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World Cup Stickers: the latest trend where I’m out of the loop

There has been a frenzy of activity in my MBA class this morning (my LAST MBA CLASS WEEKEND ever, FYI! All that remains is final exams + a week in Phoenix. Praise be.).  You might assume the activity is focused on final exam prep, but you’d be wrong. Instead, there has been a burst of World Cup sticker trading.

Walter & Karina review their current sticker inventories to see if they can broker a deal.

What does that mean, you might ask if you are on the fringe of the futbol (a.k.a. soccer for you Americans not living in Mexico) loop as I am. Well apparently each World Cup year, a company called Panini distributes envelopes (each costing 5.50 pesos) with 5 stickers each. There are normal stickers (the player stickers), dual-part stickers (which depict the stadiums in two halves) and the *special* stickers that have holograms of the World Cup logo or trophy on them. FYI, the hologram stickers are the cool ones & hence are more valuable (i.e. you can trade them for more than one player sticker).

A summary of all the tools you need for a successful World Cup sticker orgy: cold hard cash, your list of missing sticker numbers, a pencil to check them off, the cool-ass hologram stickers, the hottie player photos, and the photos of a player caught eating something.

We spotted an album in action-- being filled with stickers as we speak!

The goal is that in the months leading up to the World Cup, you buy & trade these stickers, all the while adding them to your Official Licensed Sticker Album. I was initially confused because unlike baseball cards in the US, there are no stats/info on these stickers– just a shiny photo of the player’s face. BUT it all works out in the end, since the album has the players’ info already in the book, just waiting for his picture to be slapped nearby. Then during the World Cup, you take out your album filled with all your stickers and flip vigorously from page to page when something happens to the relevant player on TV.

My friend Alonso informed me that the trading is perhaps a bit more intense among youngsters who can’t afford to buy envelopes of stickers en masse, the way our MBA classmates are able to with full-time jobs. He says it is more common in the 20-to-30-year-old crowd to buy full BOXES of stickers, which I might argue is cheating.

As you can imagine, few 8-year-olds will have already acquired this many stickers this early in the sticker-collecting season (we're about a month into it), much less be equipped with a PDA to track inventory.

You might think this would be an activity that skews toward the male population, but you’d be wrong. In fact, I was most impressed today by friend Karina, who returned from our lunch break today with an UPDATED MISSING INVENTORY LIST that she created at home. She is NOT screwing around, people.

Karina keeps her yet-to-be-acquired World Cup sticker list with her at all times, making updates whenever she has access to a printer. (FYI, handwritten sticker inventory lists are for losers. I saw a number of Excel spreadsheets in use today.)

I don’t know if the flurry of stickers & cash changing hands today has convinced me to rush out and start collecting pics of hottie football players, but it has provided a good supplemental lesson in economics.

Finally, on a slightly unrelated note, while browsing the Panini website, I came across the mascot from the World Cup in 1986, the year Mexico was the host. In case anyone was unclear about popular Mexican stereotypes, Mexico did a great job reinforcing them with this horrific mascot named Pique:

In case it is confusing for you, you are looking at a POT-BELLIED jalapeno wearing a SOMBRERO and a MUSTACHE. Apparently the shoes are called "tacos", I am told. All we are missing is a half-empty tequila bottle and a sarape.

Special thanks go out to Alonso, Karina, and Liliana for their support in explaining & photographing this new concept for me. One cultural lesson at a time, folks.

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  1. Shirley says:

    cute guy on the pic.

  2. Gary Denness says:

    I have my Panini sticker album! I used to do them as a kid, for the English football league and World Cups. But back in the UK, it’s uncool to be doing these albums once you’ve passed puberty. Stiff upper lip, anally retentive culture and all that!

    The best thing is that you can pick up the stickers you’re missing in the local mercados who have lots of sueltos.

    1. Julie says:

      Gary- I love it. :) Yes, I was totally entertained yesterday by learning of the sticker economy that exists among 30-year-olds here!!

  3. Corinne says:

    I agree with you that buying boxes with 100 envelopes is cheating – and no fun at all in my opinion…
    Actually we always did collect the panini-stickers. In Switzerland, where I live, everyone does: schoolkids, bank managers, grandmas, “celebrities”, etc. But this year I’m trying hard not to start at all – it’s sooo expensive. :( Especially because they’ve added some extra-pages with more stickers to collect for Switzerland only, due to the big success in the past years and the great number of “addicts”. So you spend easily $ 300 on a single album… with this money I prefer to travel one or two weeks longer in Mexico in autumn. :)

    By the way: I love your blog! I have just recently found it when google-ing the Chopo-market, and since then I’m always reading a few articles. Really interesting things, you’ve got a great way of telling stories! :)

    1. Julie says:

      Hi Corinne! I appreciate the Euro-perspective on the Panini craziness. :) Yeah for sure– $300 USD will get you 30+ amazing meals in Mexico! So glad you’re enjoying the blog– where you will be visiting on your Mexico trip??

  4. Andrea says:

    I had my very own album for the last world cup :)

  5. Corinne says:

    Hi Julie

    First I will arrive in Mexico City in September and stay there for at least 4 weeks. In a school I want to improve my knowledge in spanish. Then it depends whether I get an internship and the visa required for it; I’m just working on that. So either I spend some weeks more in Mexico City working in a hotel, tourist office or something similar – or I move on.

    The general direction is south, as I plan to fly back to Europe from Panama City. But I have not decided yet where to go exactly, there are so many interesting places. :) I also want to be spontaneous, that I can travel with other people for a while and not doing everything on my own. That’s the cool thing: I can stay in Latinamerica as long as I have money đŸ˜‰ (I plan to stay six months)

  6. Elliottq says:

    Love the post Julie, just wanted to disagree with Gary’s comment about stickers being uncool here in the UK after we hit puberty.

    I’m an illustrator raising money for the local hospital that cared for my daughter at birth and I’ve put a novel twist on stickers by turning them into art for an exhibition in June.

    check out the Mexican entry, Rafael Marquez:


  7. […] Apparently all countries have something like the Panini World Cup Sticker Album. Instead of soccer players, though, they may just have emperors/dignitaries of ancient China. (the […]

  8. im dojersx says:

    I need a website to trade or help me get a sticker i need pplz tell me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Kyle says:

    Looking for people to trade…I have over 50 doubles to trade including 7 foils, 3 team pics, the trophy (last sticker) and more. Send me an email if you are interested….

  10. Kyle says:

    Bruno137@aol.com is the email…

  11. Fabiola Gomez says:

    Anybody still trading?

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