On Friday afternoons, Marcos Caffe sees dozens of children and adults buying and swapping little stickers with pictures of soccer players on them.
From 4 to 8 p.m., they gather at his Doral sporting goods store, Mad About Soccer, to trade Panini World Cup stickers — little visages of each of the 638 players participating in this year’s World Cup. They come armed with lists of stickers they need and stacks of what they have. For $1, you can get 7 stickers to put inside an album that sells for $2.
Caffe, store manager, does some trading himself.
“I’m missing about 100,” he said Monday.
The international soccer tournament starts June 12, with national teams from 32 countries converging on several cities in Brazil. To World Cup fans, the stickers are like North American baseball cards but without the statistics.
As the stickers have gained popularity in the United States this year, collectors have started swap meets to trade repeats and complete their collections. On top of the trading on playgrounds at schools and at soccer practice, sporting goods stores and pharmacies across South Florida are carrying the trendy collectibles and hosting trade events.
Several Walgreens stores in the region held trading events on Saturday. Navarro Discount Pharmacy in Doral, 11402 NW 41st St., is holding its first trade gathering from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday.
The stickers also are turning up on Craigslist with long lists of wanted stickers, ordered by the sticker number. Many include lists of repeats they are willing to sell for 20 to 50 cents. People discuss trades on Facebook and Twitter, too.
And while this year’s tournament in Brazil is all the rage right now, older Panini albums still fetch a decent price. Completed albums from previous World Cups, like 1970 in Mexico and 1994 in the United States, are going for $50 to $100 on eBay.
Panini, a publisher based in Italy, has released stickers for each World Cup since 1970.
The collecting doesn’t just appeal to the schoolyard crowd.
“People of all ages come,” Caffe said. “Kids, adults and grandpas.”