Familiar to football-obsessed schoolchildren and collectors around the world, The Panini Group was founded in 1961 by Giuseppe and Benito Panini in Modena, Italy, where the company still has its headquarters. The brothers had previously founded a newspaper stand in 1945, and, in 1954, The Panini Brothers Newspaper Distribution Agency. In 1988 the Maxwell Group bought Panini, but sold the company after a few highly unsuccessful years, this time to the Marvel Entertainment Group. In 1999, Panini was bought by Fineldo SpA for 102 billion lira (£34 million).
The first collection the Panini brothers produced was the 1961-2 Calciatori edition. Each packet contained two stickers, and around 3 million packets were sold. For each of the last few years, the company estimates that 1 billion sticker packets have been produced.
In 1970, Panini produced its first World Cup collection, Mexico '70, and in the following year self-adhesive stickers were introduced. The English league had to wait a further 7 years for its first Panini collection, Football '78.
Although Panini is synonymous with football sticker collections, as early as 1965 the company began to produce other collections, publishing "Aerei e Missili" (Aeroplanes and Missiles) and "Animali di tutto il mondo" (Animals of the World) in 1965.
Contrary to the belief of most young collectors trying desperately to trade duplicate stickers for rarities to complete their collections, in any one collection the company prints the same quantity of each sticker.
The following sticker collections are available in the UK in 2002:
The Panini archive includes the following selections:
- Pop Parade, 1975, Yugoslavia
- Happy Days, 1979, Italy
- Transformers, 1986-9, Various countries
- Barbie Rockstars, 1988, Various countries
- The Royal Family, 1988, 91, United Kingdom
- Baywatch, 1994, Portugal (and 1995, United Kingdom)
- Beverly Hills 90210, 1994, Various countries (but 1999, Russia)
- Baby Animals, 1997, United Kingdom
Panini is a world leader in the sticker market, and Europe's 4th biggest publisher for children, in part through the administration of the licenses for Marvel Comics, including the Spider-Man and X-Men comics.