In the U.S., “trading cards” are still synonymous with “baseball cards,” but this World Cup, the world's largest sports collectibles company is determined to change that. With stickers and cards, Irving-based Panini America is winning over soccer fans in the U.S.
This year, Panini America, which has exclusive rights to publish collectible trading cards and stickers for the NFL, NHL, and NBA, brought soccer into the mix.
"The soccer business for World Cup is by far the fastest growing sport in America," says Panini America CEO Mark Warsop. "And the volumes by which we’re selling of this one collection are far greater than any one collection that we’ll do for a U.S. sport.”
"An unautographed black Prizm card of a key player like [Cristiano] Ronaldo would trade on the secondary market for $3,000," Warsop says.
And the popularity of soccer cards and stickers will likely get stronger after the U.S. national soccer team defeated Ghana Monday.
Sports memorabilia is a multibillion-dollar business, and Panini was already raking in cash with another World Cup collectible -- sticker albums.
Nick’s Sports Cards has been in business in Dallas since 1989. For decades, the shop has been strictly baseball, football, basketball and hockey. But last year, owners Nick and Debbie Redwine made room above trading cards for Nolan Ryan and Mickey Mantle for stickers with Neymar and Lionel Messi.
“We tried [selling stickers] the last World Cup and, I’m going 'OK, I’ll give it a shot,' Nick Redwine said. "It did really well, but nothing like this time; it exploded this time. It’s been great business.”
The sticker albums look like scholastic workbooks. They’re bright blue and neon green. Each page has spots for the stickers, headshots, of players – 643 total.
Debbie Redwine says the stickers and cards have attracted a whole new customer base.
“There’s been so many people come into the store since we started carrying them -- from Germany, Spain, Portugal, all different countries,” she says.
A New Generation Of Collectors
For the first time, Hugo Salazar of Arlington is collecting stickers – he has more than 600 so far. To find the ones he’s missing, he uses social media and Craigslist.
"I’ve met people from Africa that have interesting stories; I’ve met people from Mexico, Canadians," he says. "It’s a worldwide thing, Panini, and it’s very interesting in how it’s done.”
Salazar, who’s 18, says he’s spent about $100 on stickers. Each pack is $1, but he hasn’t bought any trading cards because they’re beyond his budget as a college student. Even if he doesn't make money from a completed sticker album, he says he's having fun.
“I’ve seen the change where more people are getting involved into soccer," Salazar says. "I’ve seen the transition. I’m liking it.”