PROSTARS SELECT 500
Corinthian launched the ProStars Select 500 range in May 2004, the series had an all new logo designed, with the blister packs also being a new and exclusive design.
The 2 players chosen are both World class players and without doubt icons of Italian football, with Francesco Totti and Roberto Baggio selected. Corinthian released one figure in the UK and one in Japan, with Totti being the UK release, while Baggio was the Japan issue.
Italy’s Serie A is immensely popular both in the UK and in the Far East, Japan especially, so it was no surprise to see Corinthian choose 2 players from Italy’s top league as the first releases of this exciting new range, nor was it a shock to learn the Baggio would be released in Japan, given his God like status in that country.
The figures were not available for general sale, which means you could not simply order one direct from Corinthian, however how the two figures were distributed really set the tone for all future Select 500 releases.
The UK issue of Totti was made exclusively available to collector club members who spent in excess of £60.00 with Corinthian, with the promotion starting on the 1st August 2004. The promotion was not open to trade customers, which meant resellers and official stockists could not obtain the figure with their stock orders, Corinthian really wanted this to be a release for the collector.
Collectors scrambled to obtain this exciting new release of Francesco Totti in the AS Roma away kit from the 2003/04 season. Some collectors chose to ‘cash in’ on the figures popularity and listed them for auction on EBay, with them fetching high prices, especially from overseas collectors who seized the opportunity to obtain this elusive figure they other wise had no access too.
The first Select 500 to be released in Japan was chosen to be Roberto Baggio in the Bologna away kit from the 1997/98 season, a wise and popular choice, unless you resided outside Japan of course.
The Japanese choose to distribute the figures very differently to how they were in the UK; the way it worked was that the stockists applied peel able stickers to their stock of regular ProStars figures. Collectors acquired 8 stickers, applied them to a redemption card and handed them in at participating stockists. The stockists the picked out 100 winners at random from the cards handed in every 2 months, until all the stock had been exhausted.
This is how the Baggio’s were apparently distributed, it sounds a very good scheme in principal, however I am dubious to believe all were distributed this way. The Baggio figure appeared very seldom on EBay and when it did it sold for almost double that of the Totti, such was the limited availability and high demand.
I have been told by very reliable contacts in Japan that some stockists were directly selling the Baggio’s ‘under the counter’ as it were, with the going rate being around ¥20,000 which equated to about £150. Of course such a practice goes against how the figures were supposed to be distributed, however it must have been tempting for the stockists to sell these figures as opposed to giving them away free, especially given the large sums of money involved.
I have also been told stories by other collectors in Japan that stockists were giving the Baggio’s away free if a certain amount of money was spent on Corinthian figures in the store, again believed to be around the ¥20,000 mark.
My personal opinion on the Baggio’s distribution is that it did indeed start of as a free give away via the peel able redemption stickers promotion, however once the stockists saw the prices they were selling for on EBay, they chose to re evaluate how to distribute the figures, which was of course something they were legally entitled to do.
Both have appreciated over time, the Baggio remaining very much the more coveted and sought after, although the Totti can by no means described as easily available or accessible, it is still a very rare figure, as are all in the ProStars Select 500 series.
PRO960 - Francesco Totti - Roma - Away 2003/04
PRO961 - Roberto Baggio - Bologna - Away 1997/98