The strange thing is, no-one quite knows why Panini stickers have suddenly become so popular. Is it due to the huge interest of a World Cup returning to its spiritual home? Could it be that my generation, that spent lunchtime after lunchtime at school trading Premier League stickers through the mid-90s, has finally come of age? Has that generation ever grown up?
For over a month now I have been steadily completing my FIFA World Cup Brasil 2014 Panini sticker album. That means buying a couple of packs every couple of days. Managing my doubles in their own Tupperware box and only buying extra packs when I need to. So far, so sensible. However, the management side of things is basically the only aspect of this that is remotely grown up.
When I began collecting the stickers I genuinely worried about my state of mind. Walking into a newsagent I’d grab three packs, hand over £1.50 with my head down and sheepishly exit. Woe betide actually asking a shop attendant, “Can I have three packs of the Panini World Cup stickers please”. This isn’t pocket money any more, I am 30 years of age.
Sometimes I would even forgo the bus home on a rainy afternoon and spend the fare on a couple of packets. That was worrying. Slowly I began to realise I was becoming obsessed. Getting home I would excitedly open my bag, feverishly open the packets and pray for the face of Lionel Messi or Wayne Rooney staring back at me. Occasionally my eyes would glean on a ‘shiney’ yet their charm has waned compared to the superstars that’ll now light up the World Cup.
Right now I’m learning the names of hitherto unknown Russian defenders, for instance Roman Shirokov has been sat in my doubles box for as long as I’ve had it. I’m also starting to believe that there is a conspiratorial reason why there are so few of Luis Suarez on offer, possibly as a punishment for his antics in the quarter final against Ghana four years ago, the evil rat.
Thankfully I am not alone. While I would fret at empty boxes of stickers in WHSmith, sticker collecting is far more of an obsession in Brasil. On 25th April a heist in Rio de Janeiro resulted in 300,000 stolen stickers, maybe someone DESPERATELY wanted Neymar Jr? In any case, Panini had to deliver a statement indicating that the city was well stocked.
There is some psychology explaining this phenomenon. Carol Mavor, a professor in visual arts at Manchester University, likens sticker collecting to the nostalgia of childhood. “Stickers are very tactile and old-fashioned. The humanity of touch is also very powerful. That’s why people love wooden toys, for example, because they have a unique feel, smell and are real.”
For me, it takes me back to my high school days shouting ‘Got, got, NEED’ at a friend as they whizzed through their doubles. Put simply, I don’t want to let go of my childhood. Mavor agrees: “It seems, without being overly morbid, to be so far away from death, work and the other obligations of adulthood. As adults, we think of ourselves as different people from our childhood selves – the whole world was open to us and it was a free and more creative life.”
Felix Economakis, a chartered psychologist, puts it down to sentimental attachment, maybe those schoolchums I haven’t kept in touch with. “Little objects from childhood are imbued with meaning because they remind us of people who may no longer be with us – it’s an association with the past through rose-tinted spectacles.”
With each pack of five stickers costing 50p each it would cost £63 to complete the set but then there is so much fun to be had checking each pack and filling the gaps. To give this addiction some perspective, eight million packets are sold worldwide every day. Eight. Million. That’s a helluva lot of stickers yet the problem is that with such a huge production many of the squads were guessed in January. That means that you could get Ashley Cole on your England page even though he wasn’t picked in the final squad. Kevin Strootman is in my album even though in real-life he’s recovering from an horrific knee injury sustained in March. To be fair, that issue only seems to give some players a sense of added worth.
Whether it is Strootman or Sturridge, the gaps have to be filled and for those ardent collectors there are ‘sticker swaps’ popping up across the country. No longer are the swaps restricted to the playground, they are now being co-ordinated online through Facebook and Twitter. Yet I do manage to keep a personal touch and regularly meet up with a bunch of friends to sit in a pub with our albums and sets of doubles to carry out swaps (we must look like right saddos). I have also branched out and sent over lists of numbers for my doubles and needs to friends so we can do a ‘postal swap’. There is even a website (stickerswapping.com) to list your doubles so others can match theirs and get in touch. While in South America counterfeit stickers and pirated albums are in circulation.
This week I have completed my first team, Argentina. At the weekend I took advantage of Morrison’s offer of 3 packets for a £1 and it’s merely a case of filling in the few remaining gaps now. Part of me is looking forward to meeting with friends and knowing that this is going to get cumulatively more difficult when the reward of a fully completed album is so close. There is a page at the back of the album where you can order each individual sticker for 14p each but that’s cheating as far as I’m concerned. As long as I can still fit my doubles into their Tupperware container I know this is an obsession I can manage.
This is my list of needs, so if you have these to swap, take your pick from my doubles, feel free to get in touch in the comments section and we’ll do a swap.
7, 15, 21, 32, 33, 42, 43, 45, 59, 68, 70, 71, 72, 85, 98
103, 107, 109, 112, 117, 120, 129, 132, 138, 141, 142, 145, 149, 152, 157, 159, 164, 168, 176
223, 260, 276, 287, 288, 291, 297,
303, 309, 325, 336, 338, 341, 344, 348, 351, 362, 369, 372, 394, 396, 398,
402, 404, 407, 439, 446, 447, 459, 465, 468, 469, 470, 471, 474, 476, 482, 489, 495,
505, 525, 530, 546, 565, 568, 569, 570, 573, 576, 580, 581, 583, 586, 591, 596,
606, 614, 617, 618, 619, 620, 621, 628, 639
28, 30 50, 58, 65, 73, 74, 80, 82, 84
104, 139, 170, 188
211, 216, 221, 226, 232, 233, 236, 240, 245, 246, 282
321, 322, 326, 331, 339, 363, 366, 376, 384, 387, 390, 391
411, 424, 427×2, 456, 467, 479, 497
502, 516, 517, 520, 527, 532×2, 537×3, 540×2, 542, 544, 564, 571, 574, 578, 584