May 18, 2014


The World Cup in an Album : In Colombia, a Soccer Sticker Trading Craze Cuts Across Class Lines (JESSICA WEISS, MAY 17, 2014, NY Times)

The Panini Group, a family-run operation based in Modena, Italy, that produces collectibles and comics, is well known for its popular World Cup album, sold worldwide, featuring adhesive stickers for participating teams and their players, tournament stadiums and FIFA emblems. The album first hit the market in 1970, for the ninth World Cup, the first to be televised, in Mexico. It officially arrived in Colombia in 1982.

A Panini factory in Brazil handles supply for most of Latin America, printing nine million sticker packs a day.

Carla Ruosi, a Panini Group export manager, said the album had always been well known in the region, "but in certain countries, qualifying can increase the perception and enthusiasm."

This year, Continente S.A., the company responsible for distribution in Colombia, authorized more than 25,000 sales points, from commercial locations to roving street vendors.

The company estimated that 1.4 million Colombians had albums, each costing $2.

A box of 500 stickers costs $60, and each envelope of five stickers costs 60 cents. On the street, stickers for popular players like Lionel Messi, Ronaldo and Radamel Falcao were going for up to $2.50 a sticker, fueling a myth that some stickers were harder to find than others -- a claim Panini denied.

Four stickers were all Juan Novoa needed: the Australian midfielder Mark Bresciano, the Ecuadorean defender Gabriel Achilier, the Bosnian goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and the Argentine team sticker.

"The fewer you need, the harder it gets," Novoa, a 36-year-old entrepreneur, said recently as he walked briskly toward a parking lot, a popular trading spot. There, next to vendors selling snacks and World Cup paraphernalia, hundreds of people stood shoulder to shoulder, in pairs or in small groups, making trades.

"There's sort of a protocol," Novoa said as he approached, pulling out the doubles that he would try to trade. "The person with fewer missing stickers gets to ask first."

Juan Carlos Castillo, 39, mans his stand from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m., seven days a week. He sells food and drinks, Colombia soccer flags, shirts, balls, mascot-themed items, magnets and more.

"It doesn't matter if you're rich or poor, old or young; the album is bringing us together," Castillo said. "It's nice to watch people help each other out. I have not seen one argument here. Only smiles."

Novoa tested his luck in front of Castillo's stand around lunchtime, approaching people, including a chef, a businessman and a mother-son pair, in search of his last four stickers: Nos. 412, 433, 361 and 176.

After five minutes, Novoa traded three of his stickers for a random pack of five, but the pack turned out to have none of his missing stickers. On his 10th try, Novoa found his Argentine team card, for which he traded two player cards.

Traders can buy individual cards from hundreds of distributors across the city, but most agree that is not as fun.

"People ask me why I don't just buy the ones I need," Novoa said. "I guess there's a bit of romanticism in me. Buying is not the real way to do it. I want to fill the album through trading."

On Sirius/XM this week an analyst was saying it would cost about $1600 to collect the entire set by buying at random.  Of course, the correct way to collect is by scaling cards in the schoolyard.

Posted by at May 18, 2014 6:40 AM

blog comments powered by Disqus