How much does it cost to complete a Panini album (and is it okay for adults to do so)?

The Rio Report

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Got, got, need, got, need, got.

With less than two weeks to go before the World Cup, a certain type of football fan is in a mad scramble to get their Panini sticker album completed before the big kick-off.

A mainstay for kids up down the country since the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, sticker collecting is enjoying somewhat of a renaissance with older generations (including a few who should know better in this office).

Plenty of adults are joyously buying pack after pack now that their 'pocket money' is a bit more substantial than when they were kids.

However, the flip side of getting your book closer to completion is the frustration of paying for packets containing nothing but swaps.

But how much do you actually have to spend to get the magical 640 stickers it takes to complete the current album?

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A packet of five stickers costs 50p, so if you were the luckiest person on earth and never picked up a swap you could potentially complete the album with just 128 packs (£64).

However, that's not statistically likely, so how many packets would you need to buy to complete the book?

Well, two mathematicians at the University of Geneva have worked it out using probability theory and they say, on average, you would have to buy 899 packets to get every sticker (That's £449.50 – we can sense some parents squirming at the thought).

Of course if you are just collecting by yourself it is not much fun, and the 'swaps' element of sticker collecting is a key ingredient in the enjoyment so most people would pay somewhere in between the two amounts to finish their collection.

As The Economist (no less) explains in a piece entitled "Stickernomics":

"It is inefficient to buy endless packs as an individual (not to mention bloody expensive for the parents). The answer is to create a market for collectors to swap their unwanted stickers. The playground is one version of this market, where a child who has a card prized by many suddenly understands the power of limited supply. Sticker fairs are another. As with any market, liquidity counts. The more people who can be attracted into the market with their duplicate cards, the better the chances of finding the sticker you want.

"Messrs Sardy and Velenik (The Swiss mathematicians) reckon that a group of 10 astute sticker-swappers would need a mere 1,435 packs between them to complete all 10 albums, if they take advantage of Panini’s practice of selling the final 50 missing stickers to order."

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All these facts and figures are presuming that there is an equal number of stickers per slot in the book – which Sardy and Velenik says is the case, after they acted as regulators during the 2010 World Cup, but try telling that to the sticker collectors in this office who can't find a Edin Dzeko sticker for love nor money but who have dozens of Cristiano Ronaldos to swap.

Is it okay for adults to collect Panini stickers? Or should they just grow up and leave it to kids. We want to hear your thoughts.

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