Cricket Stickers | Cricket Web

Cricket Stickers | Cricket Web


Recently retired Middlesex and England captain Mike Brearley wrote the foreword for Panini’s World of Cricket sticker album in 1983, which he aimed at children, without realising a large number of adults would also collect the stickers. He mentions getting his mum, or even great aunt, to bowl at him, the only references to women in the album. ‘To my mind no game compares,’ he wrote. Aptly, he is featured below the County Championship and Ashes stickers. He won four Championships (1976, 1977 jointly with Kent, 1980 and 1982), plus the Ashes in 1977, holding onto them in 1978/79 and 1981.

In Panini 83, turning over from Brearley’s introduction we find Derbyshire player stickers: Wood, Anderson, Hill, Kirsten, Hampshire, Barnett, Miller, Taylor, Maher, Newman, Oldham, and Tunnicliffe. Each county has its badge, a team photo from 1982, and a list of honours. Each player gets a pen portrait, same as the 1930s Player’s cigarette cards. ‘Born Ossett, 26/12/1942. Right-hand bat, bowls right-arm medium. Capped 12 times by England during his 14 years with Lancashire, Barry Wood moved to Derbyshire in 1980, becoming captain in 1981 and taking them to the NatWest final. A gritty bat, he is also an economical bowler in one-day cricket. Highest score 198; best bowling 7-52.’

Now, surely this would include his one-day international appearances and white-ball best score and bowling. We might start with the coach rather than the captain. Not included is a Scandinavian who would be Derbyshire’s break-out star of 1983.

There are 268 cards including 28 foils in 1983 Panini cricket. For the generations, Panini is synonymous with schoolyard swaps and ‘shinies’ (silver foil cards). The albums became a phenomenon and are still going strong, with the 2014 World Cup football album its biggest seller. Greg Lansdowne’s book about the company, Stuck on You, was published by Pitch in 2015. There was even a 2017 film of the same name about the craze.

And now I’ve written Lost Cricket Stickers: The Search for 1983’s World of Cricket Sticker Album Heroes, tracking down a player per county plus a few more to tell the whole, representative story of the year, highlighting the profound changes in the game between then and now.

County by county I repeatedly flicked through the well-thumbed Panini album until reaching the back page, which is an advert for Gola Turf 83 shoes. ‘Howzat for Design!’ There’s a poorly drawn cartoon of some players and an umpire. The shoe looks cool. Minicards Ltd 20p. Stickers were 10p a packet of six. A complete album could cost as little as £25 now. Not many threw them away. Unopened packets, which are illustrated with the album cover, might be £5. Individual stickers are around £1 each, if you want to complete your album 40 years on. The 1938 Players album you can get for £10. These heirlooms are cherished. Poet Philip Larkin (1922-85) collected them: ’I searched the sand for Famous Cricketers’ is a line from 1969’s To the Sea.

You rip open the paper packet and don’t know what’s in there. Got, got, need. It’s big business. The 1983 schoolyard collectors are now mostly in their fifties and have disposable income. They might start collecting them all over again. They are tactile, nostalgic, generational, healthy, magical, mysterious and it gets adults and kids off their screens. At the very least, there’s an audience who want to read about their halcyon days.

The history of Panini began in a newsagent’s kiosk in Modena, Italy, an unexpected place to become the world capital epicentre for collecting cricket. In the 1950s and 1960s and early 70s you collected cards with bubble-gum in the packets and used glue to stick them into albums. Even Brooke Bond had cards to collect in their packets of tea. An album gives the stickers a life and an identity.

Before that, from the 1890s-1930s cigarette cards were what little boys scrounged off their Dads or picked up off the pavement when tossed away outside tobacconists. In 1938, millions of brightly coloured cards featuring Len Hutton, Don Bradman and Wally Hammond were collected before the war ended such fripperies.

A sports book publisher called Peter Dunk came into Panini UK in 1976 and launched Football 78, edited by colleague Peter Gregory. The stickers with their high-quality photos (no more tinkering with heads stuck onto foreign bodies as there used to be when decent pictures weren’t available) were pre-gummed and had peelable backs. Gluey fingers became obsolete when self-adhesion stuck.

The albums came to life in 1978. Peel and stick into the album with two packets free with Shoot or Tiger or Dad’s newspaper. The momentum from football led to branching out into cricket on the back of Ashes mania from 1981 and the World Cup in England of 1983.

Dunk remembers a golden age of stickers around the football World Cup of 1982 in Spain. There were lots of ideas. Hulk Hogan and the WWF (World Wrestling Federation) was more successful with the kids than England’s heavyweight, Ian Botham. Even the royals, on a high after Diana’s wedding in 1981, got an album.

Swapping football stickers in the playground developed business and social skills, 10 ordinaries for one shiny. Schools banned football stickers, after bullies tried to steal them from collectors, which was good for PR. WH Smith’s ran swap shops. But the schoolyard did not have enough cricket fans, so the critical mass for swapping never happened.

