It, too, is being sold at Sotheby's, at a different sale, on 3 December. The estimate is £500,000. That would look well good on my bathroom wall.

Right, here are the estimates for those ten not-so-well-known football items:

1) £3,000-£5,000
2) £600-£800
3) £200-£250
4) £1,500-£2,000
5) £6,000-£8,000
6) £4,000-£6,000
7) £600-£800
8) £150-£250
9) £12,000-£15,000
10) £1,500-£2,000

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 06 December 1999 issue of the New Statesman, My night with Mad Frankie Fraser