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Tips for Buying Subbuteo or Starting a Collection

Buying and collecting Subbuteo today is not as easy as it used to be and is becoming increasingly more difficult. The main reason for this is because throughout the 1980's and 1990's the range of sets and accessories offered by first Waddingtons and then Hasbro declined significantly.
The second reason is because it is becoming increasingly hard to find items in good condition and they are fetching higher and higher prices as more people are starting to collect them.
Probably the best time to collect and play Subbuteo was in the 1970's, specifically the early to mid 1970's when the company was called Subbuteo Sports Games Ltd and was based in Kent, Southern England.
This company was solely devoted to the manufacture and selling of Subbuteo and had no other real products to distract them.
Once the company was sold to Waddingtons in the 1980's the decline set in. I believe this was for two reasons. Firstly the advent of electronic games which were available to children of that time and secondly due to the fact that Waddingtons had many other successful games on their books and so allowed Subbuteo to decline.
In the early to mid 1970's it seemed that every single toy shop in the land stocked a wide range of sets and accessories for the children of that era to spend their pocket money on. This can be seen by comparing what was available at that time in any of the 1970's catalogues with any of the recent ones.

Starting a Collection
To collect and own the complete range of Subbuteo sets and accessories ever made would probably take a lifetime to find and also cost in the region of 50,000 at today's values. Some people might say that this figure is excessive but if you actually sit down and work it out, the figures soon start mounting up. This cost is obviously prohibitive to most of us.
For this reason it is best to decide on a particular area or theme to collect and concentrate on this area only. There are different sports to choose from eg Football, Cricket, Rugby etc and different areas in each of the sports.

Some examples of specific areas are as follows:-

1) 1950's Football Sets
2) 1960's Football Sets
3) 1970's Football Sets
4) Rugby Sets & Accessories
5) Cricket Sets & Accessories
6) 1960's Heavyweight Teams (Short Sleeved V Necks)
7) Later style Heavyweights
8) Lightweights
9) Rarer Boxed Sets eg Hockey, Snooker, Angling, Targetman, Sport Billy, Top Scorer etc

Of course it's really up to the individual - every collector has particular areas that mean more to him/her especially if they are trying to re-capture their childhood.

If it's affordable to you then it's also great to be able to have the luxury of having a set to play with as well as your prized collection that stays locked in the cupboard. After all it was supposed to be played with!!

Buying Subbuteo
Once you have decided what aspect of Subbuteo you are going to collect you need to learn where the best places are to buy the pieces of your collection. There are five main places that I have bought from and I have added the pros and cons of buying from each source:-

 

 

Where From

Comments

Pros/Cons

1) Car Boot Sales This is where you are most like to find the bargains. Whether it be a half complete basic club edition or a complete collection from someone who has emptied out their loft you are likely to be able to buy it for a very good price. Bear in mind that if it's not really what you're looking for you can always trade it with other collectors. Pros
Likely to be cheap
Not many people looking for Subbuteo
Cons
Likely to be incomplete/damaged
Have to get up very early!!
Only available to the UK!
2) Specialist Dealers Here you are most likely to buy items in the best condition. It is unlikely that they will rip you off because the Subbuteo collectors' world is small and the word would travel fast. Here you will probably find the widest range of sets and accessories for sale. However be prepared to pay slightly over the odds as they have to make a profit. The best known is Subbuteo World at http://www.subbuteoworld.co.uk Pros
Reliable service. Items guaranteed and nearly always in the condition advertised. Wide range of product available.
Cons
Slightly higher prices.
3) Other Collectors Many collectors are only too happy to trade with other collectors to help to fill gaps in their collection. Some collectors will also sell surplus items at usually reasonable prices. If the collector is a member of the Subbuteo Collectors club then the price should be fair and also the condition should be as described. Pros
Fair prices. Items usually in condition stated.
Cons
Range of items available not usually that great.
Some collectors will only trade not sell.
4) Swap Meets The UK Subbuteo Collectors' Club has swap meets two or three times a year. Essentially this is a sale at a venue where collectors can take their spare and unwanted items for other collectors to buy. Pros
Items very reasonable priced. Items for sale or trade. Items can be viewed before purchase.
Cons
Less items becoming available with the increased popularity of Ebay.
5) Ebay Ebay is fast becoming the most popular way of buying and selling Subbuteo related items on the Internet. At any one time there are nearly 300 items for sale from a couple of spare players to a complete Munich set! Subbuteo first appeared on Ebay in mid 1999 when there averaged just a dozen or so items. Nowadays there averages 300 plus items. The prices and condition vary greatly and you should always be aware that you might not get what you think you are!
http://www.ebay.co.uk
Pros
Wide range of items available.
Cons
Beware of dodgy sellers dressing up descriptions to try to fool inexperienced collectors.
Items not always in the condition advertised or complete.
Higher prices.

Of course the above are not the only sources from which to buy Subbuteo - it is merely an indication of places where I have been successful in adding to my collection. If anyone has found any other resources or had any particularly good or bad experiences from any of the above, let me know and I will add your comments.