World Cup Panini Sticker Pandemonium in Queens
The global Panini World Cup sticker collecting craze is flourishing in New York City, with over 150 people of all ages trading stickers on a single block in Jackson Heights this past Sunday before the NYPD moved in to break up the massive gathering.
Sold for $1 a pack and $2 a book, filling each teams’ stickers has been a world wide tradition for kids and adults alike since 1970 when the Italian company launched their first World Cup product.
An analog throwback in the digital age, global Panini hysteria has recently led to 300,000 sticker packs being taken in an armed robbery in Rio, a teacher getting in trouble for stealing his students’ stickers in Colombia in an attempt to complete his book, and wealthy bankers buying up scores of packs in London.
In the past few weeks Manhattan has witnessed Panini Brazil 2014 stickers infiltrate Modell’s stores, Duane Reade pharmacies, and some in-the-know corner bodegas. But in the outer boroughs, Queens particularly, Panini sticker trading has swept the larger city, captivating whole families and even spurring entire secondary markets.
Sticker packets and books can be bought in innumerable Colombian bakeries from Sunnyside to Corona. Grown men sit at Irish pubs on Queens Boulevard tipping back pints and swapping stickers. And spontaneous trading gatherings appear on the streets when one person sees a visible book in a stranger’s arms. Within minutes, others join in too.
Collecting spans all ages. In the last few days we traded with an enthusiastic eight year old sporting an intricate clipboard listing her doubles accompanied by her 13 year old sister, an octogenarian Uruguayan man desperately in need of missing Croatian players, and a Colombian-American who was so determined to get a Falcao sticker at the outset that he bought multiple boxes and ended up with an insane amount of doubles.
We completed a giant 17 sticker trade with him (picking up much needed Pirlo and Falcao stickers), said our goodbyes, and then saw him running back towards us 10 minutes later to inquire about more stickers— the last two his mother needed to complete her book.
"I’ve been here for nineteen years," Ernesto a Jackson Heights resident from Quito told me during Sunday’s massive Panini trade outside of Chivito De Oro restaurant on 37th Avenue and 84th street. "Now it’s so much safer than it was in the 90s, families are out here on the street— Ecuadorian, Colombian, American, Uruguayan, Mexican, Argentinian— and we all trade the stickers. It’s fun and it really kicks off the World Cup in the neighborhood."
Others even drove in to trade in Jackson Heights from as far away as Connecticut. “It’s the World Cup! We can’t trade like this in Connecticut; we heard about this and had to come,” one man enthusiastically exclaimed as his son flipped through a large stack of doubles.
In addition to trading and selling (25 cents each or 5 for a dollar) double stickers, we also witnessed a thriving secondary Panini substructure with black market dealers seemingly everywhere. One man in an Argentina jersey who we had met at a music store in Sunnyside hawking completed books for $150 the week before, was also present at the gargantuan Jackson Heights street trade selling discounted boxes and Panini t-shirts out of a shady looking duffel bag. Another elderly woman on Greenpoint Avenue was hording hundreds of individual bought stickers to sell back, at a small markup, to collectors trying to finish up the remaining slots in their books.
Indeed, according to the Economist, “the market for the stickers is not just for kids, however; it is also for micro-economists. Getting every slot filled delivers an early lesson in probability; the value of statistical tests; the laws of supply and demand; and the importance of liquidity.”
As Panini Brazil 2014 sticker trading reaches a global fever pitch, it is only appropriate that Queens serves as New York City’s epicenter of local/global trading.
(Please contact us ASAP if anyone has the Brazil hologram crest #32, or Japan’s Uchida #246 to trade).
It’s like freaking Expo and the Olympics and the trading of the pins right now. Elmhurst, represent!!