Football shirt collector
Football shirt collector

6. How and where to find catalogue numbers of football shirts?

In the previous article I taught you what a catalogue number is and why it is so important in the football shirt world. The next question is – how do you know what number did the manufacturer allocate to a particular shirt?

The answer is a little bit more complicated than it looks on the first glance. There isn’t any register, list or place in which you can check what catalogue number is correct for a particular shirt model. Additionally, while searching for the catalogue number, which is something you need to do on your own to find it, you will meet a lot of hidden traps. One of the most frequent mistake that I personally observe is a situation when someone owns a fake shirt and is looking for the catalogue number for it. Then he compares the results found online with his shirt’s number and makes a conclusion that his shirt is an original one. Why? Because online he found a fake shirt with a wrong number, compared it to the shirt he owns (also a fake one) and then thinks – oh, the number’s the same, so my shirt is genuine. I will show you how to avoid errors such as this one. Let’s go 🙂

Why there is no catalogue number database?

I need to start with this question, because I’m aware that this could be ridiculous for you – there is no database with catalogue numbers. But why? The best answer is another question – why companies (especially giant ones) would take care to collect numbers of thousands of products from various continents, countries, manufacturers, departments etc.? Should they do it to share them for free with me or you? Why would any of the huge companies producing millions of products every year create an additional department in its corporation just to make a… free list of some numbers? There is no sense to produce extra costs in such companies. Eh! It would be worse than you think, because it could create new problems to solve. There surely would be a plenty of people that couldn’t understand such a list and they would produce tons of questions, messages and other issues. Consequences? More and more employees needed to solve the customers’ problems. Is this really needed for any manufacturer?

The next issue is, only few people would understand that kind of database. I’m not joking. Let me give you a great example. Look at my collection of Manchester United shirts, especially the third model from 2017/18. I have this shirt in FOUR different versions. It means that one model has four different catalogue numbers. Now add additional four numbers for shirts with long sleeves, next ones for women, youth, children and… multiply it by player issue versions, standard replicas, t-shirts etc. Finally, one model of the shirt would have been allocated over a dozen or even several dozen catalogue numbers! Try to imagine an average John Doe buying a shirt, who would be able to USE that database properly. That’s nonsense!

Bah! I already considered building a catalogue number database. The idea was to invert the search. How would it work? You’d write in the search bar the number of your shirt, press enter and you’d be shown the picture of what you should have in your hands. But…the farther you go, the harder it gets. To function properly the database would have to consist of an enormous amount of catalogue numbers. You see how many numbers one model of a shirt could have but… how many are there? Additionally that database would need some software and a friendly-to-use interface which demands more and more work. I know I’m crazy, but not crazy enough to even try to do it. At least not yet ;p

The golden rule during searching for catalogue numbers

There is no database and there won’t be one soon. Now you surely know why. For producers the easier way is to say – if someone wants to buy an original shirt, he needs to come to our store or any other reputable shop. So we have to manage searching for catalogue numbers on our own. There is only one sensible place to do it – the Internet. I know, this sentence sounds like taken from a chat between two scientists, where the first asks – where to search for life? And the second answers – in the universe of course! Our brain is too limited to comprehend the entire universe, not to mention the entire Internet. Or is it the other way around? Before I show you the specific galaxies, solar systems and planets, you need to know one very important rule, which will keep you from making many mistakes.

The most important thing in looking for catalogue numbers is the source. When you are receive a new shirt you don’t know which catalogue number it was given by its’ manufacturer. At least I don’t know that. So there is a need to determine a proper catalogue number. To do it correctly I have to find 100% trustworthy source that shows me which number was allocated to the particular tricot. At the beginning of this article I mentioned a dangerous error when someone compares a fake to a fake and makes a conclusion – oh, my shirt is an original one! Very strong source keeps you safe against that kind of mistakes. As you can see the place from which you take the catalogue number has direct influence on the result. Your source is your new platform on which you are standing. On which your process of comparison is standing. If you choose this platform improperly… all your decision-making process will collapse.

Well, then the next questions in your head should be – what does trustworthy mean and what is a very strong source? How can I recognize it? How can I decide that the particular source is a good one?

Trustworthy sources, so where to search for catalogue numbers?

There are few reputable sources and you are on one of it! 😉

1. Collectors

To bardzo dobre źródła informacji. Żaden kolekcjoner nie dopuści podróby do swojej szafy. Pamiętaj, że pasjonaci bardzo często są ekspertami w swoim fachu. Dlatego kolekcjonerzy potrafią rozróżniać podróby, bo muszą wiedzieć co trzymają w szafie. Warto więc informacji szukać u miłośników trykotów.

