Buying vintage/retro football shirts

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When it comes to vintage clothing, football fans can't get enough. Whether it's adding to a collection, bringing back memories of glory days, or finding the coolest or most unusual designs from your club or country's past, there is a huge market for old shirts.

Retro shirts can either be original, or a modern copy. For some fans, it's the style of shirt that is important, however, others are looking for originals. However, there are some iconic designs, or shirts associated with important matches/tournaments, that are very much on most fans wish lists. These shirts rarely appear on eBay, and can sell for staggeringly high prices. Bearing that in mind, some companies have produced replicas, or even shirts based loosely on the original design. 

If you're not bothered about whether a shirt is a genuine retro or a copy, then eBay can be a great place for a bargain.

There are some sellers who are looking to take advantage of the market for retro shirts, but if you follow these common sense suggestions, you are less likely to be ripped off.

How can I tell if a listing is a genuine retro or a copy?

There are genuine reasons why a seller has listed their old shirt; they have been gathering dust in the loft, or the shirt may no longer fit (it could be too big, as well as too small, just look at the 1990s). Some sellers will state why they are selling an item, and this may be a clue as to whether it's an original shirt, or a later copy.


Does it look old?

This may be stating the obvious, especially if the shirt you're looking for is 20-30 years old. There may be collectors who have stored their prized shirts to keep them looking immaculate, but a genuine retro shirt will most likely show some signs of ageing. Look for photographs of the washing labels; if it has faded, it's usually an indication it's an older shirt. There may also be other signs, such as tears, pulls, stains, or fading. Sponsorship labels may be discoloured, or even have peeled off over time.

Do your research!

Know which manufacturer originally produced the shirt. For example, the England 1982 shirt was made by Admiral, but the 1990 version was produced by Umbro. Shirts made before the mid to late 1970s wouldn't necessarily have the kit manufacturer on them, so if the vintage shirt you are looking at doesn't have one, and it's from the 1980s onwards, it may be a modern copy. It doesn't hurt to Google for an image of the shirt, and to compare it with the photo in the sellers description.

Retro shirts can be rare.

This also may be obvious, but if a seller is offering the shirt in a variety of sizes, then it is unlikely to be an original. Similarly, check their other listings; the seller may be hiding the fact it's not original by having multiple listings.

Always check the sellers feedback to see if other buyers have bought a copy, when they believed a shirt to be a genuine retro one.

Too good to be true?

Finally, if the price for the shirt seems too good to be true, then it probably is.

Don' despair, because it's not impossible to find a bargain. Try to search for more generic terms (this is one of the few areas where being specific might not be helpful, especially if you're looking for a rare but popular shirt), in case the seller isn't as clued up about the type, and popularity, of the shirt. Also try looking for items that require a pick up, or with a short auction listing time.
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