No, Team USA didn’t qualify. Yes, Panini’s World Cup Sticker Collection is still a big deal in the States.
America ranks second in worldwide sales for the product, which hits a fever pitch around this time every four years. Soccer-mad Brazil is first; England third. In the U.S., sales increased 300 percent between 2010 and 2014 and despite price increases and the lack of an American team to follow, Panini executives say sales numbers will increase again in 2018. Soccer’s growing popularity here helps as does the fact that we’re a melting pot, especially in the big cities where rooting interests are, literally, all over the map.
In other parts of the world they’re a commodity hot enough to entice armed crooks to steal them.
Produced for the World Cup since 1970, the sticker sets include players on every team in the tournament, along with stadium venues, cities, etc. Each section of the album designed to hold them is organized by country.
Non-soccer fans may scoff, but there may be nothing in today’s sports card market that’s more true to collecting’s original roots than this quadrennial product:
- At less than $1 a pack, few are priced out of the market. The books in which to place them cost two bucks.
- Trading is a big deal with organized events taking place around the world where kids and adults get together to trade their doubles (or “swaps” as they’re called in Europe) for stickers they need. There are also online venues to do that.
- Unlike standard U.S. trading card products, the goal isn’t to keep the stickers in a case, in pristine condition. It’s to peel off the back and stick them in the book, hopefully acquiring enough at some point to complete it. That’ll warm the hearts of those who say collecting baseball cards lost its way when “mint” became a bigger key word than “complete”.
- Remember when you learned geography, math, spelling and a little history by reading the backs of your cards? Teachers around the world use the stickers to do the same thing today.
- There are no short prints. Panini says it produces every sticker in identical quantities (well, save for the bunch of Neymar Jr. stickers it sent to his girlfriend who got them autographed and used them as trade bait for her own collection). That means there shouldn’t be too many stickers that cost a lot, except for maybe a few of the biggest stars or national heroes.
There are hardcover editions, gold foil sets and boxes of packs distributed through McDonald’s in other areas of the world, most of which aren’t as expensive as you’d think. However, most collectors and fans in North America will focus on the standard boxes.
Completing the 682-sticker Panini World Cup Sticker Collection book isn’t easy. There are 50 packs of five stickers in the boxes that are commonly sold (typically for under $45). That means with perfect collation you’d need three boxes to fill one book—and the nature of packaging means that’s not likely to happen. Panini does offer the chance to buy some of the stickers you need and there’s always eBay, a very active market for singles, lots and packs. Or, you could try to find trading partners and work on your set the old-fashioned way.