Alejandro Panfil @AlePanfil
Long time ago, when the Internet wasn’t even in Sci-Fi movies, trading-cards would be passed around from one hand to another outside schools and at the park, mostly between children. But ever since the birth of sports trading cards, a significant amount of people has collected them for as long as they lived. Nowadays, this “hobby” has gone global and for the past decades it has diversified. The traditional baseball cards left some space for the basketball cards, football cards and the latest, the soccer cards. Some people have turned their hobby into an investment and, in time, it has become a passion, a job and a way of living.
Soccer cards have increasingly attracted the attention of fans of sports of all ages all over the world. They just fancy collecting cards following different criteria, such as, their favorite team/s or player/s, decade or period of time in history, or even Country, State or City.
Who’s responsible for this soccer cards fever? Let’s flashback to Modena, Italy, in the beginning of the 1960s. Brothers Giuseppe and Benito Panini got into the card business by manufacturing a collection of figurines of the Italian league which they sold in packets of twos or threes. It was an instant success and their enterprise grew faster and faster ever since. The brand became massive after the Mexico 70 World Cup, the tournament in which Pelé became the king of soccer and, thanks to Panini, fans all over the planet were able to hold their favorite players in their hands. Since then, every four years this passion was shared in over 120 countries.
In the first Mexican World Cup (the second was in 1986 and the country will be sharing the organization of WC 2026 with the USA and Canada) local fans spent just 2 Mexican pesos to buy the album and around 20 to 25 cents for each packet. The world has changed a lot in the last 50 years and, of course, in the era of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who are facing their last World Cup, the price of the cards has changed a lot too. Both players are still not just top on the field, scoring goals and winning important trophies and awards, but they are also the most required when it comes to soccer cards.
There’s a wide range of Messi and Ronaldo card prices that goes from around $ 100 to sometimes an insane amount of money, especially when it comes to the cards that feature the players in their rookie times, when they were not yet Messi or CR7. The “2004 Panini Sports Mega Cracks Lionel Messi Rookie RC #71 PSA 10 GEM MINT” was sold in $ 116.988 while Cristiano’s card of the same period in Sporting Lisbon was sold for $ 41.211 on EBay.
While many people think that Panini prints fewer cards of these biggest cracks in comparison with “earthling” players, in order to increase their value, the Italian company sweeps away that theory. "Panini manufactures the same number of reproductions of each player, shield and hologram, whether in the World Cups or any other collection," Francisco Poch, representative of Panini Mexico, told ESPN web site. Poch argues that popular players, such as Messi, are in higher demand and can be attached to computers, walls, and cell phones, rather than being used exclusively in albums, creating the perception of less production.
Obviously, this business is not just based on the World Cup fever. As time passes, old cards accumulate more and more value for the obvious reason that, for instance, we are not able to go back in time into the Camp Nou to see young Messi mesmerizing the world for the first time. Nor will anyone be able to sit somewhere in the José Alvalade stadium to enjoy that huge crack spark that Cristiano ignited wearing the Sporting shirt. Cards, especially original cards that were contemporary with the events, are the perfect memorabilia of those starting points as they articulate the passion for the sport and many different generations. And to provide us with that kind of trip to the past, the collectors appear on the scene with several aces up their sleeves.
And those aces are usually presented with added value features such as original handwritten signatures of the soccer stars. Here in DROB Collectibles, Messi is ahead of Cristiano due to his “2004 Panini mega cracks Barca 89 Lionel Messi campeon rookie PSA 10 44573466 S202” signed card valued at $ 5.999.99. But the Portuguese follows his lead with his “2016 Panini select jersey autographs JA-CR7 Cristiano Ronaldo PSA 10 17/50 49192797 CR003”. The price? $ 2.999.99.
"It is the demand that generates the idea that some players or holograms are more difficult; that is part of collecting", concluded the Panini representative Mr. Poch about this fever that doesn’t take breaks during the four years between each World Cup and will continue to grow.