The quest to complete a Panini World Cup sticker album is a worldwide phenomenon. In Argentina, adults and children line up for hours to buy stickers. In Brazil, criminals hijacked a van carrying 300,000 World Cup stickers. In the United States, you can find entire families working together in teams to complete their World Cup sticker albums.

It’s a tradition for many. It’s an addiction for others. For millions of soccer fans worldwide, it’s a World Cup ritual.

It’s an obsession I’ve had since I bought packets of stickers for World Cup ’78. And for World Cup 2022, I’m proud to say I’ve completed the collection.

But with estimates that it could cost more than $900 to complete your 2022 World Cup sticker album, what tips do I have to save you money and time so you too can complete the album? Let’s go.

The thrill of the sticker hunt

On a recent Saturday afternoon in Jacksonville, Florida, I drove to my local Walgreens that was hosting a Panini sticker trading day. An elderly gentleman approached me, gazing over at the more than two dozen people standing outside the pharmacy. “What are they doing,” he asked. “They’re here to swap soccer stickers,” I explained.

“Soccer? Ahh, Qatar,” he replied, nodding knowingly. “Soccer is the only sport I understand.”

As he walked away, I started to mingle with everyone outside who were swapping stickers. I was on a quest to find the very last sticker I needed to complete my collection.

“I’m looking for USA number 13, Tyler Adams,” I told everyone. The scene was a mix of mothers with their children, as well as grown men, and entire families. All of them were armed with lists. They were hunting for their missing stickers to complete a World Cup sticker album.

Within minutes, the savior came to my rescue, offering me the prized Adams sticker, to swap for one of the doubles that I brought that she needed. With it, my collection was complete.

Sticker trading event outside a Walgreens in Jacksonville, Florida.

How to complete your album

So, how did I do it?

Step one is to buy a box or as many stickers as you can reasonably afford at your local Walgreens pharmacy. Select CVS pharmacies have them too, as well as other stores. But Walgreens, for me, is the most dependable. For example, a pack of World Cup stickers is $1.19 at my local Walgreens. With each pack, you get five random World Cup stickers.

Once you have a stack of stickers, step two is to go ahead and stick them into your Panini World Cup album. You’ll then quickly see which stickers you need to complete your collection. At this stage, it’s important to keep the faith. Even if it seems like it may be an overwhelming task to finish the album, you can do it.

Step three is the one that you will benefit from the most. Since 2020, I’ve been using the LastSticker.com site to trade stickers with soccer fans from around the world. The best part is that it’s free to register.

Once you register at Last Sticker, you can indicate which stickers are missing from your collection. Plus, you list the double stickers you have that you can swap. Then, click the ‘Search For Swaps’ button and you’ll find other collectors you can message and ask to trade.

Trust me, this is such an amazing website. Yes, it does take a little bit of time to get set up and to figure out how it works. But once you’re up and running, the site saves you so much time and money to trade stickers by mail.

The power of networking

Last but not least, the final step taps into the power of networking. Step four is to register for free to find the next Panini sticker trading event. Organized by Panini distributor NOI USA, you can receive email or text messaging notifications. There’s no cost to participate in the trading events. When you attend them, you’ll find like-minded collectors looking to swap for free.

Even if you don’t complete your collection at the trading event, you can return the following week to make more swaps. You’re likely to see some familiar faces each week.

Yes, completing the sticker album does require patience. I didn’t calculate how much it cost me to complete the album, but that was on purpose. It’s far less than the $900 that some newspapers claim. But if I knew how much it would cost, it would take the fun out of the experience. After all, when I’m not watching soccer, you can find me on Last Sticker.

Photo credit: IMAGO / Belga

Guide to World Cup 2022

Here are some resources to help you get the most out of the biggest event in soccer!
TV Schedule: All the info on where and when to watch every game
The Groups: We breakdown each group and all the teams
The Kits: Check out what every team will be wearing on the field this fall
Predictor: Play out every scenario with our World Cup Predictor
World Cup Bracket: Map out the entire tournament, from the groups to the final