A 22-year mystery over missing Euro 96 tickets could be finally over after a Stoke-on-Trent man discovered a set in an old suitcase.
It is likely to be the first clue to explaining why 31 tickets for every match of the tournament went begging.
England hosted the iconic UEFA European Championships in June 1996, when the tickets were bought, but it is unknown how or why they went unused, report the Stoke Sentinel.
The package of tickets would have cost £1,680 but they could fetch much more after a man from Longton stumbled across them and they will now go on auction at Sporting Memorabilia next month.
The owner, who wished to remain anonymous, found the tickets by accident when he took the case along for a free valuation at Hansons Auctioneers in Derby.
He said: “I have no idea where the tickets have come from. It’s a complete mystery.
“They were in a case that housed my grandad’s old cigarette cards. My mum had the case for years and then gave it to me about 10 years ago. It was actually the cigarette cards that I took along for valuation.
“We were just looking through the cards with the valuer when the tickets got in the way and he pulled them out. He said they might be worth something. Until that second, I had no idea they were anything special. I’d never given them a second glance.
“I’m not interested in football and don’t support a team and nor is anyone in my family. My mum, who died last year at the age of 90, certainly wasn’t interested in football.
“I have no idea how they ended up in the suitcase. I don’t think my mum was a ticket tout!
“The only thing I can think of is that she picked up the tickets by accident at a car boot sale, table top sale or spring fair as she used to be involved in things like that. Because she wasn’t interested in football, she probably thought they were worthless. We all did. That’s why they’ve been in a case for 22 years.”
The 31 tickets are in pristine condition and range in price from £45 for the group stage to £130 for the final at Wembley, in which Germany beat the Czech Republic 2-1 with a golden goal in extra time.
Tickets include the opening ceremony and match where England drew 1-1 with Switzerland on June 8 and the Italy v Russia game, which the Italians won 2-1.
The quarter, semi and final tickets simply state which game they were and the stadium used.
Alistair Lofley, football valuer at Hansons Auctioneers, said: "I have seen the odd ticket from Euro ’96 before but never an entire set like this. It’s a mystery.
"All the tickets are printed with the name Ben Edwards. Perhaps they were a competition prize or given to a member of the FA.
"Some of the matches were played on the same day so it would have been logistically impossible to
go to them all, unless they were bought to share with friends.
"For any diehard football fan, to think of these tickets going begging is hard to swallow – an entire tournament of matches in England that someone could have watched.
"It’s enough to make a grown man cry. I’m not saying people would have paid 40 times their face value for them but we all know dedicated football fans will go to extreme lengths to see a game.
"We have been carrying out research on them and, at this stage, they appear genuine. Football ticket stubs from important games are collectors’ items and this set is sure to appeal. I have put an estimate of £100-£150 on them."
The Euro 96 tickets will be sold on May 23 at a Sporting Memorabilia Auction at Hansons Auctioneers, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire. Entries welcome until May 4. To find out more, email [email protected] or call 01283 733988.
Sitting on forgotten treasures? Hansons valuers will be at Longton Cricket Club, Blurton, Stoke, ST3 3BL, on May 3 and May 17, from 10.30am to 3pm. To find our more, call Carol Jones on 07802 839915.rr
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