Między innymi w tym celu stworzyłem swój blog, aby nie tylko pokazywać swoje koszulki i inspirować do ich zbierania, ale również po to, abyś mógł wziąć swoją koszulkę, usiąść przed monitorem i porównać z moją krok po kroku, element po elemencie, mając przy tym pełną świadomość i pewność, że porównujesz z oryginałem. W każdej galerii piąte zdjęcie przedstawia zdjęcie metek z numerem katalogowym (o ile koszulka go posiada), zaś w tabeli obok jest jeszcze wyszczególniona pozycja, abyś dokładnie wiedział który ciąg znaków tym numerem jest 🙂

2. Reputable shops

Legal and well renowned shops have nothing to hide, that’s why you can find catalogue numbers on their websites. I can tell you from my experience, that there is no need to hide catalogue numbers in online shops. Bah! They are great means of simplification for companies and their employees. It is the easiest way of identifying the product. When the client makes an order, the fastest way to find and pack the ordered shirt is to search by catalogue number. It is quite simple to take product AI6720, pack it and send it. For sure it is easier than trying to find Manchester United 2016/17 home shirt and… at first the employee has to know what the appearance of this model is. Additionally, when you find the correct place in the warehouse there is no need to wonder – oh, is this long sleeve one or maybe this is youth XL not men’s? Ehh, this client ordered a standard replica or a player issue, because they are next to each other? Stop. Take article number AI6720, pack it and send it. Trivial! Now you see the reason why legal and well renowned shops shouldn’t hide catalogue numbers. Why they would make their lives difficult?

Which shops are trustworthy? First there is no better place than manufacturer’s shop. Go to the official website, find the product you need to check and discover its catalogue number. Three of the biggest producers, Adidas, Nike and Puma, disclose numbers of their products.

You surely know well renowned shops in your country. Check them if they are sharing catalogue numbers of sold products. It is a really good practice so I hope you will find that kind of stores.

3. Trustworthy sellers

Not everyone who is selling a football shirt is its producer, collector or owner of football shop. There exist plenty of individuals who have contacts, connections and acquaintances that others don’t. I know such people. If you know too, then try to ask them for help. They also are a good quality source of information. If you are a beginner you surely don’t know such people. Don’t worry, you will get to know them over the time.

What to watch out for and where not to look?


You should be careful in each place that is outside abovementioned three points. Especially in open to the public places such as groups on social media or auction portals. Despite policies that (theoretically) exist, anyone can do and write there anything they want. This is the main difference between those kind of places and for example my blog, renowned shop or other trustworthy place. Not everyone has access to them.

Especially dangerous are auction portals. Collectors in their slang call them fraudsters hatchery. There are hordes of them. No one, absolutely no one is checking what is sold there. Auction portals’ employees have such knowledge about fake products as a common man has about the process of nuclear fission. Auction portals don’t seem to notice anything special and bad even when fraudsters are selling models which premiere is in the future… That’s why those places are perfect for fraudsters. In addition they are receiving access to the millions of customers whom they can fraud.

I know it could be brutal for you, but for an auction portal there is only one value – commission from your order. Not the product you will receive. Nobody is interested in thousands of fakes on auctions. If auction portals would be interested, then they could have for instance established a department for approving products and users. Then there couldn’t be any auctions containing fakes. Instead auction portals’ “fighting” against fakes ends with worthless policy, regarding that fake products are prohibited and… that’s all. Is this policy enforced by someone? Obviously not.

In that way there are more fakes than original products. Why? Because self-respecting brands such as Adidas or Nike don’t allow selling their products on auction portals. It means that a renowned shop mustn’t have an account on any auction portal and sell products of many well-known brands there. You see, even elementary knowledge like two earlier sentences is enough to know, that football shirts cannot appear on auction portals because of their producers’ policy. But auction portals take commissions from each transaction and don’t see anything wrong when their users are selling the newest models of shirts often claiming to represent shops and writing “the price is lower, because we have shirts directly from the producer”. Knowing this is there anyone willing to prove that the auction portals take care of their clients, not just their own business and wallets?

