After a 36-year absence, Peruvians qualify for the World Cup and a trading card frenzy ensues

Inside the ‘Panini trading cards’ album containing the much longed-for card of Paolo Guerrero. Image by the author, used with permission.

On November 15, 2017, Peruvian football achieved the ultimate dream: the national team classified for the International Federation Football Association (FIFA) World Cup 2018 Russia after a 36-year absence.

Some months later, proud football fans are waiting in long lines for hard-to-find trading cards to commemorate this historic moment in Peruvian football history.

But back in November 2017, joy and excitement surged so high that the Peruvian Geophysical Institute recorded a minor earthquake at the precise moment football player Jefferson Farfán scored the first goal against the New Zealand team at the National Stadium in Lima.

The Peruvian Geophysical Institute, the state body in charge of detecting natural disasters of great magnitude, reported:

El júbilo unánime de los aficionados que se encontraban en el Estadio Nacional hicieron vibrar el suelo de Lima y los acelerómetros registraron amplitudes del sacudimiento del suelo equivalentes a un microsismo, de magnitud aproximada de 1 (imperceptibles para las personas) en la escala de Richter.

The unanimous joy by the fans at the National Stadium caused Lima land to vibrate and the accelerometers recorded amplitudes of land shakings equivalent to a micro earthquake, with an estimated magnitude of 1 (imperceptible for people) on the Richter scale.

On March 22, 2018, the Italian company Panini launched its popular trading cards album to commemorate Peruvian football players in two editions: a special hard-cover album and more traditional trading cards.

The hard-cover albums were sold out in just hours. Meanwhile, the trading cards, known in Peru as “figuritas” (literally, small cards), grew scarce just days later:

[…] Panini no esperó la gran acogida del álbum por lo que el stock seleccionado para nuestro país quedó corto en tan solo unos días. No pasó ni una semana para que el coleccionista peruano se quede sin oportunidad de conseguir este tradicional cuadernillo de la Copa del Mundo.

[…] Panini didn't expect such a huge demand, so the stock meant for our country was sold out in just days. Not a week had passed, and the Peruvian collector lost all opportunities to get this traditional booklet of the World Cup.

This fast and unexpected shortage upset Peruvian football fans who waited in long lines for the sought-after cards:

There is a guy in line holding an album in one hand and a 100-trading cards pack. LOL!

Panini album: Peruvian national team fans got up early and form long lines to get it.

By early April 2018, the firm announced the arrival of a new set within a few days. Panini representative Óscar Pizarro acknowledged that the huge demand for trading cards and albums of the Russia 2018 World Cup caused an unexpected scarcity in points of sale.

On a radio interview, Pizarro pointed out that they sold 140 tons of trading card packs within in ten days. In comparison, the FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014 game only sold 40 tons of trading card packs.

Pizarro also noted a demand for the cards since day one, when Panini was informed that distributors sold between 5,000 to 10,000 albums in just 27 minutes:

Nosotros habíamos calculado el primer lote, que fue el doble de lo que se vendió en toda la campaña anterior, para que dure dos semanas, pero duró horas. Tengo la data de que del 22 de marzo al 2 de abril de 2018 ya se habían colocado en el mercado 140 toneladas de sobres. En solo 10 días, hay una situación de escasez porque no había manera de calcular esto.

We estimated the first batch, which doubled the whole batch from the previous campaign, to last for two weeks, but it was sold out in just hours. I have information that from March 22 to April 2, 2018, 140 tons of card packages had been sold. In just ten days, there is a shortage, as there was no way of anticipating this.

By early April, Panini posted a statement on Facebook:

La gran demanda que ha generado la participación de Perú en el Mundial ha logrado un nuevo hito en la historia de ventas de álbumes mundialistas en el país, 36 años de espera han superado largamente la demanda generada y estamos orgullosos de ser parte de una hinchada tan comprometida con la selección.

The great demand generated by the participation of Peru in the World Cup has achieved a new milestone in the history of sales of albums in the country, [as] 36 years of waiting have far exceeded the demand generated and we are proud to be part of this group of fans so committed to the national team.

Fiercely proud Peruvian football fans took to Twitter to express their disappointments and opinions on the Panini album:

Óscar Pizarro, Panini representative in our country, mentioned the dates of arrival of the now scarce trading cards.
The Panini representative explained that the shortage of the album was due to the “unexpected high demand”
Panini: this is the replenishing schedule for the supply of trading cards for Peru.

Football fans from other countries shared the excitement of having the Peruvian national team as part of the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018:

For about 25 years, I've collected the Panini album, and it's the first time I paste a card of a Peruvian player. Congratulations to the Peruvian people, may you do well at the World Cup.

Others thought to use this momentum to promote reading:

What if it was mandatory to read a book before getting the Panini album? Maybe our Peru would start having better opportunities!

Others shared the joy of collecting all the cards to complete their album:

Panini album: the excitement about football translated into trading cards
Football fans invest time and money to fill out the Panini album. Companies organize card exchanging events for their employees. Today, there will be a meeting at the Boulevard of Culture at San Miguel
Panini album: the excitement about football translated into trading cards.

While the Panini album-collecting created a frenzy, ex-president Pedro Pablo Kuczinsky's (known as PPK) resignation from office on March 21 a day before the album was launched barely created a stir:

Foreign media: TOTAL CRISIS in Peru due to President's resignation!
In Peru:
-Hey, PPK resigned.
-Oh. And what time is the Peru national football team game on Friday?
-At 7:30
-Do you have the album?

Current situation in Peru:
– What do you think of PPK's resignation?
– I already have my Panini album.

And memes weren't spared:

World Cup Russia 2018 Panini album: memes after being launched in Peru | Photo 1 of 10.

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