Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

The soccer sticker album – part of every Italian childhood

The soccer sticker album – part of every Italian childhood
Did you know that trading cards originated because of tobacco? In the late 19th Century, cigarette manufacturers used to have a sheet of plain cardboard in their soft packs to help keep their shape. When they started printing images and different stories or encyclopedia entries on them, children began collecting the cards, pestering smokers to give them the cards when they opened a new pack of cigarettes.

Spotting their popularity, companies started making trading cards and selling them in packs, either on their own, or with bubble gum. Baseball cards were among the first sports cards to be made and collected by children all over the US. But in Italy, it wasn’t trading cards that captured the imagination of children, it was stickers.
In the 1960s, brothers Benito and Giuseppe Panini were working in a newspaper distribution office when they stumbled across a pile of unwanted stickers. Rather than throw them out, they packaged them up and sold them in packets of two for just a few cents. They were an instant hit.

Today, Panini is one of the world’s largest sticker companies, making stickers and albums for a wide range of movie and TV show franchises, pop stars and most popular of all, soccer. Kids all over Italy are buying packs of stickers and trading them with each other to get a full set of their Italian sports heroes. And of course, there’s a special FIFA World Cup collection of stickers and album too; the perfect souvenir of the tournament and memento to hand down to future generations.