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Messi sticker for 300 covers: schism in Argentina due to lack of World Cup figures

Messi sticker for 300 covers: schism in Argentina due to lack of World Cup figures

Argentina’s World Cup album is serious stuff. The shortage of figurines, as cards are called in the South American country, is so brutal the Government had to mediate between the kiosks and the Panini company to clear things up a bit. Argentines stand in line for hours to get coverage, and prices skyrocket on the black market. On the internet, Messi’s extra card is offered at 45,000 pesos, about 300 dollars, enough to buy 300 packages. Also complete teams at 8,000 pesos or 100 figures “without repetition” at 14,000. Vendors selling fake figurines abound on public transport. The newsstands are on fire. They deny that Panini has put them out of business in favor of non-traditional sales points such as supermarkets, gas stations or online sales applications. From the company they promise that the demand for figures exceeded any forecast and ask for time.

“I have never seen this,” says Juan Vargas, owner of a shop that sells comics and figurines on Lavalle and Florida, two of the most commercial streets in downtown Buenos Aires. Since August 24, when the Panini collection was launched, Vargas has not stopped. He remembers that the fever was so great that customers tried to break his marquee when he said he had no more covers. “The distributors distributed the boxes a week before the launch. I started with 2,000 packs and sold them in one day. But people become violent”, he says. The statistics prove Vargas right: compared to Russia 2018, during this campaign 42% more albums and 18% more figurines were sold for the same number of weeks. The spike in demand was unexpected, but makes sense. Argentines know that It will be Lionel Messi’s last World Cup and they even dream that the team is that It comes off winning the Copa América against Brazil in 2021 history again this year in Qatar.

The reasons for the shortage are not clear. On the one hand, the buying fever, which has destroyed all forecasts. On the other hand, conspiracy theories are on the rise: there is no paper because imports are closed, the figures are sold to Brazil or there is a Panini strategy to accelerate forced sales as the World Cup in Qatar approaches. The school fathers and mothers whatsapp groups have become a channel of vigilante spies. “They have figurines in Santa Fe and Coronel Díaz. I just went by and there’s a line”; “I bought the album and they have more. Does anyone want?” The booths juggle. They put up posters with the legend “We do not have figurines” tired of saying that they have not arrived. In other cases they are not so friendly. Claudio Páez has five stores and on a yellow cardboard he wrote by hand “Panini traitor”. “We sold the figurines to them all year, the oil company was not and neither was the supermarket. What they have done is disloyal”, he said.

The Government then summoned the parties to a meeting at the Secretary of Commerce. The scale of the event, with four senior officials in charge, deserved criticism in a country where other emergencies, such as inflation at 78.5% year on year, are more pressing. “For many it may be banal, but for the booth it is the plate of food,” said Ernesto Acuña, vice president of the chamber that groups them. So far, they have only received a promise of official mediation between Panini and the sellers. From the company they deny any kind of favor. And they ask for patience in the face of scarcity. “We do not like that these imbalances are armed. We want to deliver as much as possible,” said the vice president of Panini in Argentina, Nicolás Sallustro, a few days ago. And he declared that no one will be left without completing his album.

But the Argentinians have lost their minds about the World Cup figures. Julián Ramírez, a 22-year-old nursing student, stood in line last Wednesday from six in the morning in front of the Juan Vargas store. “It’s the only place I can find and they already gave us a number,” he says. Behind him was Luisa Gonzáles, a 64-year-old woman who tried to give blankets to her grandchildren. Vargas complains that two of the three distributors told him they were closing for the holidays. And he is suspicious of the proliferation of overpriced offers that float the internet. When figurines are missing, everything becomes more expensive.

In Parque Rivadavia, a traditional “again and again” exchange center, they ask up to 300 pesos (almost two dollars) per envelope, double its market value. The kiosks also suffer, because the distributors raise the wholesale price and the profit margin of the last link in the chain decreases. “They sold me the envelopes for 105 pesos, but they even asked me for 150, which is the retail value,” says Julio, a kiosk owner in Villa Urquiza, a middle-class neighborhood north of the capital.

On desktop, Juan Vargas has about 1,000 loose figures. It is the ones that remained after completing two of the albums that he will sell to collectors. “I opened two boxes of 1,000 envelopes to fill all the pages. I exchange the ones several times in the shop or sell them loose”, he says. Vargas confirms that the extras, not numbered and dedicated to big stars like Messi or Cristiano RonaldoThey are especially hard to come by. “In a box of 1,000 envelopes I got four and in another six,” he says. “I have already sold 25,000 covers, at a rate of five figures each, and the extra amount of Messi came out only once,” reveals Vargas, who follows the trajectory of the stickers in his social network groups. A lot of “extra Messi” can be found.

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