Wednesday, 17 December 2014

The Best of Collecting Panini!

Figurine Panini - two words etched into the childhood memories of seemingly every boy that ever lived. Who can forget the palpable excitement of walking into a newsagents, asking for two packets of Football 83 and watching as the shop owner randomly retrieved the desired items from the bulging box behind the counter?

Collecting pictures of your favourite football stars became the stuff of legend thanks to Panini. Yet for all the appeal (or should that be ‘a-peel’?) of those self-adhesive stickers, Panini weren’t always the image of perfection they’re often made out to be. With that in mind, we aim to detail what was good and what...well, wasn’t, about Panini sticker collecting.

With so much to cover, we’ve decided to handle the best and worst over 2 posts, so this time we revel in the warmth of its glory as we highlight Panini’s brilliance.

Collecting Stuff

You are a child, most likely a boy. You like football. You like ‘things’. You like collecting ‘things’. It therefore stands to reason that if you combine these elements you have a recipe for hooking kids in something more powerful than any drug known to man! Some (usually our wives) would say we haven’t ever grown out of collecting and if Rich’s football shirt collection is anything to go by, they’d be right. An interesting question would be ‘are they still as addictive as an adult?’. To answer that, Rich, Chris and a host of fellow bloggers set out to complete both the Euro 2012 and FIFA World Cup 2014 albums.

Despite our geographical disparity, the playground of the internet allowed swaps to happen, aided by detailed spreadsheets and the postal service. So was it as much fun? While it didn't have the same childlike wonder factor or the immediacy of hand-to-hand swapping, it was enough to convince Rich to buy the Limited Edition hardback version of the Euro 2012 album from Germany and do it all over again! A little tip for the modern day collector... eBay has plenty of opportunities to get hold of a box of 100 packets. Sure, it may fly in the face of everything Panini stood for, but it’s a hell of a lot quicker!

Opening The Packet

As a child (and maybe, cough, an adult), one of the thrills of Panini is that of the unknown. You've handed your money to the cashier, walked the requisite few paces away from the queue and now you have the packet in your hand. Your whole world stops until the only issue that matters is dealt with... what is inside?? Is there a shiny? Will there be a ‘special’? Or will it be QPR manager, Jim Smith for the 50th time? Also, will I accidentally tear through the stickers?

The sound of ripping paper accompanies a little gasp... and immediately you can see it - that hallowed silver edge of a team badge! A team photo! An action shot! A player that gives you your first full team page! AND JIM SMITH!!!!

Shinies / Foils / Badges

Whatever you called them, you were always transfixed by them. Every packet ripped open would potentially reveal a sparkling jewel hidden inside - a glittering club badge, a trophy or logo that seemed so much more special than all the other stickers. Panini knew this, and ensured that thrill remained an integral part of each collection.

They experimented with silver and gold foil, holographic foil - even silver-coloured cloth for their Football 79 collection - but whatever the material, shinies epitomised everything you collected Panini stickers for. It was sticky-backed bling for the under-15s.

Centre Page Features

As well as all the vast array of player pictures displayed team by team, one highlight of every domestic Panini album was the centre page feature. This could be anything from an FA Cup Final gallery with some of the images missing to an array of cartoon pictures illustrating the nicknames of various teams. Each idea was beautifully executed with subjects including old football kits and match day programmes given the exposure they deserved. Proving that a sticker album could be much more than 500 pictures of footballers, Panini’s designers pushed the boat out every year and we loved them for it.

Hairstyles & Facial Furniture

You don’t need to look too hard on Twitter to find pictures of Panini stickers where the subject is sporting a dubious moustache or a regrettable haircut. That’s because Panini did such a great job of immortalising the changing face of soccer personnel, we can only marvel at the vast number of pictures they printed. World Cups were always good for spotting strange-looking players, because for some reason us Brits always felt happiest when we were laughing at a Chilean with a mullet or an Austrian with big bushy sideburns. Two words of caution, however: ‘Peter’ and ‘Beardsley’...

Got, Got, NEED!

So you've got your album and a bunch of stickers and yes, sticking them in is fun and of course, collecting in itself is awesome, but after a while it does feel a tad lonely. But wait, your friends (you have those, right?) are also collecting Panini stickers - and they have ones you need and vice versa. And so we enter the world of swaps, also called swops or swapsies. Stickers were probably the first experience of proper bartering many a school child encountered.

Forget Economics 101 or Animal Farm, this was truly where you learned about supply and demand, how somethings are more equal than others; just how many normal stickers a shiny is worth is a debate which still rages today.

It also lead to truly mind-blowing moments when someone needed only one sticker to complete their album and would swap their entire collection of swaps to get it...which is how Rich came to witness approx 200 stickers changing hands for… it still hurts even now... QPR manager Jim Smith... which Rich had five of! Life is unfair - deal with it...

Next time: We commit sacrilege and name The Worst of Panini...

- By Rich Johnson & Chris Oakley


  1. Six Jim Smith's,
    There's only Six Jim Smith's....


  2. I'm not an Arsenal fan but that old badge on a silver shiny was amazing, and the smell of the stickers in the 70's was fantastic.

    1. I'm with you on the Arsenal badge, Rob. Very grand and filled every inch of a shiny with ease!