I’m really serious now. When you see an account on auction portal that is selling brand new shirts and this seller has all the newest models (and often is claiming that he is a company) you should be certain that he is a fraudster. I’m an owner of a football shirt shop in my country and personally cooperate with shirt manufacturers. That’s why I know what the conditions of cooperation are. Most of producers don’t even respond to your email if you don’t have a properly registered business and professionally prepared website. So… What about all those accounts having new models and writing “direct from the producers”? It’s a total absurd! Now you are able to recognize a fraudster at the first glance, but auction portals fail to do so? Or don’t they simply want to?

If your experience in football shirts world is poor it would be better for you to avoid auction portals altogether. It is a really good practice that will keep you from losing money but also help you find a good reference platform when looking for catalogue numbers. Of course, as always, there are exceptions. I know people that are selling only original shirts and do so on auction portals, because… it is the only place where they can do it. Unfortunately, they must compete with hordes of fraudsters. That’s why the next good practice is saving their accounts’ names. You can treat their accounts as “small shops” so you can try to find your reference point there if necessary.

I know where to look for, but how to do it effectively?

Searching all known places to find a particular shirt isn’t a smart idea. The better way is using an internet browser e.g. Google. You can put in the sought model of shirt and see if there is a trustworthy source. Which clues are important during searching?

1. Instead of typing in only the catalogue number, add the producer before. With this you are giving a huge tip for the browser about the type of product you are looking for. When you add e.g. Adidas before “AI6720” you narrow down the results to sportswear and browser doesn’t show you car parts which you surely encounter when you skip writing brands.

2. Use Google Graphic. Why? Standard results show you at first advertised links and then websites that are well positioned (SEO). For instance, those are price comparison websites which don’t have shirts from past seasons. Whereas shops and collectors’ websites are well positioned by photos and you really should care about finding those places.

3. DON’T put in the browser a catalogue number and the name of the team simultaneously! Doing this you are asking for trouble. It means that you are suggesting what team the browser should associate a particular catalogue number with. There could be a situation when you write down the name of a team and a catalogue number and browser will show you a plenty of fakes – the same as you have. Then you’d be inclined to make a quick conclusion that your shirt is an original one. Then you will forget about the golden rule, because you will see thousands of photos of the shirt that you have and make a conclusion – oh I surely have the original if no photo of another shirt is showed. It is an often mistake made by beginners.

4. If browser finds nothing, it doesn’t mean that your shirt is a fake. Maybe you have a non-commercial player issue shirt and it wasn’t posted in the Internet yet? Example? Switzerland National Team shirt from my collection. Search in Google Graphic “Puma 736853-13”. On the day of writing this article there are only photos from my blog. But before them there was nothing and… I didn’t have any good point that could have been my trustworthy source. When you will be in that kind of situation then… there is a huge need for knowledge and experience to establish if the shirt is an original one 😉

Secondly, the Internet hasn’t existed forever. It became common for most people about 2010. That’s why you don’t always find a catalogue number for older shirts, because it simply isn’t in the Internet. Then the easiest way is asking more experienced people. Sometimes specialist knowledge would be needed but it mostly refers to really old shirts or hard cases.

5. If for some reason the browser doesn’t show you any results try to invert the situation. Write a name of the shirt, but without the catalogue number, because you want to find it! The best matches are shown where the sequence “team + season + model + the rest” is put in. So look for Manchester United 2016/17 Home (and at the end for example player issue). Another order of words will mostly give you worse results.

6. If you use method from point number 5 and you still don’t have any results, change language to English when you are using your native language. The Internet in English is more rich in football shirts and knowledge than in any other language. Personally I always use English during searching for any information about shirts. Only when I’m not able to find satisfactory information I try in a different language.

Do you think looking for correct catalogue number is hard?

As you can see this process is specific and has an element of risk. Additionally no source is perfect. My blog is a quite small database of football shirts, because in the World there are thousands of them. Sometimes you need to take some risk and take the number from an uncertain source. In extreme cases a proper source may not even exist as like as the case with my Switzerland shirt. Then the only hope is in the knowledge and experience. The question is – do you have it yet? When the answer is no, try to find someone more experienced and ask him.

Sometimes a collector got a “potato” that is totally unknown for… everyone and everywhere. Then he initiates an international “collector’s conversation”. I also do it from time to time, because my knowledge is limited. I don’t know everything. I too need to ask others for help.

What are your feelings associated with looking for catalogue numbers? What unusual experiences do you have? Maybe you have any other methods, rules or tips? What is your longest period of searching for catalogue number? In my case it is about 4 years – for all this time the shirt was waiting for proof that it is an original one and is allowed to enter to my collection. Yeah, to find correct catalogue number you sometimes need some… patience 😉

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