It’s a guilty pleasure to wallow in wistful memories of swapping in the school playground, shinies and recurring doubles. I started in 1978 with the football album (525 stickers), but didn’t finish, apart from Bristol City (Keith Fear, Tom Ritchie etc.). Too old by 1983, the pull of the cricket album made me collect again, sending off for the last 25 (including no more than five silver stickers – county badges, trophies and the national flags) at 3p each as advertised on the inside back cover. ‘We’re sure that all you would-be Ian Bothams and Mike Brearleys, when you’re not outside this summer at the wicket or in the slips, will be building up this fantastic collection and swopping (sic) with your mates.’ Who was a wannabe Mike Brearley?

My Dad would have helped with the cricket stickers, sensing an album to add to his collection. His love of cricket had been sparked by the 1938 Players cigarette cards. Mine was turned on by 1983 Panini. The bright watercolours of neatly side-parted and blazered Norman Yardley, Neil McCorkell and Eddie Paynter enthused the old man. The 45-year on version features photos of the mighty moustaches, comb overs and perms of 1983’s Wayne Larkins, Ray Illingworth and Kevin Saxelby (who told me, when more closely cropped in 2023, that in 1983 he would still usually be bowling into the wind for Nottinghamshire, even when Richard Hadlee was at the World Cup).

Go back further and you get Victorian cards by Baines Litho of Bradford with the likes of Tom Emmett pictured with a handlebar moustache, a crest and legend or inscription which is printed on a card. Baines’ earliest home-made coat of arms features a cricketer and a rugby player flanking a Bradford city escutcheon and a boar’s head heraldic device, replaced in the late 1880s by the lion & unicorn crest. One for real cartophiliacs. The cards were produced to be collected, creating a who’s who that leaves a legacy, that brings back childhood, that gives on-human comfort, shows loyalty to a cause and ability to accumulate useful things. Signed cards are touched with the spirit of the signer. They make a story and they’re fun.

Wills’ pink-hued watercolours of 1896 and 1901 (WG In a striped blazer and cap, Stoddart in a boater, Forster in a fedora for instance. A signed Walter Mead card was offered for £200 in 2011). Then there’s Capstan 1901 and 1907, with Australians such as Cotter and Armstrong among the 1907 cards. Wills’ 1908 features SF Barnes. Godfrey Philips (1926) uses photos rather than paintings with the cards looking more like postcards. Players (1926) and Wills (1928) use cartoons/caricatures. In the heyday of the late 1920s and the 1930s there’s the familiar (to me as they decorated our walls when I was a kid and do now after I inherited them) 1928 Wills and 1934 and 1938 Players; all vivid illustrations in the style of the era, a sort of optimistic rosy-cheeked realism. 

Paul Circosta, from Brisbane, Australia, collected any card with a cricket theme. David Frith’s Cricket’s Collectors  (Cricket Memorabilia Society 2012) profiles Circosta among other obsessives including necktie, postcard and Yorkshire-only hoarders. There’s an 1899 Goodwin & Co card from the Games and Sports series, a 1915 Susini hand tinted card of an unidentified Wilfred Rhodes, issued in Cuba, a Stollwerck German chocolate card with the umpire at leg slip, a German Sanella Margarine card from 1932 showing Jack Hobbs hooking and a Dutch Blue Band marge 1955 card featuring Leslie Compton and Bill Edrich at wicketkeeper and first slip. Circosta’s Australian and New Zealand Cricket Collector Cards 1965-1995 book features Australian Dairy Corporation 1983/84 Butter Swap cards and the Australian Scanlen’s four sticker series (given away with sweets/gum in collaboration with Panini from 1982/83-86/87), Sanatorium Weet Bix 1994/95 cards, as well as obscure Stimorol, Sunicrust and Vegemite collectors’ items. Collecting cards is an investment. Scanlen’s produced an AFL ‘Polly’ Farmer card that sold for $7,200 in 2014. In 2022, a 1952 Topps baseball Mickey Mantle card sold for $12.6 million.

Greg Lansdowne, the Essex-based expert on the subject, says: “It’s always been about the football stickers/cards over here, whereas cricket in Australia is as big as any other sport really. They’ve had some lovely collections over the years: Australia there has been at least one card/sticker collection (mainly cards) for decades. But over here we have been starved.”  In the UK, Panini only had one more go at cricket, with a glitzier sticker album in 1995, featuring more action shots, and less text.

However, the future of cards and (less so) stickers looks strong. There  were Topps IPL Cricket Attax sets published in India, starting in 2011. The Hundred has seen a revival of cards in the UK, with Topps producing Match Attax collections since 2021.

In terms of cricket card releases in the UK, Lansdowne  advised Australian company Tap ‘n’ Play about the most recent collection besides those for The Hundred, published in 2018.

It was the first collection to feature the England women’s cricket team. Comparing that to Mike Brearley’s Panini 1983’s references about persuading your great aunt to bowl to you, this perhaps reflects how the modest cricket card and sticker has a bigger influence, turning youngsters on to and mirroring the evolvement of the game.


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