GOT, GOT, NEED?: Panini stickers as social media

Like a salmon returning to the river it was born Panini World Cup stickers are back. Irrestible. Alluring. Exciting.

And like those fish battling up stream it sparks something deep inside many men – and yes, it is largely men.

It’s a deep seated yearning to hunt and gather Honduras midfielders. Then stick them into a book.

It’s a desire to tell the world: “Switzerland? Yes, I have the complete team. Even their star midfielder  Hakan Yakan.”

What are Panini stickers? They’re adhesive pictures of footballers. But they’re far more than that.

Growing up in the 1980s Panini stickers were the social media of their day.

Armed with a pile of doubles – or swaps – children would show them to other fellow collectors. The ‘got, got, need, NEED!’ commentary gave a status update.

They brought people together. They still do.

Here are some tales of the power of Panini.

1 My brother Paul’s best present

Somewhere on my brother Paul’s book shelf is a tattered Europa 80 Panini sticker book from the European Championships. It cost thirty quid on ebay.

Paul is a reserved man. He’s not given to flights of fancy. The album was the only present I’ve ever given that has caused him to leap from his chair and smile as broad as Marco Tardelli.

It was my way of punching him on the shoulder and saying: ‘Good on you, brother.’

Why? Because it was the first sticker collection we both collected. Not together, of course, but as sibling rivals in a sticker arms race.

We would use a Subbutteo pitch to play tournaments with the stickers as players.

Our mum often asked us why we didn’t join forces and collect them together. Pah! What did she know?

She didn’t understand the thrill of opening a packet of stickers to find Karl Heinz Rumminigge or the Chile foil badge.

2 Panini West Midlands swaps Facebook

Facebook as a platform for swapping. This is inspired. And not just because Russ Cockburn – @dwarfio on Twitter – sent me Stoke City’s Thomas Sorensen.

It’s a case of a digital native using the platform her knows to create something using social media to bring people together. As the Facebook group says ‘bringing the playground to Facebook.’

Link: Black Country Facebook swaps

3 It costs £412 to collect a sticker album

Si Whitehouse is good at maths. He’s good at lots of things, actually. He worked out how much it would cost to collect a World Cup 2010 sticker album. It’s more than £400.

I’m not sure whether I should be amazed or frightened at the sums of money involved in collecting these things. You’d get better value for money from a Build HMS Victory in 100 easy to follow steps.

But you know what? I’m still collecting them.

Link: Si Whitehouse blog

4 Panini as Flickr set

Think of it as a photo love story fired by a passion for Panini. I like Dave Russon. He does good things with his camera.

Here he has captured brilliantly the 18-step process from buying, through anticipation, to sticking, to stocking the swaps pile.

LINK: 365 Days of Photos

5 Who is Senor Panini?

They are from Modena. They started in 1960. Two years later they were selling 29 million ‘units’. Their first World Cup collection was 1970. Thank you, Wikipedia.

LINK: Panini Wikipedia

Join the Conversation


  1. Hi Dan – great blog post! Really enjoyed reading 🙂 You’re spot on about Panini stickers being one of the first social media. *And* you’ve given me a great idea for my brother’s birthday in October – a completed Mexico 86 sticker album from ebay!! Don’t know why I didn’t think about it sooner.

    Mexico 86 was our first proper World Cup when we were old enough to realise what was going on and how bloody important it was. Our Panini album was a shared one (“I’m not getting you both a bloody album. You can forget that!” our mother said.)

    We’d almost completed it when disaster struck. The whole family were watching Northern Ireland v Algeria with some superb chip butties when we thought we could smell smoke. We could. The chip pan. We lost a lot of things in that house fire – including our beloved Mexico 86 album.

    I actually wrote to Panini and explained what had happened, including a press cutting about the fire that had appeared in The Sentinel. To their credit, they sent us a new album and a *whole box of stickers*! We spent a whole Saturday ripping them open and sticking them – but it wasn’t the same. It was like devouring a 23-course meal in one sickening sitting instead of spreading the joy!! And even after a whole box full of stickers, the album still wasn’t finished.

    So, basically, I’m off to ebay. Cheers Dan!

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