HERE’s a “guestimate” of how much Thavaraj has spent on his massive collection of football jerseys: He has 160 jerseys, and he reckons they cost an average of RM260 each (though some have cost as much as RM700).

That’s right. He’s spent around RM41,600. On football jerseys. Most of which he’s never worn.

But Thavaraj isn’t alone. Collecting and trading jerseys has become a popular hobby among hardcore football fans in Malaysia, and they even have their own forum,

Arsenal fan Thavaraj, 27, says he started collecting when he was still in college, saving money to buy a piece once every few months. He used to have more than 160 jerseys, but he’s sold a lot of them to focus on collecting the “really valuable” ones.

And with Euro 2012 kicking off tomorrow, expect some national team jerseys to become REALLY valuable.

“They’re actually really great investments,” said Thavaraj, 27, of his jerseys. “For example, if a team wins a major competition, the value of the jersey will go up – especially if it has a player’s name on the back.”

So let’s say Franck Ribery scores the tournament-winning goal for France in the final – Thavaraj’s Ribery jersey will be able to fetch way more than he paid for it a few years down the line because fans will want to keep it for memory’s sake.

But the art of collecting prized jerseys isn’t just about buying a shirt and hoping something magical happens.

Thavaraj painstakingly scours the Internet to find the lettering and numbering for the right jerseys. “The fonts for the players’ names (on the back of the jersey) change over time, so you have to find the right one for the right jersey.

“The consonants are harder to find, and the hottest numbers are “1”, “0” and “7”. Those tend to cost more.”

You also have to find the right “patches” – the badges on the jersey sleeves. If you want a jersey to commemorate Didier Drogba’s goal in the Champions League final, for instance, don’t iron on Champions League fonts on the back with Premier League badges on the sleeves.

So it’s not just about money, says Thavaraj. Each jersey is a project, one that reminds you of an iconic season, a magical moment in footballing history, or even a kung fu kick that lives on in infamy.

“Manchester United jerseys are the most valuable – the Cantona kung fu kick jersey, Schmeichel jerseys, the Treble season jerseys… They are very valuable.

“It’s because United have more fans. The competition is stiffer in the auctions. There was a guy who just bought a Paul Scholes jersey for RM2,000,” he said.

“It’s fun! You have to do your research, and take time to look around for the right jerseys, patches and fonts.”

He also adds that while jerseys like his Thierry Henry final Highbury season jersey could probably be sold for RM600, it’s really not about the money: “Even if you offered me a lot of money for a rare jersey like that, I probably wouldn’t let it go. Plus, if you had money and you just paid for it like that, you probably wouldn’t appreciate the jersey.”


Ian is the editor of R.AGE. He hates writing about himself.

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