How They’re Made: Trading Cards & Stickers

How They’re Made: Trading Cards & Stickers

Soccer trading cards and stickers have been a popular collectible for decades, offering fans around the world a tangible connection to their favourite players and clubs. Although trading cards and stickers may be easy to come across these days, the production of these items is anything but simple. In fact, crafting these highly coveted collectibles is an extremely tedious process that requires a high level of expertise in the industry. From the first concept to the final print, sports trading cards and stickers manufacturers work hard to make sure fans are satisfied with what they invest in. Let’s take a closer look at the astonishing process behind the creation of these cherished collectibles.


Concept & Design

The first step to the extensive process of making trading cards and stickers is known as the ‘conceptualization’ phase. This phase is crucial to the overall success of the finished product and sets the groundwork. Popular trading cards and stickers companies, like Topps and Panini, work closely with a team of designers, licensors, sports leagues, and teams to create innovative designs and figure out the look and feel of a new collection or item. Even though the designers are the ones bringing the artistic visions to life, it’s important that the final design accurately reflects the teams and players. Due to the high level of understanding that’s required in creating a concept that will excite fans, this phase also involves extensive research involving trending players, legendary moments, and other current sports statistics. Essentially, companies like Topps and Panini focus on the most important question for this stage; what their customers would want out of the new collection or product.


Artwork & Photography

After the concepts and designs are finalized and signed off on by the companies, licensors, and leagues, they move onto the second phase, which revolves around artwork and photography. The most talented artists, photographers, and graphic designers in the industry work together to create the stunning graphics we see on trading cards and stickers. Everything from the graphics on the actual cards or stickers themselves, to the packaging that they’re held in, this team does it all! It’s crucial for the photographers to get up-close and personal with the team and their players to capture high quality action or portrait images that will become the baseline for the final artwork.


Printing & Production

Arguably, the most important stage to manufacturing trading cards and stickers is when printing and production comes into play. This tedious step implements advanced printing technology like offset and digital printing to achieve the intricate little details found on cards, stickers, and packaging. The final goal is to have the correct color grading and high resolution in the designs transferred seamlessly onto high quality card stock paper. Also taken into consideration is what ink will be used to achieve the look they want and what finishes each card or sticker will have based on whether they’re limited editions or regulars. Finally, a huge part of the printing and production process focuses on making sure the cards and stickers are durable and less prone to damage than standard ones.   


Cutting and Packaging

After the sports trading cards and stickers have been printed correctly into long sheets, they move onto the fourth phase of the manufacturing process: cutting and packaging. This step is equally as important as printing because no matter how good the prints turn out, an uneven cut could result in a total reprint. Luckily, the manufacturers are equipped with the most advanced automated cutting machines that are built to achieve precision and uniformity every time. Once the sheets are finished going through the machine, the individual trading cards and stickers are then sorted and packaged into the correct sets or packs, ready to be sent out.  


Quality Control

Did you think cutting and packaging would be the final phase in the creation of trading cards and stickers? Think again! Quite possibly the most vital step in the process is surrounding quality control. These necessary measures are taken before worldwide distribution begins.  These quality checks verify that the cards and stickers being sent out meet the highest standards in terms of quality. This task is held with the utmost importance and every batch must go through a methodical inspection by the quality control team. They use their expertise to determine if there are any defective cards or stickers out of the bunch, so they can be discarded from the final product.  


So, there you have it! Now you have a better idea of how much work goes into the creation of your most loved collectibles. Of course, the manufacturing process is only part of the journey these cards and stickers take before finding their way to eager fans and collectors. You also have to consider the time and effort it takes to plan and execute the promotional aspects across social media, events, and partnerships. Each step ensures Topps and Panini are delivering a premium product that holds its value as a collector’s item, as well as a relic for fans to treasure.


Are you a die-hard collector looking to add to your collection, or a newbie to the game looking to start? Either way, be sure to check out for a wide range of collectible trading cards and stickers to choose from!


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