How Soccer Stickers Gave Birth To The Soccer Cards Of Today

August 14, 2023

Before modern trading cards became the predominant way of collecting, soccer stickers were all the rage around the world. After the release of a new album, fans would rush to collect and trade stickers to complete the album.

Today, they remain tremendously popular as fans flock to complete sticker albums every two years for the World Cup.

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History of soccer stickers

The origins of the sticker-collecting craze can be traced to the streets of Modena, Italy in 1954. This is when Benito and Giuseppe Panini, also known as the Panini Brothers, established their newspaper distribution office that served as the humble beginnings of Panini.

In 1960, the two brothers bought a seemingly unsellable collection of stickers and successfully sold six million of them. Panini was officially formed the year after, in 1961, and the company began manufacturing its own stickers.

The debut soccer sticker album was the Grande Raccolta Figurine Calciatori album, which sold well in both its 1961-62 debut season and the following season once word spread. From Italy, the sticker craze spread to other soccer-obsessed countries including Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

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International success

In 1970, Panini released a World Cup trading card set and an accompanying sticker album. This established a tradition of releasing a sticker album for every tournament, including the 2022 World Cup. The 1970 World Cup release was immensely popular as Panini’s first international release.

As you might be able to guess, Panini’s international growth did not stop with the World Cup albums. The release of Euro Football 77 in the UK changed everything for Panini in the country. A few factors benefited this release, namely a popular roster and the arrival of self-adhesive stickers in the UK.

Its roster featured the British clubs that had qualified for European competition as well as some of the best teams on the continent. Instead of having to manually glue the stickers like past albums, these came with peel-off backs with an adhesive underneath.

These factors combined with an innovative marketing campaign led to sticker collecting skyrocketing in popularity among the country’s youth. Panini followed up the success of Euro 77 with a domestic British album in 1978 including plenty of local teams.

Although trading cards are the more popular medium these days, you can’t deny the tremendous impact stickers had on the collecting scene. Even today when the World Cup comes around, millions eagerly await the release of Panini’s latest sticker album, a testament to a tradition that has endured for over 50 years.

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soccer stickers panini 1970 sticker album

Collecting Panini soccer stickers

Similar to collecting cards, the thrill of the chase is a driving factor for Panini soccer sticker collecting. Each time you open a packet you have a chance of getting a rare sticker or the last one you need to complete your album.

Collecting stickers has become a core part of the World Cup festivities each tournament, as fans rush to complete a collection of their country’s team or sometimes even the whole sticker album.

Besides the typical factors behind collecting, chasing new pieces and building a collection, soccer stickers also benefit from a remarkably low cost of entry. A packet of 5 stickers costs around a dollar, while you can easily purchase a box of 50 packs online for $40.

This means anybody can buy a pack of stickers and start participating in the community. The community is the real driving force behind soccer stickers remaining so popular, even half a century since their inception.

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Iconic soccer stickers

Among the tens of thousands of stickers that have been released, a few stand out above the rest as truly memorable and iconic.

1970 World Cup Pelé

One of the greatest players of all time was included in the debut 1970 sticker set, which would already make demand for this sticker sky-high. To add on to that, Pelé helped lead Brazil to victory that year, further cementing the sticker’s status.

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1986 World Cup Diego Maradona

In 1986, Diego Maradona put up one of the greatest performances in World Cup history, cementing his sticker as an iconic collectible for decades to come. This was the year with his infamous “Hand of God” goal, using his hand to score without the referees seeing.

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soccer stickers diego maradona panini 1986 world cuo

1998 World Cup Zinedine Zidane

Although Zinedine Zidane is remembered most for his headbutt in the 2006 World Cup Final, his performance in the 1998 Final was truly special. He scored two goals to help France secure its first FIFA World Cup. France would not win another one until 2018.

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zidane soccer sticker

Final thoughts on soccer stickers

Clearly, soccer stickers have played an important role in helping fans celebrate the sport and they certainly will for years to come. It is remarkable that gluing pieces of paper into albums has grown into a billion-dollar industry and a key backbone of sports collecting.

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Further reading on soccer sticker collection

Interested in other Cardlines soccer write-ups? Check out some of the reading below: