If you’re anything like me, you like to do a bit of window shopping from time to time. I’ll happily spend more time than I’d like to admit browsing online stores to see what sort of things I could pick up with my hard-earned cash, even if I have no real intention of actually parting with that money.
Several years ago this was as far as my relationship with football shirts went. I was intrigued by the fact you could buy so many weird and wonderful kits from teams across the globe, and I’d spend ages scrolling through a number of different sites without ever proceeding to checkout. And then eventually I caved in; I bought one.
After a couple of clearance section pickups and a bunch of eBay snipes, I had the start of a collection.
This was my entire collection in 2017.
A couple of £10 eBay purchases, 3 shirts from my childhood, a charity shop pickup and a gift from a friend. pic.twitter.com/tZ3YSxpFJu
Today in Collector’s Club I want to talk about some of the waysyou can start a football shirt collection. Whether you’re completely new to the idea of collecting shirts, or you’re someone who recently started but are feeling somewhat aimless in your pursuits, let me help.
What sort of collection do you want to have?
Before getting your wallet out you should ask yourself a simple question: what collection do I want to have?
Football shirt collecting is A LOT of fun, and it can be very easy to rush off and seek to buy as many kits as you can in order to give yourself as many dopamine hits as possible. As tempting as it is though, pause and give yourself time to plan ahead. What sort of collection do you want to have, or alternatively what sort of collector do you want to be?
Maybe you really do want to collect as many shirts as possible. You have visions of a whole room in your house filled with polyester, and you’re open to all eras and brands and teams.
Perhaps you want to focus your collection on a specific theme, like a set of teams or a particular brand or even a specific colour. You could be someone who wants a more ‘fluid’ collection where you’re sniping bargains on auction sites and then selling them for profit to fund more purchases.
Knowing what sort of collector you want to be changes a lot when it comes to actually buying shirts. It affects the places you’ll look for shirts, the decision on whether or not to buy a particular shirt or enter a particular auction. If you don’t ask this question, collecting can quickly spiral out of control no matter your budget, and you’ll probably end up feeling a bit frustrated about the whole thing.
Know your marketplaces
Where is the best place to buy football shirts? This is a question I get askeda lot, and with more and more independent sellers entering the space your choices have never been greater!
In many ways the answer to this question will be shaped by your answer to the question of what sort of collector you want to be, so bear that in mind as I outline some possible directions.
Firstly, we have peer-to-peer online marketplaces like eBay, Depop and Vinted. Though these sites don’t specialise in football shirts, the sheer amount of individual sellers means there are always tonnes of potential collection additions available each and every day.
Some sites like eBay also offer the tantalising option of auctions, which can be a great way to snag a bargain if a shirt is listed at a price well below its market value. For Depop and Vinted the experience is more like a typical online retailer with the added option to barter and make an offer lower than the listed price. In each case, I usually check sites like these first if I’m having a casual browse, or if there’s a shirt I particularly want.
Next up we have what I’ll call specialist sites. You’re already on one as we speak; sites like Football Shirt Collective, or Classic Football Shirts, Kitbag and many others have marketplaces dedicated to kits in all their glory. As such you’ll typically want to use these sites for harder to find shirts, or bargains which you’d only find on a site that stocks a lot of kit.
Prices will of course vary depending on which store you’re on, and the rise in smaller independent stores has brought with it greater diversity when it comes to cost. The general rule is that the bigger the site, the more they can afford to charge, but you should always shop around to get the best deal.
Alongside online marketplaces and specialist stores, we have general and/or sports retailers. The distinction here between these stores and the marketplaces we mentioned previously (eBay, Depop) is that you'll be dealing with a company here rather than individual sellers, but a lot of bargains can be had here especially during sales periods.
Sports specific stores (JD Sports, Sports Direct etc.) will usually have a greater range of kits, but don’t discount clothes sites like ASOS, or any of the vintage clothing sites you might come across. Really this is just to say that football shirts can appear in all sorts of places, and the growing interest in shirts has led to more sites carrying stock of kits than ever before.
Before we finish this point, a couple more options for your consideration. If you’re looking for specific shirts or you’re keen on player printing, club shops might be your best bet.
Many clubs or national teams don’t stock their shirts in general marketplaces, and as mentioned player printing can be a big draw. A lot of teams offer things like cup printing through their official store, alongside competition patches.
Finally, any collection can be built up or enhanced through direct deals with fellow collectors! On a personal level this has been one of my favourite things to do, and I especially enjoy buying from or trading with collectors from further afield in countries which would otherwise be difficult to buy shirts from. So be sure to get involved in the football shirt community through Twitter, Instagram and other platforms, and build up a network of friends and contacts which you can make use of during your hunts!
Consider seasonal trends
As touched on with the previous point, there are opportunities to buy football shirts at great prices no matter which marketplace you’re shopping at.
We covered this point in detail in a previous edition of Collectors Club so I won’t dwell on this too much, but in short there are a few key touchpoints to look out for during the season.
Black Friday, Christmas and the end of the season sales (which can start as early as April, if not earlier) are all times to snap up shirts from the sales rack. If you’re a bargain hunter this is undoubtedly your time to shine.
If you’re someone who’s after rare shirts, especially limited edition shirts, you won’t have the luxury of these sales periods. You’ll need to be paying attention in any given month, as stock will come and go sometimes in a matter of minutes!
Finally, you should have fun and pace yourself!
Shirt collecting doesn’t have to be a chore, and the best place you can be as a collector is one where you’re content walking away from a deal. Just because there’s a sale it doesn't mean you should pick up a shirt, and similarly if you see everyone buying a particular kit pause before hitting the buy button.
If you’ve set some goals as to what sort of collection you want, and kept an eye on the various marketplaces for shirts you’ll be in a good position to only pick up what you really need. There’s nothing wrong with buying lots of shirts if you’re in the position to do so, but sometimes a smaller collection that is packed full of shirts you truly love is better than a bigger collection with a lot of shirts you’re not bothered about.
So enjoy the wonderful world of shirt collecting, and of course be sure to stop back again at Collectors Club for the answers to all your most pressing questions. Check out our full back catalogue of articles and stick around for future pieces on everything to do with kits. And you can leave a comment if you have a particular question you’d like us to answer!