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Panini World Cup Albums Unite the World Through Soccer and Stickers

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Prior to each World Cup, the Italian trading card and stickler company Panini releases a sticker album documenting the players, stadiums and countries that will play a part in the event. The album not only serves as a collectible but also brings about unity and a way to bring fans closer to the tournament. The newest album, released on Aug. 25, continues a tradition that has run since 1970.

Each album retails for $2 to $26, depending on the store’s pricing. Each has designated spaces for each player, country and stadium, with 670 spaces in total. To fill the album, people must buy packs of stickers that retail for $1.20. Each pack contains five randomized stickers, which collectors must place in the designated space. Despite their status as a collectible, they do not have a rarity system, meaning that all stickers are printed in equal numbers. 

However, due to the prominence of certain players, some stickers are highly desirable. This is particularly evident for players competing in the competition for the first time, which, in a manner similar to baseball rookie cards, is known as a “rookie sticker.” 

Stickers that combine the two aspects, prominent players who are playing in the World Cup for the first time, are particularly valuable as demonstrated by the values for the rookie stickers of Landon Donovan, Pele and Lionel Messi. The price of a valuable sticker can be inflated even further by sending it to a grading company, who will determine its condition and encase it in a slab for preservation. 

Due to the sheer size of most albums, many may find it difficult to collect all the stickers. To counter this, Panini has set up a sticker service run online where collectors can order up to 50 stickers per account. Perhaps most notably, the company maintains an archive of stickers from the past, and a single sticker costs $0.40 to $3.30, depending on which album the sticker is from, making it a relatively cheap and valuable resource to people who need those last few players to complete their collection. 

But, Panini sticker-collecting is not a solitary activity. In fact, many who collect the stickers trade with other collectors, and the company even sets up designated trading events for fans to meet each other and trade. Fans use the phrase “got, got, need” to indicate which stickers they have and do not have. This phrase is so prevalent among collectors that Panini uses it in its official advertising. The phrase has also spread to social media, with people across the world sharing their lists on Twitter

It is also not just ordinary people who collect the stickers. In fact, many celebrities also collect them, such as Ed Sheeran

Yet, perhaps the ultimate example of a sticker-collecting celebrity is Gigi Buffon, an Italian goalkeeper who collected stickers in his youth. He was eventually depicted on his own stickers, but still collects them to this day. In fact, he even says that the players swap stickers among themselves. 

In this way, the album is very much representative of soccer itself, a simple idea that spreads across the world, bringing both success and unity among many social classes. It was so popular in countries such as Argentina that it resulted in a massive shortage and protests that caused the national government to step in.  

The Panini World Cup album is more than just a collectible. It also allows players across the world to collect their favorite players and bring them closer to a worldwide event.

The next set of Panini World Cup stickers will be released closer to the next World Cup in 2026. 


Bailey Kanthatham is a Sports Contributing Writer. He can be reached at bkanthat@uci.edu.