Messi, Maradona and the world’s most expensive football stickers

The world’s most expensive football cards are now fetching well into six figures, as collectors scramble for rare examples. the recent sale of a one-of-a-kind Lionel Messi sticker shows that demand is strong 62 years since the birth of Panini.

How stickers kicked off

In 1960, a pair of football-fanatic brothers named Giuseppi and Benito Panini had the idea of creating collector’s albums to celebrate their beloved sport. The following year they founded their eponymous company and sold 15 million packets within their first 12 months. By 1970, the pair had signed an agreement with FIFA, and the first Panini World Cup album was produced in time for the tournament in Mexico.

Since then, the sticker albums have been an unfailing hit with kids and collectors alike. So much so that certain rare stickers have become very valuable indeed. And we’re not just talking about a ‘shiny’ being worth two obscure squad members…

One-of-a-kind Messi sticker sells for £115,000

This week, a football fan hit the jackpot by selling a unique sticker of Argentina’s Lionel Messi for a staggering £115,000. While the striker hit the headlines in December for leading his national side to victory at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the sticker in question was actually part of Panini’s 2014 World Cup collection.

In a calculated bid to create rarity and stoke a frenzy, Panini had produced one-off versions of each player’s sticker. It was the first time the company had produced one-of-a-kind variations, applying different coloured borders around the standard designs. The sticker in question is the black border variation of Messi’s mug. 

The seller, Henry Barrios of Virginia, USA, had bought 300 packets of the stickers in a bid to complete his collection, but struck a double whammy with this sticker, given that black is the most sought after coloured border, and Messi the most sought after player. The sticker sold for $140,000, around £115,000, at Goldin Auctions, New Jersey.

Our pick of the most expensive football stickers

However, it’s not the most valuable sticker to be sold by some margin. Fellow Argentinian Diego Maradona is thought to feature on the most expensive of all time. Here’s our rundown of the most expensive Panini football stickers around.

1. Diego Maradona, 1980 Argentinos Juniors Panini Sticker  – £470,000

This sticker was produced when Maradona was just 19 years old and playing for Argentinos Juniors in Argentina.The sticker’s highly prized by collectors due to its rarity and the historical significance at this early stage of Maradona’s legendary career. In January 2021, the sticker was sold at auction for an astonishing £470,000.

How much?!?

2. Lionel Messi, Argentina, 2014 World Cup Panini Sticker – £115,000

The most expensive Panini football sticker ever sold is the Lionel Messi 2014 World Cup Panini sticker. This sticker is unique in that it features Messi with a black border, and it was sold for an astounding £115,000. The lucky collector who found this rare sticker is now the envy of many football fans around the world.

3. Cristiano Ronaldo 2002 – 2003, Sporting Lisbon, Panini Sticker  – £60,000

The earliest ever Panini sticker to feature Portuguese legend Cristiano Ronaldo has become his most valuable. Though he went on to make his name at Manchester United and Real Madrid, it is this card from his early days at Sporting that drew the attention of collectors.

4. Ronaldo – 1994 PSV Eindhoven, Panini Sticker  – £34,000

This one features Brazilian legend Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima, or simply R9, during his time at PSV Eindhoven, where he was managed by former England manager Sir Bobby Robson. He went on to win the world cup with Brazil on two occasions.

5. Zinedine Zidane 1992 Cannes, Panini Foot 92 – £33,000

Early appearances of players that went on to greatness often fetch huge prices. Maybe that’s because they weren’t quite so prized at the time of issue. This sticker featuring French World Cup winner Zinedine Zidane is thought to be worth over £30,000.

6. Kylian Mbappe, France, 2018 World Cup Panini Sticker – £17,000

Mbappe had a breakout performance at the 2018 World Cup, and this sticker has become highly sought-after among collectors. It was sold for £17,000, making it one of the most expensive Panini stickers ever sold.

7. Neymar Jr. Brazil, 2014 World Cup Panini Sticker – £12,000

The Neymar Jr. 2014 World Cup Panini sticker is another highly sought-after sticker among collectors. Neymar is one of the biggest stars in world football, and this sticker, which features him in action for Brazil, was sold for £12,000.

8. Cristiano Ronaldo 2003-2004 Panini Mega Craques Sticker – £10,000

The Cristiano Ronaldo 2003-2004 Panini Mega Craques sticker is one of the most valuable Ronaldo stickers on the market. This sticker was produced when Ronaldo was just 18 years old, and it features him in his early days as a professional footballer. It was sold for £10,000.

9. Erling Haaland, Red Bull Saltzburg, 2019 Panini Fussball Bundesliga – £8,557

He’s currently setting the English Premier League alight with his seemingly bottomless set of skills, but the Manchester City striker’s early sticker appearance for Saltzburg is of more interest to the collectors.

10. Pelé 1958 Alifabolaget Panini Sticker – £7,300

The Pelé 1958 Alifabolaget Panini sticker is a rare vintage sticker that is highly sought-after by collectors. This sticker was produced when Pelé was just 17 years old, and it features him in action for Brazil. It was sold for £7,300.

A different ballpark

While these sums seem pretty eye-watering for a humble sticker, that’s nothing when compared to the world of rare baseball cards. The most expensive example is thought to have featured Johannes “Honus” Wagner, shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates, from his record-breaking 1911 season. An anonymous buyer acquired the card in 2021 for a staggering $6.6 million, around £5.4 million!

For altogether more reasonably priced printed Stickers, the Solopress range includes custom shapes and vegan options that let you create your own designs without breaking the bank.