Nick Latamsing has been watching Arsenal since the 1970s but his life changed forever when he attended a programme fair in 1987. Since that day he’s been collecting Arsenal programmes and a few years ago he completed a collection that included one from every Arsenal fixture played between 1946 and 2006…
How long have you been collecting Arsenal programmes and memorabilia?
I started 35 years ago when I was a schoolboy and then it grew from there. I started doing it seriously in 1987. Arsenal did a programme fair as they used to do after the last home game of the season and a mate invited me along. And that was it – I got the bug! I still sit with the guy who got me started now! We laugh about that story sometimes. My dad used to print Chelsea and Wembley programmes during the 1940s so maybe I got the bug from him as well!
Six decades of Arsenal programmes must take up a fair bit of space?
They do and you can’t store them in the garage in case they get damp! I was living at my mum’s when I started but I had my own place by the time the collection started getting big. I think she’d have thrown them all away if I’d carried on storing them at hers!
What do your friends and family have to say about it?
My wife has always been supportive. She used to take the piss in the early days but once it started getting bigger she didn’t mind at all because it was an investment. I sold the collection to pay for the extension on my house a couple of years back. I still have stuff left but I think I sold at the right time.
How much did you sell your collection for?
I sold it all as individual lots. It would probably have been too much money for someone to take the whole lot together but if I had to value it I’d say the complete collection – including tickets – was worth £80,000 easy. A mate of mine is stockbroker and he bought a programme from the opening day of the football league in 1888 and paid £20,000 for it. It was a single piece of A5 paper.
So what was the earliest Arsenal programme you had in your collection?
My earliest one is 1904. Sheffield United v Arsenal at Bramall Lane. The earliest home game I have is 1906, Arsenal v Hull in the FA Cup first round. That was when they were playing at Plumstead. I’ve got the first league meeting between Arsenal and Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in Oct 1907. Chelsea formed in 1905. I’ve also got every FA Cup Final programme that Arsenal have been in; 1927, 1930, 1932, 1936 and so on.
Do you have a favourite programme?
It would be Arsenal v Leicester Fosse – the first game at Highbury – if I had it! But my favourite from my collection would have to be an away friendly against Feyenoord from 1938. Arsenal were the first European club to travel abroad and it caught on. I’m pretty sure their first trip was in 1923 where they went to Sweden…
Is a programme’s value determined by how old it is?
Not always. My earliest is from 1904 but it’s not the most valuable because Sheffield United programmes are very common. Even going back to those days. I wouldn’t swear to this but the earliest Arsenal programme I’ve heard of is from 1891 against Scots Guards. It was just a piece of A5 paper and it had the teams on one side and few adverts…
Don Roper was an ex-Arsenal player and he kept several copies of programmes from every game including away European friendlies. His son sold a lot on eBay years later and there were some very rare issues which no one knew existed. They went for a lot of money!
Do you know collectors from other clubs?
Yeah loads. I know Man United collectors, Chelsea collectors and so on. The most sought after programmes will always be Man United although Spurs come in a close second for some reason. For example a 1938/1939 Man United programme fetches about £300. An Arsenal one from the same season will set you back about £50. Man United’s record home attendance was against Arsenal in 1948. There were 83,000 people at Maine Road that day and I’ve got that programme. I know a Man United collector who had pretty much everything and he sold his collection for £300,000.
…and what about fellow Arsenal programme collectors?
There were three Arsenal fans that had an even better collection than me. There is a bit of rivalry in it but at the end of the day it’s about money. Whoever can afford to pay for it will get a bigger collection. I used to collect loads of miscellaneous stuff from other matches played at Highbury including, Catering cup finals – The Ritz v The Hilton, international games are highly sought after, boxing matches, schoolboy games & railway cup finals played at Highbury I used to go mad for stuff like that.
What’s the greatest length you’ve gone to for a programme?
A collector in Sheffield phoned me he had a few Arsenal programmes from the 1920s for sale once, so I got the train up from Dartford to pick them up that day. My wife asked me where I was going, I told her I was going to Sheffield to buy some programmes and I departed with £500. I was over the moon when I got my hands on them – the best £500 I’ve ever spent! Haha
Did your wife not mind?
No. I’ve travelled all over Europe watching Arsenal. Dawn my wife came to a programme fair at Bournemouth with me once. She decided to come along because she thought it was a nice place. I took her to Dean Court and she soon changed her mind. As a load of saddos going through buckets of football programmes!
Are fairs the best place to find programmes?
Back then definitely. Ebay has taken the fun out of it a bit and also brought the prices down. You used to find loads of little gems not priced correctly that no one else had noticed at the fairs. One of the best things I found was an AFC handbook from 1922 – very rare. Inside it was a letter to someone from ex-Arsenal captain Charlie Buchan, saying he couldn’t get the fan a cup final ticket in 1927 because they’d only given the players three tickets. The fan had obviously kept it and put it in the handbook! I later sold that letter for £250. It was a piece of Arsenal history.
Of your 60 year collection, which was the most difficult to track down?
Cologne away in the Fairs Cup 1970 was an absolute nightmare to get hold of. There were two issues, one was quite common but the other was extremely rare. Postponed games could always be quite tricky. There was one came to light in the last few years – a postponed game in the late 50s. That put people in a panic!
What’s the most you’ve ever paid for a programme?
Twenty years ago I offered a £1,000 for Arsenal’s first game at Highbury, but I didn’t get it. The most I paid for one was probably the semi-final at Blackburn in 1928. That cost me £2,000. It’s never going down in value though so it wasn’t such a gamble. My biggest earner was Arsenal v Preston FA Cup Final where the replay was at Blackburn. The one at Blackburn I bought for £200 and sold for £1,000.
Did Arsenal know about your collection?
I wrote to them a couple of times but they weren’t really interested. The only person I got a response from was George Graham, who also collects Arsenal memorabilia. I met him at a programme fair and he was a nice guy. I’ve been told he had a very good programme collection. John Motson’s a Chelsea fan and apparently he has a good one as well.
Did you feel a sense of anti-climax once you’d completed your 1946 - 2006 collection?
I stopped because I was the only one looking at them and my interest waned a bit, but it was a fantastic achievement getting them. It’s less pressure now because I don’t have to worry about a programme.
Back in the day I used to have to make sure the ticket wasn’t creased and the programme wasn’t bent! Whereas now I don’t care. Also I started collecting Champions League press packs that were issued to the press. What that meant was going to European away grounds and blagging our way into the press area and getting press packs…
Is getting into the press area difficult?
It is and it isn’t. You’ve got to be sensible and have your wits about you. The hardest press rooms to get into were those in France, they were really difficult to get into, but I met Anelka after our first ever Champions League game in Lens and that’s really where it started. Sometimes it’s easy getting in though. After the semi-final against Villarreal in 2006 we only had one pass but the security guard just waved all four of us through!
Have you met any other Arsenal players on your travels?
I met Vieira and Henry after we played Werder Bremen in 2000. They were very polite and we chatted about football for a bit. Lovely blokes. Vieira looked fresh as a daisy, I couldn’t believe he’d just played 90 minutes! Back in the early 1990s we met Ian Wright after the first leg of the 1994 European Cup Winners Cup semi-final against Paris Saint-Germain. He came round the corner in this floor length cashmere coat and said ‘Aaaaaaa’s it gahn boys!'
Which other European press rooms have you infiltrated?
We bumped into Giovanni Trapattoni after Arsenal played Fiorentina in Florence in 1999. He was a nice bloke. We also sneaked into the press room at the Nou Camp the same season. We were sat there next to Patrick Kluivert and one of the De Boer brothers!