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By Patrick Eccles-Williams, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – With the FIFA World Cup starting in under three weeks time, there has been a surge in the popularity of collecting the official Panini World Cup sticker album, with 8.5 million people believed to be participating. Travelers in Brazil for the FIFA football (soccer) tournament will find plenty of official and unofficial places to buy, sell and trade these prized pieces of memorabilia throughout their stay.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Brazil News, World Cup, Stickers, Figurinhas
Collectors gather during their lunch break to swap stickers in Centro, photo by Oliver Bridge.

The official Panini World Cup book, which has been distributed in over 110 countries this year, dates back to the 1970 World Cup in Mexico and an album has been created for every tournament since. For many people this creates as much excitement as the tournament itself, especially in Brazil, which is Panini’s biggest market for the stickers.

The albums and stickers can be bought from most bancos jornais (newsstands) in the city and the cost of completing an album generally ranges between R$140 and R$200, depending on the amount of swapping one does. The cost of the album is between R$5 and R$25 and each pack of five stickers costs R$1. There are 640 stickers in total to collect.

Ryad Dib, an Algerian who currently lives and works in Resende explains that, for him, it is definitely worth it: “It is important to me because I wanted to have a souvenir of this World Cup where Algeria is playing and I am here.”

By getting involved visitors are not only providing themselves with a memory of their World Cup experience, but they are also participating in a niche yet important part of Brazilian World Cup culture: sticker swapping.

Eager swappers can be found in all parts of Rio de Janeiro and one would be mistaken for thinking this was a game just for children. André Novello, who works in a banco jornal in Glória, says that a large number of the customers he sells the figurinhas (stickers) to are adults. “I would say they are about forty percent adults but maybe some of them are buying for their children so it is probably about thirty percent in reality,” he states.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Brazil News, World Cup, Football, Stickers, Panini
The collecting and swapping of stickers attracts both young and old, photo by Patrick Eccles-Williams.

Collectors generally swap among friends and family members however there are some who don’t have the patience for this tradition and therefore pursue other options. In Rio the most popular of these alternatives is to head to Rua Uruguaiana where the sidewalks are awash with traders desperate to complete their album.

There are some who take this hobby to another level and are willing to pay for the exact stickers they require; this has led to a number of individuals re-selling stickers for a profit.

Moacir Souza, a tour guide by trade, currently spends six hours a day swapping and selling stickers and it is a lucrative business; he estimates that he has made profits of approximately R$5,000 in the past month. He explains that customers can either swap with him at an exchange rate of two for one or they can simply buy an individual sticker for R$0.50.

Some stickers are more desirable and thus more expensive. Any of the team logos or host stadiums cost R$1, top players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi cost R$3, and if one wants to buy Neymar they will need to spend R$15. When asked how many customers he gets a day he responded, “Many. At least a hundred people come directly to me every day.”

Official sticker albums can have monetary as well as sentimental value in years to come. Last week a completed Panini World Cup album from 1982 was sold for R$17,000 on MercadoLivre.

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