Programme watch: 1986/87

I’ve been digging around my football programme collection recently, getting my duplicates ready to swap with fellow collectors and trying to convince my other half that we really do need another filing cabinet for ‘all sorts’ of stuff.

What I actually need it for is the upcoming programme fair at the ground, this Sunday at 11am until 2pm. If I’m able to swing a few hours from work I shall be down there expanding my current collection beyond the 1,000 or so I have currently. Most weeks I find someone with an extra programme or two who wants it to go to a good home and believe me, they’ve got a good home in my house.

In 2007 I underwent a few personal issues and was living out of a suitcase in someone else’s house. A pipe burst in my own house and flooded it, ruining almost everything I owned. you know what didn’t get ruined? My programmes, because when I left the house I took clothes, toiletries and my two boxes of Imps memorabilia. They were considered the essentials.

In a new feature, one that doesn’t argue about strikers, form or whatever, I’m going to look at the programme from a season, in terms of style, content and give you values, rarities and the like. It might not be a popular feature but you know what? It’s my site. I can do what I want.

We’re going to start where it all began for me, 1986/87. It wasn’t a classic year but if you’re a collector, you’ll know it’s one of the years that a find is always welcomed.

The reason 1986/87 is a good year for collectors is there were decreasing numbers at Sincil Bank, meaning a copy of a programme is a rarity. I always chuckle when someone says something like ‘I have a copy of the Arsenal programme, what is it worth?’ because the honesty shout is not much. Yes, it was a big game, yes it was historic for us but there are 60,000 or so of those programmes in circulation. You know what wasn’t a classic? The Hartlepool game of October 5th, 1986. The Imps lost 4-1 in front of just over 2,000 fans and as you’d imagine, those programmes are harder to come by. It doesn’t mean they’re worth much more, but you’re more likely to pique my interest with something from that era.

One thing I’ve always found odd about football programmes is they didn’t seem to go full colour for many years after the technology was available. even into the late 1980s the photography was still black and white. The page count has gone up though and for that fateful relegation season the 24-page programme sported some colour.

I like this programme a lot, I like the cover design and the era because it means something to me. It might be a season to forget, but it’s a programme to remember.

The content is the usual fair, notes from the manager, a crossword, welcome to the opposition and of course, the obligatory results section. I’m a big fan of having the teams on the back and whilst they were rarely accurate, it saddens me to see them no longer feature, not even a squad list. Mind you, we’re lucky to have a programme at all these days.

For an avid Imps’ historian such as myself, there’s as much value in the pages such as the ‘City Shorts’ as anything. these were once standard in a programme, but again not so much now. They highlight the news, events and going on at the club, but since we’ve had the internet seem to have faded away significantly.

What does disappoint me a little is the lack of action shots in the programme. There’s only one per issue on the front cover, but at least it tells you who is involved, some seasons don’t afford you that! There’s also a look back at seasons gone by, something that doesn’t appeal as much these days but a feature that fed my own insane passion for things that have already happened and now mean very little.

In terms of value, programmes vary immensely and eBay is not your friend. I’ve been eyeing a copy of the Cambridge programme from this season, played on February 22nd. It wasn’t a classic, we lost 3-0, but the eBay listing has it at £3.99. That can skew your valuation of the programme, because I guarantee you a collector buying in bulk would offer 20p-25p per programme from this era. Neither are fair prices in my eyes.

Incidentally, the Cambridge game was one of only two at Sincil Bank in which Steve McClaren played. the other was a 1-0 defeat by Cardiff City, my third ever Imps game.

Always beware of selling your programmes to a dealer as he’ll be looking to get them as cheap as possible. I dealt with a guy last season (maybe the year before) who sold me a pile of programmes for around 30p per copy. When I delved into the bag I came across one worth over £100. A collector would consider that good fortune and cash in, I went back to the guy who sold it and offered him it back. There’s no honour in dealers these days and I feel a certain camaraderie with other Imps when buying and selling. Usually I find a swap is the best course of action rather than a cash exchange.

Anyway, 1986/87 programmes would probably be worth around £1 each, but the beauty of programmes is that the value changes depending on who you sell to. The dealer with a stock room of over 3,000 might want to give you 20p for a copy, but what about the Lincoln collector who needs the Littlewoods Cup match against Charlton? He might give you £1.50 for it, he might even buy you a pint.

The key ones to look out for this season are the Charlton one dated 8th October as it came with a free sticker of some kind. If you have both there might be someone willing to part with a fiver, although just the programme would fall into the usual price bracket.

There are some other nice ones to have, Wolves at home from November 29th would be a good one to lay your hands on in terms of nostalgia, we won 3-0 and were a long way from relegation at that point. On December 13th we beat Swansea 4-0 in front of under 2,000, another good one to have and my second ever Imps game.

May 4th saw us play Scunthorpe at home, our final game in the league, Sometimes these firsts and lasts are worth a bit more, but this one isn’t going to make you rich. You might find someone willing to throw £5 at you on the internet if you look hard enough, but it’s unlikely.

Did you like this article? Would you like to see more? Let me know in the comments below.

Don’t forget the programme fair this weekend at the Bank


  1. I know I am late replying to the Derby programme from *57. I can remember this game in that it absolutely chucked it down. Me and my mates were soaked waiting for the 1A bus at goats bridge. Happy days apart from we weren’t very good that season until the last 6 games.

  2. Gary, I was in Bakewell on Monday and at the popular market I picked up a Lincoln programme that you can have if you want it, no charge! It is for the game of 7/10/81 v Notts County in the FL Cup. If you haven’t got this one, you’ll not believe who was the ref – “G Hutchinson (Oxfordshire)”!!!! Can bring Saturday.

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