Derby County have pulled out all the stops to buy back a vital piece of their club’s history for their fans - and they’ve paid thousands of pounds for the privilege.
A DCFC directors’ minutes book from 1888 – the year the Football League was formed – was found languishing amid 25 boxes of football memorabilia gathered by sportswriter Gerald Mortimer. He was Derby County correspondent for the Derby Telegraph from 1970 to 2002.
Dated February 6, 1888 to June 3, 1889, it went under the hammer at Derbyshire’s Hansons Auctioneers today (Aug 31) with an estimate of £1,000-£2,000 - and sold to Derby County for £4,000.
The club also paid £400 for a DCFC supper card from 1934 commemorating the Jubilee of the club. It was signed by eight players – including club legend Steve Bloomer. Its original estimate was £100-£150. Both items will now go on display at Pride Park Stadium, the home of Derby County.
Grace Vivian, Derby County’s supporter liaison officer, was at Hansons to bid for the items, pitted against fierce competition from football collectors from around the country. But she won the day for Derby fans.
She said: “I’m delighted. Both these items are a vital part of our club’s history and Derby County wanted them back. The minutes book has been missing for more than a century. The items will be put on display at the ground for fans to see and enjoy.”
The 130-year-old historical record swept back the years to show how football clubs were run at the very start of the Football League, the forerunner of the Championship and Premier leagues fans love today. The Football League, the oldest league in the world, was formed in April 1888 and Derby County was one of its 12 inaugural members.
The meticulous records, written in ink, showed that wages were low, ladies were not allowed in some areas and, far from bad mouthing referees, one player even took the time to write a humble letter of apology for not being available for a game.
Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers, said: “As a Rams fan myself, I’m truly delighted these items are going to their rightful home – Derby County. Steve Bloomer must be watching.”
The Gerald Mortimer collection sparked huge interest across the country with many items smashing their estimates. Other top lots included a letter signed by Derby County players in 1973 asking for the reinstatement of Brian Clough and Peter Taylor as managers. It sold for £4,000 from an estimate of £600-£800.
Attached to it was a statement from former club chairman Sam Longson explaining why there was no going back for Clough and Taylor. It sold for £4,000 from an estimate of £600-£800.
Alistair Lofley, sports valuer at Hansons in Heage Lane, Etwall, said: “These were incredible results for some incredible memorabilia. I was astonished when I started to look through Mr Mortimer’s archives. There were so many rare items. It was an absolute treasure trove of football history.”
Another highlight was lot 122, an AEK Athens v DCFC programme from 1976. It’s rare because many of them are said to have blown away after being placed on seats on a windy day. It sold for £1,800 from an estimate of £300-£400.The Gerald Mortimer Collection went under the hammer at Hansons, Heage Lane, Etwall, on Friday August 31. For more information, email [email protected] or call Alistair Lofley on 07863 203377. Entries invited for Hansons’ November 20 Sporting Memorabilia Auction