After a pub conversation lamenting the rising cost of World Cup football stickers, Alex Pratchett embarked on a Panini sticker album with a difference.
He and his wife Sian hand-drew (and in the case of shiny ones, hand-foiled) every sticker in the Brazil 2014 collection under the moniker Cheapskate Panini.
The press picked up the blog documenting their efforts and within days, Alex was speaking to international news outlets about the couple’s drawings.
Alex said: “I was being woken up at 6am to talk on radio stations. By the time we realised what was happening, it was out of control.”
Their endeavours earned them a twitter following and two years later, friends and fans wanted to know what they had planned for the European Championships.
“After the tournament we said ‘never again’, so for about 18 months we let it become completely dormant, then when the Euros rolled around people wanted to know if we would do it again,” said Alex.
“A few people suggested we do it for charity and we thought that was a great reason.”
The pair, both 34, who work for Cancer Research UK and learning disabilities charity MacIntyre, decided to capitalise on their notoriety and used their ‘difficult second album’ to raise funds for their places of work.
The France 2016 collection was completed and the benchmark for Russia 2018 was set.
“We made £4,500 last time and if we could beat that that would be amazing.”
This time around, they are adding the music therapy charity Nordof Robbins and LGBT rights champions Stonewall to their fundraising efforts.
They have the same objective this year, but their 682-sticker Everest means they will have less than 8 minutes of game time to draw each sticker.
In 2018, they are not the only people trying to complete the sticker album on a budget.
Cardiff University’s Professor Paul Harper estimates the cost of finishing the album single-handedly at £773.60, which would leave fans with over 4,000 duplicates to spare.
This price was pushed higher this tournament by Panini’s decision to increase the cost of a packet of stickers from 50p to 80p, a 60% hike.
And while there is the option to get out your pencils or trade with your friends, other fans have found their own ways of saving money.
Paul Maidment, a 46-year-old marketing consultant from Blackheath and his six-year-old daughter, Charlotte, found their luck dwindling with sticker packets.
“It’s Charlotte’s collection and she’s disappointed she’s missing badges and the team photos,” he said.
“We’ve got the England team which is great, Lionel Messi who she knows and we’ve just finished Belgium and Japan.”
Paul took issue with the seemingly impossible-to-find special stickers at the front of the album.
“We got to the point when Charlotte was opening two or three packs in a row and only getting one that she needed.
“There are certain stickers that we have a number of and when I go to swap them with my brother-in-law, with people locally and now online, people seem to have those stickers too.
“There’s a #00 sticker in the Panini book, no one seems to have got that! And no one I know who is collecting has the England badge.”
He added: “I’m sure Panini claim that they’re printed equally but I would dispute that.”
In a bid to finish the collection, Paul took to Twitter and the #GotGotNeed hashtag.
“I put up our ‘need list and ‘got’ list and I done eight transactions now and everyone has been really good.
“Everybody is very helpful and wants to do a decent, fair swap.
“People will take a picture of the envelope with a stamp on and the stickers around so you know you’re not getting messed about.
“It’s a bit of a soulless experience; people are just reeling off numbers from a list and it’s only when you get the stickers come in the post you say ‘Oh that’s Cristiano Ronaldo’.
“Back in the day in the playground it was all about the players, whereas now it’s about what numbers you need.
“But for Charlotte, this morning there were five letters in the post and she’s able to fill up some of her teams and she loves it.”
This analytical approach has not dissuaded collectors like Paul and the Wimbledon sticker swap section of Gumtree is alive and well, but it would appear the magic of finding the players you need by chance is unreplaceable as Paul audibly gasped upon finding Phillipe Coutinho in a booster pack while we spoke.
Talking about the cost of the stickers, Paul said: “I think it’s a lot. I remember collecting the Panini ’78 and they were 5p a packet – then 6p – then 10p – then 12p – then I didn’t engage for a few years and all of a sudden it’s 80p.
“I’m sure by the time the next World Cup rolls around I would imagine they will have tipped over £1 a packet, which feels like an awful lot of money.
Panini stated that they print all stickers in equal quantities and have made no comment about the potential cost of stickers for the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
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