Demand for Panini World Cup 2022 stickers in Calgary is soaring ahead of Canada’s opening game against Belgium in Qatar on Wednesday.
The packs of collectible paper stickers are a World Cup tradition in many countries around the world and Canada is catching on to the phenomenon.
The stickers feature every player and club in the tournament and have been flying off the shelves of sports and games stores across the city as kids and adults join the quest to complete this year’s album.
There are 670 stickers to collect, not counting duplicate stickers, which can cost up to $1200 to achieve, with prices rising every World Cup.
Not many manage to finish an album.
Parents who collected them as kids are now carrying on the tradition in Canada with their own kids, alongside others discovering the stickers for the first time.
Jacky Chan, who lives in southwest Calgary, grew up in Hong Kong and remembers the craze at school.
“I still have fond memories of kids taking a pile of stickers to school wrapped up in elastic bands, trading them before and after school and in the playground,” said Chan.
“In the eighties there wasn’t a lot of TV coverage and at the time it was a great way for kids to learn about teams and players.”
Now, Chan sits with his own kids carefully tearing into new packs of cards and hoping to fill the gaps in the family’s increasingly busy Panini sticker album.
“I wanted to introduce it to my kids. I wanted them to feel the enthusiasm and excitement about the World Cup, the build up and for them to be part of it,” he said.
Chan says interest in Team Canada’s success is driving much of the interest in Panini stickers this time around, along with a growing soccer culture in Canada.
All the new interest has seen many stores sell out of the stickers leaving parents scrambling to find them around the city.
“A lot of stores are out of stickers and I think it’s a great sign. It shows soccer is gaining popularity and more people are talking about it. It’s a great problem to have,” said Chan.
“I love it.”
Chan completed the Russia 2018 Panini album and is hoping to do the same again this year.
Daniel Monzon, who doesn’t have kids, collects Panini stickers for the nostalgia trip.
“I started in 1994 during the USA World Cup with my grandpa and we almost completed half an album. It brings you back to your childhood. I do it for myself,” said Monzon.
He’s also seeing a spike in demand this year compared to previous World Cups.
“Some stores sold out very quickly and some priced too low and had to up their prices. A lot of it had to do with supply and demand,” he said.
Monzon says the buzz around team Canada is definitely playing part in the Panini boom this year.
“I talk to a lot of people when we trade stickers at Eau Claire Market and the conversation has been about Team Canada. People say they’re excited and now we can cheer for our heritage nation from back home but we can also share Team Canada. They can tell friends back home ‘hey, that’s where I live now’ and that’s a very special moment for newcomers and immigrants,” said Monzon.
Collectors have been meeting around the city in recent weeks to swap stickers they already have for stickers they need.
“You swap sticker for sticker and if you don’t have the sticker they want and you’re trading for monetary value, the group sets the price, and nobody’s paying more than 25 to 50 cents per sticker. The group monitors itself,” he said.
Darren Pawlyk, who owns Maple Leaf Sports, which sells trading cards and collectibles on Centre Street, says he’s definitely seen new customers this year.
“It’s a broad, diverse type of customer: men, women, all different backgrounds, all different ages,” said Pawlyk.
“There was a lot of interest leading up to the release of the stickers, the phone was ringing non-stop for two weeks prior and they’ve been a very good seller,” he said.
While his store is packed with mostly hockey cards and other sports collectibles he says soccer is catching up.
“Canada qualifying for the tournament certainly made a difference and that’s largely in part because Canada now has a team that people can follow and a couple of notable stars, like Alphonso Davies,” said Pawlyk.
The next World Cup in 2026 is set to feature 48 teams for the first time, meaning the challenge of completing an entire Panini album will soon become much harder, and a lot more expensive.