Since 1998 I’ve had a personal ritual that I repeat every four years: collecting the World Cup Panini stickers. It’s a curious hobby: I’m not a football fanatic but I am an enthusiast for print products, so there’s something appealing to me about the iconic and enduring sticker album. The 2022 version, for the Qatar World Cup, arrives on newsstands in the UK this week; it was published in my native Brazil last week. Its release has long been a key date in the football fan’s calendar.
Four years ago I paid a visit to Panini’s UK office in Tunbridge Wells to find out more about the brand’s allure. Sales figures for the albums are not disclosed but the World Cup is, no doubt, a profitable time for the Panini group, which has its headquarters in Modena, Italy. Brothers Benito and Giuseppe Panini founded the company in 1961 and, although they have many other products under their umbrella, the World Cup album is probably their most prized possession. They’ve been publishing sticker books since 1970. That year, Brazil won the World Cup; what I wouldn’t give for a Pelé sticker from that first issue. The most-wanted collectibles sell for high sums at auction: $555,000 (€556,000) for a Maradona sticker, anyone?
These days if you go to the Panini website you’ll find a hardcover album and all sorts of extra gadgets but, for me, nothing beats the original soft-cover version. This week I’ll start collecting the stickers, hoping to find all 670. In Brazil there are already complaints about the prices doubling compared to 2018 but this is one time-honoured tradition that I’ll enjoy no matter the cost.
Fernando Augusto Pacheco is Monocle 24’s senior correspondent, producer and host of ‘The Stack’, Monocle’s take on the world of print.