Who knew that soccer stickers would end up being my favorite release of 2022?
I never saw it coming.
I’ve long been a fan of the Panini sticker releases for NFL, NHL, and NBA here in the US. I usually pick up an album and 10-20 packs of stickers each year when these come out (sadly 2018 was the last year Panini released NHL, eventually Topps took over and let it die out after a couple of years. It may be an online thing now, but I don’t know and don’t really care).
I was on vacation this fall when I saw the World Cup stickers & albums (at Walgreens of all places) and picked up an album and 20 packs of stickers. When I got home I set them on the shelf and never thought about them again until the WC started play. Remembering that I had them, I got them out when I sat down to watch a game and started stickering.
I was hooked.
I cannot explain why.
Maybe it’s the crisp colorful design of the stickers complete with all kinds of info about the players. Maybe it’s fantastic album layout that basically doubles as a program/yearbook. Maybe I’m just tired of modern card collecting and just found joy in something so pure and simple.
I had to go out and get more. I ended up buying 4 boxes during the course of the tournament!
Even with that many boxes, I was still about 125 stickers short of a complete set (The set contains 670 stickers). Sticker collation is without a doubt the most random distribution of any card or sticker set. While you do get doubles, I never once opened a pack that had the same stickers in the same order like you find in most card releases today.
Luckily I was able to get some help with some great trades from the Twitter & Discord communities (too many at this point to single out everyone by name but THANK YOU!!!) and got that number down to 24. From there I went to Panini’s website where you can order individual stickers for 40 cents each plus $4 s/h. I am anxiously waiting for those to arrive in the mail any day now.
Nearing completion of the set, my interest was piqued into looking back on previous years. It was in my search that I came across this amazing book that details Panini’s 60 year history of stickers for the World Cup and various European leagues. Not only is it a great look back at the evolution of stickers over the years, but it also recaps the events of seasons and tournaments as well. You can enjoy this book whether you are a sticker fan, a soccer fan, or both.
So then I decided that I would take a stab at the 2018 Panini World Cup sticker set.
Immediately after digging in I noticed that something was “off” compared to 2022. After a lot of research I was finally able to piece together what was different.
In 2018 there were two different sets that are essentially the same set. The larger set, which has 682 stickers with black backs and was distributed in what looks like to one set of countries, and the smaller set, which has 670 stickers with pink backs and was distributed to another set of countries.
The sticker fronts for both sets are identical. The only difference is that the pink set does not contain stickers 20-31 (these are the posters for the various cities that were hosting games) and have been renumbered from that point on. I don’t know why this was done and I haven’t been able to find anything on the webs explaining the reasoning.
The oddity for me is the pricing of the boxes for each set. Neither appears to be in short supply looking on ebay. The makeup of the black set boxes is 50 packs (5 stickers per pack) for a total of 250 stickers box and the makeup of the pink set boxes is 104 packs (5 stickers per pack) for a total 520 stickers per box. However, the pricing for both of these boxes appear to be the same (in the $40-50 range). The only thing is that there are no stickers 20-31 in the pink boxes. But at those prices, I’d be far better off to buy pink boxes and then pick up the missing 12 poster stickers on ebay for $1 each.
Did I mention that there are two different albums too, and probably even more? I picked up a softcover and a hardcover album for the black set since that’s the larger set and that’s the one I’m going to try to complete. I have not come across them yet, but I’m assuming there is at least a pink set softcover book and maybe a hardcover version too? (a quick check online shows that there was a hardcover version for the 2022 set as well. Doh!)
Lastly, there was a cool little tin of sticker packs that were available although I don’t know which countries they were sold in. I will keep this one unopened since it has the cool European price sticker on the outside.
I don’t know why I didn’t think to check there first, but TCDB.com has a great detailed explanation of the various sticker configurations. WOW! Someday I would love to find out why Panini does so many variations (especially the 2022 Swiss gold release!)
But for now my first box of 2018 stickers are here and calling and it’s time for more stickering!