What would be a World Cup without its Panini Album? Everyone has seen, bought, or collected these stickers at least once in their life (and if you haven’t, what’s wrong with you?).
Although you’re now an adult, and completing the album is probably going to bring yo u more stress than satisfaction, you probably remember your happy childhood, when your parents would do anything for you to have those tiny little stickers…
For those living on planet Mars, the Panini Albums are collections of stickers, which you should -or try to- complete by buying little pieces of paper. The most famous are the World Cup editions, where every team is represented by their squad and each player gets his own sticker (that will be really poorly fixed on the page, obviously).
This year’s edition is once again, more expensive than ever. The album itself will only cost you AR$ 50, but prices for the stickers pack have tripled since the last World Cup and are now worth AR$ 15 for five of them. In an ideal world, you would only need 130 packs (still AR$ 1,950 in total!) to finish the album that comprises 659 stickers, but of course you will probably get stuck with several duplicates.
According to totally-verified-studies-on-the-internet, you would need an average of 931 packs to complete the album successfully, costing you nearly AR$14,000.
However, there are some tricks to finishing the album. Back in the day, you used to trade them at school with your classmates, but nowadays if you are too shy to ask around at work to see who collects them too, you can find dedicated groups on Facebook or WhatsApp. You can also go straight to the source and ask Panini for up to 40 stickers if your album is missing the ones you need.
For Panini, these little pieces of paper are incredibly profitable: they expect to sell more than 1.5 billion stickers. In 2016 – a year without a World Cup, mind you! – they made nearly US$ 689 million with their various albums, which range from the Italian football division to Harry Potter, Frozen, and My Little Pony.
During a World Cup, the production is insane: the Italian multinational prints more than 30 million stickers per day in their main factory located in Modena, Italy.
Panini started to sell albums for the Italian first division in the 60s, with “stickers” actually made of cardboard and the usual photo of the players being a drawn portrait. They started producing the stickers in the 70’s, with their first World Cup album being for the 1970 championship hosted in Mexico.
With time, their popularity grew outside Europe, resulting in greater production each following year. Indeed, each World Cup is a chance for a new generation to get hooked on the stickers, while the older ones haven’t necessary stopped collecting them either.
Each year, debates arise as many claim that some stickers would be rarer than others. These accusations have been denied many times by Panini, which assures that their production is highly controlled: you will have as many Lionel Messi as you do Alireza Beranvand, the infamous Iranian goalkeeper.
The machines designed by Umberto Panini himself also control that no sticker is placed twice in the same pack. One problem that the machines haven’t fixed yet, however, is the fact that national manager releases the list of confirmed players late in the year, usually in late May, two months after the album is out. Because of that, many players made it into the album… Without actually making it to the World Cup! Famous examples include Zanetti and Beckham in 2010, or Riquelme and Guardiola in 1998.
This year is still a bit special for the Italian producer, as it is the first album without Italy: the country did not qualify for the World Cup, and the numbers of stickers sold within the country will likely be at an all-time low. However, the company needn’t worry: its international profits are still sky-high, growing 41% between the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.
Yet Panini is preparing for the future. For the second time this year, they are offering an “Album App” to collect the stickers online, allowing users to create and collect a digital album. The way it works is quite simple, as you receive one pack per day and are able to buy more through the store. In 2014, the app was downloaded by three million users, with one out of three albums completed.
That does not mean you have to stop buying the paper version just yet. Our advice: search your parents’ house for your old ones, as they could be worth a small fortune nowadays. Some albums from the 1970 World Cup (the only one featuring Pelé) can sell for up to US$ 4,000, and an edition signed by the King himself could be sold at auction for between US$ 5,000 and US$ 8,000.