Following the record-breaking sale of Diego Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ jersey, the market for match worn pieces appears stronger than ever. These otherwise quotidian objects (shirts, shorts and shoes) have been transformed into modern-day relics, viewed as sacred by fans and collectors due to their close personal association with the sportsmen and women we deem worthy of the utmost praise.
This is no modern phenomenon; indeed, the religious fervour with which we laud these sporting heroes finds strong roots in the devotional practice of religion itself. Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ is a particularly apt instance, the name of that iconic goal blurring the lines between secular sporting achievement and religious ecstasy.
Furthermore, parallels can be drawn between the historic custom for collecting relics associated with Christ and his followers, and the contemporary one of acquiring articles of clothing worn by our sporting gods. Certainly, the reverent zeal with which we consume these pieces, often stained with blood, sweat and tears, closely resembles a more collective mania for sacred artefacts, one which predates even the Biblical period. Perhaps one of the most famous instances comes in the form of the Shroud of Turin, a simple cloth made sacrosanct due to its believed contact with Christ.
Whilst the Shroud itself has since been debunked as fraudulent, this example draws our attention to another point to consider when seeking out modern-day relics, one of authenticity. In this respect, provenance is key, and it is of the utmost importance buyers and sellers work with reputable bodies to establish a clear chain of ownership, confirming pieces are what they purport to be.
We at McTear’s have a long-established Sporting department, specialising in a range of items. When any given piece comes in, from rare medals to common signatures, we dedicate much of our time to researching and cataloguing these to a high standard. Match worn articles are of course a staple, with one of the more recent collections offered being that of Lisbon Lion Stevie Chalmers, which came to sale in 2021. This noteworthy collection of shirts worn and swapped throughout his career were presented with cast iron provenance back to the man himself, many achieving record prices. Whilst we can’t always rely on such clear-cut chains of ownership, our rigorous and exacting research allows buyers and sellers to have faith in our cataloguing, something we take great pride in.
Our upcoming auction is no different, with several match worn lots being offered. Given our geographical location, it is unsurprising that the ‘Old Firm’ duo of Celtic & Rangers are both well-represented. This includes recent pieces, such as Calvin Bassey’s home shirt worn during Rangers 8-0 romping of Hamilton in November 2020, a decisive game on their way to 55 league titles. Boots worn by Moussa Dembele during his last season at Celtic are also offered, this being the year they achieved their second of what would become four trebles, the Frenchman bagging 16 goals in the process.
The most significant match worn lot, however, comes from a slightly different place in time and geographical location. At first glance, the iconic gilt bullion star set against black and blue horizontal stripes immediately profess lot 1497 as one belonging to Italian giants Internazionale (Inter Milan). Stylistically predating the now ubiquitous replica jersey, we knew this wasn’t just any regular shirt, and upon receiving the piece, further research was required. Notable features include the placing and shape of the Scudetto (league winners’) shield and ‘atalasport’ manufacturer’s label, both of which allowed us to date this specific instance to the 1966/67 season. This was of course the year Inter lost out on Europe’s premier prize, the European Cup, when they were defeated 2 goals to 1 by Celtic’s legendary Lisbon Lions team. Whilst an uncertain chain of provenance has meant we are unable to place it to that match, a premium is still placed on any item related to that annus mirabilis for Celtic Football Club, and thus the attractive estimate of £2,000-4,000 is expected to draw strong competition.
So, join us at the sporting altar to witness, bid and potentially own some of the games modern-day relics.
For a complimentary, no-obligation valuation, visit our Glasgow Galleries or contact a specialist on 0141 810 2880 or email@example.com.