Episodes: First Forays in Economics

Got… got… need… got…

When I was home at Christmas, I found some old football stickers from the 1996/97 season- among them were Derby County’s Dean Sturridge and Coventry City reserve Andrew Ducros. This turned out to be the one and only season I delved into the football sticker world (I didn’t really understand football properly the year before, and for some reason they didn’t really go in for it at the big school).merlin-premier-league-97-album-cover

Most don’t realise it, but the football sticker business is an economy in of itself, albeit with its own special rules.

First off, a myth needs to be debunked. I recall a few/ many years ago, someone wrote into the CBBC show Short Change to complain about the fact that some players are more readily available than others. They went to the place where the stickers were made and it was shown that they were printed off in large sheets with every sticker on them, cut up, randomised, and put into the little packets. Thus, in 1996, there were as many Eric Cantonas about as there were Andrew Ducroses.

The reason they were rarer was that kids would take the stickers featuring their heroes and stick them on their folders and so on, so Alan Shearer, Eric Cantona and “shiny” stickers became more valuable than less prominent players from less fashionable clubs. It would be interesting to see how the rarity of different players was affected in different cities. One would imagine Robbie Fowler would be less popular in Manchester than in Liverpool.

That said, there was no rigid rule that said “Alan Shearer= David May + Paulo Futre”, so negotiation skills had to be learned particularly when dealing with hostile kids like Rory Kelso, and if you had nothing the other person needed (the infamous chant of “got, got, need” was when someone else presented their spares to you), they just weren’t going to trade with you. Swapping for chocolate (or money) was a faux pas.

25p a pop. A lot of money in those days!

25p a pop. A lot of money in those days!

The economy slows down because lots of people will put their “currency” away by actually putting the stickers in their albums (sort of like people hoarding their money into savings and not spending it). More currency is created by exporting goods (in this case, real cash, 25p a packet) and then more swapping can happen.

Sadly, as in any economy, illegal activity can take place. One boy had his stickers stolen from his jacket during a PE lesson, and this was reported to the Head, who said that one more incident would result in its being banned. I had a bunch of stickers stolen from my jacket pocket (including a Newcastle shiny) during Games, but I didn’t report it because I didn’t want to be the boy who got it banned. In any rate, it was a matter of time. A third year had loads stolen, and that was that. The economy was killed by crime and legislature.

I didn’t complete my album. I think I might have got about 2/3 of the way through (ending up with five Andrew Ducroses) before the ban hit, but the rumour was that Richard Wilson finished his- if you had less than 30 to go you could write to them and pay them a tidy sum for the last few. It would be worth a lot of money these days, I reckon.

In hindsight, it was a lot of fun, but like “real” economics, it shows all sides of human nature, good and bad.

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