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Youdan Cup valuation: the oldest and the coldest

You wouldn’t believe how cold Sheffield can be. Visiting Hallam FC can feel like being in the Arctic. Even in the height of summer, it’s not unusual to find penguins up there complaining that they have frostbite!

Crosspool, or rather Sandygate, is at the very top of a city that is built on seven hills and is not only bloody cold, but also a piece of history. The oldest football ground in the world and home of the Countrymen since 1860, it’s astounding to think that Hallam was there even before Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane.

On the evening of February 17th, Graham Budd Auctions attended the club’s ground for an event that would culminate in the valuation (for insurance purposes) of the world’s oldest football trophy: the Youdan Cup, the starting point for all football tournaments that have followed, from the FA Cup to the World Cup.

The Cup was born from the mind of Sheffield theatre owner, Thomas Youdan, who realised that, in the social media of the day, every time the competition got a mention, so did he and his business. The forerunner of the sponsorship deal I suppose (think Carling Cup and Check a Trade).

The trophy he ordered for the competition wasn’t the one he got though. When he came to collect from the manufacturer (Martin, Hall and Co of Shrewsbury Works) ahead of the final,  he was advised that it wouldn’t be ready on time and that he should instead take one “off the shelf” that could be engraved as a makeshift until the order was complete - a suggestion he followed.

The trophy was played for only once and then went missing for many years before turning up in a Scottish antique emporium where, thankfully, Hallam managed to get it back into their possession.

For the valuation, the plan was that we would privately value it for the Club before the event, then, at the end of the evening, do it publicly so those present could be a part of its wonderful story. At one point, it had appeared on the Antiques Roadshow, and the specialist concerned had placed a value of £100,000 on its silver head, but much has changed since. A few years ago, Sheffield FC, the world’s oldest FC sold the original handwritten rules of football for a million of the King’s finest, so placing a price on such a thing is no easy task.

A friend of Hallam’s Chair who had never seen it in the flesh before also happened to be a silversmith of some repute and he explained just what work went into its decoration, how it would have been gently fashioned from the inside out by hand to give the wonderful relief design and how, the fact that you could not see a join from its two sections was a hallmark of the craftsman. I have seen the trophy nearly every day for 20 years and, though I love its history, I had always regarded it as the poorer relative of what was originally commissioned. How wrong had I been?

Our Head of Valuations and I were there for the event, and it was David who, during his examination of the item, pointed out that it wasn’t a claret jug, but a Victorian coffee pot/hot water jug. The giveaway to the trained eye was the ivory sections on the ornate handle which allowed the user to handle the pot when it was hot. Incredible.

The evening was brilliant as well. Many people stepped over the penguins outside to join us and some fantastic pieces arrived for valuation. Sheffield United, Leeds and England legend Tony Currie attended and brought with him what could only be described as a true treasure trove of 1970s football gems including the Bukta shirt from the Blades’ 1971 promotion game against Watford, a classic Peacock’s Admiral “smiley” tracksuit top with his name emblazoned on the back in blue and several box fresh England tops and shirts. Wonderful and very, very rare.

We were also given the opportunity to value a huge collection of pre-war programmes, a superb 1983/4 Liverpool Umbro shirt from their famous European Cup campaign, worn by the legendary Sir Kenny Dalgleish, a match worn Mark Hateley AC Milan top and a whole pile of pre-war PNE and Wolves pictures and player portraits.

And if that wasn’t enough for one evening, we were presented with one of the oldest football trophies. Recently acquired by the Sheffield Home of Football Project, the trophy related to Heeley Church FC, the world’s oldest Church Football team and we were delighted to place an insurance value of £10,000 on it. Add to this incredible three medals awarded to Blades and England Captain Ernest Needham and a signed tour bat from 1949 and it has to be said that it was some shopping list.

The following day we sponsored the Hallam game against Maltby Main. We have a strong commitment to grass roots football, and the least we could do was give back. What a day it was courtesy of Richard Pillinger, Chair of Hallam and his team there! A tour of the ground and a talk on its rich history with a goody bag, a few beers, programme promotion and a buffet at half time, followed up with a 3-0 win for our hosts. The perfect end to a perfect weekend out on the road for Graham Budd Auctions. Our sincere thanks to all!

And I haven’t forgotten the Youdan Cup valuation by the way. I have saved it on purpose. We placed a valuation of £350,000 on the priceless piece of history, and one that the Club has no intention of selling. They see it as one of the things that sets them apart along with their famous home. It’s their DNA, item that has come to define the game across the planet today, and they are justifiably proud of it.

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