The Corinthian ProStars Ballon d'Or Series is quite possibly the most popular series amongst collectors, easy to see why when you take some of the all time legends and release them on such a unique and interesting sculpt.
The Ballon d'Or is an annual football award presented by French news magazine France Football that is one of the oldest and generally regarded as the most prestigious individual award for football players, with the first award being presented in 1956.
Each Corinthian figure was sculpted holding the Gold Ballon d'Or thophy, wearing the suit they wore when accepting the award and done on a special red backing card which was only used for the Ballon d'Or series of ProStars.
The first figure released was Luis Figo, with the blister being exclusive to the Japanese market, however Corinthian did agree a deal with their Japanese distributor 'New Wave Japan' to secure 500 in sachet format with card, making them available to UK collector's via the 'Collector Club Scheme' This scheme allowed any exisiting member who recommended a new member to join the club at Gold level, would receive this Figo Ballon d'Or figure in clear sachet with card. The blister pack of Figo is rare given how it was never available in the UK.
Collector's had to wait until the 2002 Corinthian Convetion to get their hands on the new set of Ballon d'Or figures, with 3 figures being released. Zinedine Zidane, Michael Owen and Roberto Baggio were all snapped up by collector's attending the convention. Corinthian did not disclose the worldwide production of these blisters, only stating that they made 2,190 of Owen & Zidane for the UK, and 2,500 Baggio for the UK, my guess is that given the popularity and demand in Japan for these players that the total production would have been at least double, perhaps treble for Baggio.
The 2003 Corinthian Convention saw the 5th Ballon d'Or figure released, which is my personal favourite in the series, Ronaldo, with Corinthian making a worldwide total of 6,667 blisters, 3,060 of which were made available to UK collectors and i am confident that every one who attended the convention picked up this figure, such was it's popularity.
15th March 2004 saw 4 more figures released in the ProStars Ballon d'Or Series, Jean-Pierre Papin, Franz Beckenbauer, Michel Platini and Paolo Rossi all joined the range. Production wise Corinthian made 3,461 Papin, 4,193 Platini, 3,833 Beckenbauer and Rossi had the fewest with 3,113.
The final 6 in the series were all released at the 2004 Corinthian Convention, taking place at Villa Park on the 29th of May 2004. The 6 new ProStars Ballon d'Or releases were Rivaldo, Kevin Keegan, Ruud Gullit, Marco Van Basten, Pavel Nedved and Johan Cruyff. Cech international Pavel Nedved has the most releases, a total of 6,403, while the Dutch maestro Cruyff had the second most blisters made, a total of 5,857, followed by Marco Van Basten with 5,509 and fellow Dutchman Ruud Gullit next with 5,305. Rivaldo had 4,405 made and the player with the fewest was Kevin Keegan with 3,163.
A spectacular range and one i feel Corinthian had plans on continuing and possibly looking to release every player who ever won the Ballon d'Or, had there not been issues and complications surrounding the image rights for the Ballon d'Or trohpy.
Corinthian were planning to release another in the series before the range had to be cancelled, which was Andriy Shevchenko, with the figure scheduled to be released at the 2005 Convention, it was even assigned a collector number which was set to be PRO1178, only the unreleased master model exisits!
The figures were released as single blister packs and came with collector card.
PRO457 - Luis Figo - Real Madrid & Portugal - Suit - Winner 2000
PRO598 - Roberto Baggio - Juventus & Italy - Suit - Winner 1993
PRO599 - Zinedine Zidane - Juventus & France - Suit - Winner 1998
PRO600 - Michael Owen - Liverpool & England - Suit - Winner 2001
PRO817 - Ronaldo - Real Madrid & Brazil - Suit - Winner 2003
PRO952 - Jean-Pierre Papin - Olympic Marseille & France - Suit - Winner 1991
PRO953 - Michel Platini - Juventus & France - Suit - Winner 1983, 1984 & 1985
PRO954 - Franz Beckenbauer - Bayern Munich & West Germany - Suit - Winner 1972 & 1976
PRO955 - Paolo Rossi - Juventus & Italy - Suit - Winner 1982
PRO962 - Rivaldo - Barcelona & Brazil - Suit - Winner 1999
PRO963 - Kevin Keegan - Hamburg & England - Suit - Winner 1978 & 1979
PRO986 - Johan Cruyff - Ajax, Barcelona & Holland - Suit - Winner 1971, 1973 & 1974
PRO987 - Marco Van Basten - AC Milan & Holland - Suit - Winner 1988, 1989 & 1992
PRO988 - Ruud Gullit - AC Milan & Holland - Suit - Winner 1987
PRO989 - Pavel Nedved - Juventus & Czech Republic - Suit - Winner 2003