There are many places you can buy football shirts, and if anything the number of possible stores you can shop at seems to be growing exponentially year on year. If you’re a collector though, chances are you've shopped at one particular place amongst the crowd.
eBay is a world leader in e-commerce, and though they don’t specialise in football shirts the sheer amount of available kits on there at any given time has helped make it one of the go-to places for shirt collectors. With a wealth of features and thousands and thousands of new listings each day though it can be an overwhelming platform. Add to that the unbelievable amount of fakes amongst the good stuff and it is not always an enjoyable experience trying to find a bargain or your coveted holy grail.
For this edition of Collectors Club I want to help you navigate the often tricky waters of eBay, focusing specifically on football shirts and how you can get the most out of the platform.
Is eBay good for football shirts?
Before we dive deeper we should consider whether eBay is actually good for football shirts in the first place. Sure, it might be the biggest platform in terms of listings, but is it worth trawling through everything and is it more suited to a certain type of collector?
The beauty of eBay is that it has something for everyone, if you have the patience.
Yes, there are an awful lot of fake shirts which you have to know how to spot (more on that later) but in equal measure eBay is a treasure trove for shirts of all kinds. Want to pick up a 90s shirt from a lower league English team which is impossible to find elsewhere? eBay is your best bet, so long as you don’t mind playing the long game. Keen to snipe a bargain from someone who’s selling their collection on the cheap? You’ll likely find something on eBay.
As I’ve already hinted at so far in this discussion, the key with eBay is patience. Unless you’re very open when it comes to what you want to add to your collection, you usually don’t find exactly what you’re looking for with a quick browse of eBay, despite how many listings there are at any given time. If you want an immediate purchase you’re better off shopping around somewhere like here at FSC, or one of the other online retailers you’ll find on your travels.
The key to eBay is to plan your route of attack and regularly check back from time to time. I’ll talk more specifically about how you can do that now.
How to find cheap football shirts on eBay
If you’re wanting to pick up a bargain on eBay there are plenty of ways to go about things. Ask different people and you’ll hear different approaches, but here are some of my personal tactics.
One of my favourite methods is to search a very broad term like “football shirts”, pressing the “Auction” button underneath the search bar to filter and only show auctions. Then I sort by “Ending soonest” (the dropdown menu is to the right of the auction button) and simply start browsing. With such a general term like “football shirts” you’re going to get the good, the bad and the ugly but the advantage of this sort of approach is that it captures those hastily made listings that were put on without much research, and also casts the net wide enough to capture everything from £5 bargain bin shirts to higher end vintage listings which can easily fly under the radar in an auction setting.
You can also sort by “Newly listed” instead of ending soonest. This will show you shirts that have just hit the market, opening up the possibility of a great deal for people who have undervalued a shirt. Naturally you’ll want to broaden out from just auctions and include “Buy it now” listings, as these are particularly good for sniping deals (auctions can easily run up in price out of nowhere). Be advised that most fakes come under the buy it now category though, so you’ll need to know how to spot a fake (we’ll cover that in a bit).
If you’re after specific shirts, you’re best off setting up alerts once you’ve had an initial browse. Simply press the “Save this search” button underneath the search bar to get notifications whenever new listings come up related to your chosen term. So, if you’re looking for a shirt from Go Ahead Eagles (my favourite team name in football) for example, simply save the search and let eBay take care of the rest.
Are football shirts on eBay fake?
Despite eBay’s immense potential, its biggest drawback is the unbelievable amount of fake shirts. There seems to be frankly no system when it comes to verifying shirts on the platform, as even the most obvious fakes are listed with seemingly no concern from eBay’s side.
As a collector it can be an absolute headache, and I myself fell into the trap more than once early on in my collecting journey. Ultimately you have to come to terms with the fact that you’ll be wading through tonnes of fakes no matter how you use eBay, but if you have the patience for it eBay can deliver. Don’t discount it because of the amount of fakes but rather take it as a warning to be on your guard.
What to do if you buy a fake football shirt on eBay
Thankfully if you do accidentally acquire a counterfeit shirt, eBay make it easy to return the shirt and ask for a full refund. At various points such as shortly after the sale or when you receive the shirt you can ask eBay for a refund if you’re not completely satisfied.
So, if you receive a shirt and then Google the product code to find out it’s a fake, simply contact eBay and provide proof to help things progress as smoothly as possible. The seller may push back, but if you’re able to confirm the shirt is a fake you should have no problems.
How to identify fake football shirts on eBay
Prevention is better than cure, and if you know some of the telltale signs of fake football shirts on eBay you’ll have a much better experience.
The first rule of thumb, which is something of a golden rule in general in regards to fakes, is that if a shirt price looks too good to be true it’s probably too good to be true. Seeing a brand new shirt available for £30 as a buy it now listing or a ‘vintage’ Holland ‘88 shirt as an auction starting at 99p should set alarm bells ringing in your head. Of course you can find bargains, but there’s a line between a good deal and something which is completely out of the realms of reality. The genuine Netherlands shirt below will never be listed in good condition for anything less than 3 figures, it's just one of the rules of nature.
The next key battleground is in the area of imagery. If a shirt has the manufacturer logo obscured in any way on all the pictures, avoid it at all costs. Sleeves may occasionally block a Nike swoosh or Puma cat, but fakers will deliberately cover all instances of a brand mark to circumvent automated checks. I’d also be wary of generally blurry pictures in general. Sure camera quality might be lacking (much less of an issue today than it was 10, 20 years ago!), but there’s no excuse for a picture where any relevant details are completely illegible.
Though not as common, you may see a supposedly vintage shirt available in multiple sizes at a cheap price point. Unless the seller has come across a batch of deadstock or similar this is another flag.
Take note of the product description too. Many sellers will title a listing as if a shirt was genuine, only to reveal in the product description that the shirt is not vintage but rather a “remake” or a “reissue”. As frustrating as it is to get excited by the title of listing only to have your hopes dashed, you’re better off being disappointed at this stage rather than later down the line.
Jumping back to the topic of pictures, compare what you see on eBay with reputable retailers or pictures from fellow collectors. It’s another classic tip regarding fakes; do like-for-like checks as much as you can for things like the club, brand mark and even details like the sizing information on the inside neck.
When all else fails, reach out to the seller directly. Contact the seller through eBay and ask to see a picture of the internal label and product code, or even where the shirt was originally obtained from. Of course the seller may play tricks on you, but 90% of the time you’ll get a reply which can help inform your decision of whether to put in a bid or not. If I'm undecided a message can help crystallise my decision making.
Best eBay bargains
As we wrap up, I want to show off the best deals I’ve picked up myself over the years.
Prices have skyrocketed in the past few years and eBay bargains now generally aren’t what they used to be. In 2017, I had what is probably my best ever pickup in the form of a long sleeve Fiorentina 1991 shirt for the sum of £36. 2017 was a heady time to be a collector, with plenty of bargains to be had on shirts which would easily command £100, maybe £200+ in today’s market!
It might be tricky to find a deal as good as 2017, but there are still relative bargains to be had. One of my favourite recent pickups was a rare boxed South Korea T90 shirt. At £171 it wasn’t cheap, but compared to the going rate for the boxed T90 shirts I was thrilled. At the same I wasn’t 100% sure if the shirt was real, but I took the calculated risk and it paid off once I received the shirt and verified it was the real deal!