Panini albums: the lucrative business that gives ideas

Objects of worship, the famous Panini vignettes have become financial objects. Behind these stickers of soccer players hides a real business worth its weight in euros for anyone who wants to complete their album.

© Isopix

One thousand euros to find Lionel Messi! Seriously ?“Hugo has eyes that stick out of his ears. At first, however, it seemed like a good idea to give the Panini album from the World Cup in Qatar to his two offspring aged five and seven: “It served as a bargaining chip when they were too reluctant. A Panini bag and the negotiations end. It was a good deal, especially since they love it and play quietly. The problem is that there is no one at their school to exchange the stickers they have duplicates. Australian players only too! And the only sticker they want is Lionel Messi, who doesn’t seem to exist. Panini is going to destroy me!

It has become a fixture of the World Cup since Mexico 1970: the Panini sticker album to be filled in to find out everything about the teams in battle before the competition opens. Every four years (every two years including the European Championships) young and old embark on a hunt for the stamps of the most prestigious players, who have become the subject of digs and other haggling on the playgrounds – and the offices. But it’s not easy to fill an album. And with each World Cup, the price to pay increases. This year we even exceed a symbolic bar: 1,000 euros to fill the album! A mathematics professor from Cardiff University did the calculations. If the Qatar 2022 album contains 670 vignettes at €0.20 (€1 for a pack of five), Paul Harper calculated that, counting the duplicates, it took… 4,852 vignettes to get through. Or 1,000 euros. A 12.8% increase compared to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, which itself was more expensive than Brazil 2014, a glorious era when the pack of five stickers was worth “just” €0.60.

Also read: Are Belgian viewers boycotting the World Cup?

A Pelé, the grail of miniatures

Inflation has a good back. The company denies it, but the fact is that the Panini brothers’ business, launched in the 1950s (and in its current form from the 1970s), operates by mass-producing doubles, while certain images are edited in a smaller volume (Lionel Messi, for example…). It is also this, in addition to the madness of football, that has elevated the Panini stickers to the status of collectors’ items. Thus, our Professor Paul Harper calculated for the 2018 World Cup that if the first sticker purchased was guaranteed not to be a duplicate (phew!), there was only a 99.85% chance that the second one is not a duplicate, 99.7% for the third, and so on. “In summary, he told the Guardian, you’re still only halfway through when you only have nineteen stickers left to collect.” Panini has pushed the load of collecting by creating Legend stickers this year for certain players… necessarily legendary. Well hidden in a few packs, gold-edged stickers of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappé or Kevin De Bruyne are the holy grail of ultra supporters. A lucky few have decided to sell their golden Lionel Messi sticker on eBay. Asking price: $500. But the Grail of the Grail of Panini stickers remains King Pelés under the 1970 edition. Signed by the player, it was sold at auction in 2017 for the modest sum of … 12,000 euros.

Do you want a digital Messi?

You didn’t imagine that your album Mexico 86 had so much market value? Panini either. It is in order not to be overtaken on its right by SoRare that Panini passes a new course by launching its thumbnails in the form of NFT. The French start-up really started the year with a big conceptual and financial hit. By launching the first virtual football player cards, it broke all the glass ceilings. The card for Norwegian prodigy Manchester City (then still in Dortmund), Erling Haaland, has been “bought” for… 609,000 euros. Crazy money for a “thing” that doesn’t exist in the physical world. The era of Panini 2.0 cards. had begun. The Italian company therefore reacted quickly in view of the Qatar World Cup by putting into circulation a collection of 420 cards in the virtual world, several of which are considered “rare”. You can now get a digital certificate of authenticity by buying a pack of seven NFT cards for 5 euros. And with a bit of luck you will come across Lionel Messi… But if not, there will be an opportunity to exchange your cards via a platform just like in a playground. The chance to recover the €1,000 spent on completing the Qatar 2022 album? Hugo believes it: “Imagine Argentina winning the Cup, Messi’s virtual card will be worth hundreds of thousands of euros! It’s a shot to play

SoRare, virtual competition

SoRare is a company created by two Frenchmen in 2020. The concept is Panini 2.0.

SoRare offers virtual cards of football players, linked by a certificate of authenticity. In short, the purchased SoRare card, no matter how virtual, is equivalent to a work of art that belongs to you. The other innovation from SoRare, which has partnered Zinedine Zidane and Kylian Mbappé, is to offer to play with its cards. Thus you can buy your players and form a team of five. The team’s financial results will depend on the results on the ground, in the real world. Example, if I hold the Kevin De Bruyne card and he scores three goals, his financial value will skyrocket. We therefore have the opportunity to fantasize about being a player’s agent or club president in the virtual world… So revolution or new economic operation in the world of football? The thing is, most of the people who depend on SoRare are… the footballers themselves, many of whom are known to be pretty cash-strapped. This raises an ethical question, because SoRare can also be seen as a new form of sports betting.

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