In 2011 we celebrated the 150th anniversary of  Italian unity, but or those of us who were Italian kids at some point over the last half-century, there was another reason to celebrate as well.  It marked the 50th anniversary of an object that offers a vivid reminder of childhood to three generations of Italians, from grandparents to grandchildren: the Panini Figurines. Everyone remembers the time they spent with their friends exchanging those little stickers and trading cards. Panini brought us together in a moment of alliance and competition.  Each child wanted to be the first in the gang to finish the album.  That moment when you stuck each image onto the paper is often unforgettable.

Calciatori Panini package

One of the first Panini packages

b&w 60s pic of kids playing in the street with figurine panini

Kids playing with Panini Figurines

50 years ago the Panini figurines started to be sold at newspaper kiosks and that’s where they still can be found today.  The series runs from the most famous collection Calciatori Panini which is dedicated to Italian soccer players to a collection of Disney animated feature films.

The Panini brothers started this business in 1961.  They bought a lot of old stickers and started packaging them in pairs.  Since then the company has been bought and resold by both foreign and Italian owners, but today its headquarters is still in Modena. Since the company was born it has sold about 25 billion Panini figurines.

To celebrate their 50th anniversary Panini has opened an exhibition in Rome that offers not only a look at their past albums, but a more intimate perspective on the ideas and values that shaped the company as well as the emotions they stirred in so many Italian children who hoped that the next pack they opened would contain the last figurine needed to complete the album.  I bet that when they started they didn’t realize what they were about to create.  In fact, I doubt they could have imagined how something so small could become a culturally important trend that would define the childhoods of an entire country.


first panini's figurine with Inter's captain at that time

The first Panini figurine in 1961


Figurine Panini Logo


newspaper kiosk in Modena

The Panini brothers at a newspaper kiosk where they were selling their figurines.

76-77 Album

Calciatori Panini 1976-77


89-90 album

Calciatori Panini 1989-90