Corinthian’s Ballon D’Or series of ProStars is one of the most collectable and popular ranges ever released, with worldwide appeal. In total there were 15 figures released, with a 16th planned which never made it into production, however more on that later.
The phrase Ballon D’Or literally translates as ‘The Golden Ball’ hence why the trophy is exactly that, a Golden football. The trophy was conceived by Gabriel Hanot, who was the chief magazine writer for publication ‘France Football’ with the initial award being presented in 1956, to Stanley Matthews.
Initially the award was only open to players who were born in Europe and played for a European club, so legends like Maradona playing for Napoli were ineligible for the award. This rule was revoked in 1995 allowing any player playing for a European club to be eligible.
The inaugural Ballon D’Or release was that of Luis Figo, who won the prestigious award in 2000 while part of Real Madrid’s Galactico’s side.
The Luis Figo was initially showcased to collectors during the 2001 Corinthian Road shows, which created a real buzz amongst collectors, all eager to add such an interesting and unique figure to their collections. However, adding a Figo Ballon D’Or to your collection would not be as easy as initially perceived.
The figure was done under commission by New Wave in Japan, who owned the ‘Foot Circle’ chain of stores and due to the licensing issues it was not possible for Corinthian to sell the product in the UK upon its release. Corinthian found a way around this obstacle by giving the figure away FREE for membership sign up’s. The scheme was that for every friend you introduced to the membership club you would receive 1 of the 3 Japan exclusive figures (the other 2 figure being Hidetoshi Nakata in Roma home and away kit.) To receive the Figo you needed to sign up at GOLD level or above. Corinthian were only able to obtain 500 of the Figo Ballon D’Or ProStar in sachet format only, they were not able to get any blister packs. Once the membership scheme had ended, Corinthian made the remaining stocks of sachet Figo’s available for just £5.00 each.
The Figo was a huge success and a much sought after figure, so it was no shock to see Corinthian release further Ballon D’Or ProStars.
The 2002 Corinthian Convention, which took place at Villa Park on Saturday 25th May, was the destination for the next wave of Ballon D’Or ProStars. This time Corinthian released 3 figures, which were Roberto Baggio, Zinedine Zidane and Michael Owen.
Baggio won his Ballon D’Or in 1993 while playing for ‘the Old Lady’ Juventus, with Corinthian producing just 2,500 blisters for sale in the UK. Zidane won the trophy in 1998 whilst playing for Juventus, with Owen scooping the award in 2001 while playing for Liverpool. Zidane and Owen had just 2,190 blisters released for sale in the UK.
It was 1 year later, at the 2003 Corinthian Convention on the 31st May, before we would see another Ballon D’Or release. This time Corinthian released a solitary figure, that of Brazilian Ronaldo. Ronaldo won the award twice, first for his season at Inter Milan in 1997 and then later in 2002 while plying his trade at Spanish giants Real Madrid. Corinthian restricted UK blister production volumes to just 3,060, making the figure an instantaneous collector’s item.
15th March 2004 saw Corinthian release a quartet of Ballon D’Or ProStars, this time focusing on past legends. The 4 figures released were Jean Pierre Papin, Michel Platini, Franz Beckenbauer and Paolo Rossi.
Papin won the award in 1991 while playing for Olympique Marseille. Platini won the award 3 times in a row all while playing for Juventus. He picked up the award in 1983, 1984 and again in 1985, he was at the top of his game during the mid 1980’s! Beckenbauer won the award twice, first time in 1972 and then again in 1976, both whilst at Bayern Munich. Paolo Rossi won the award in 1982 whilst playing for Juventus.
Collectors would not have to wait long for another fix of Ballon D’Or ProStars, with Corinthian releasing another 6 figures on the 29th May 2004. This time having a mix of legends past and present, releasing Kevin Keegan, Johan Cruyff, Marco Van Basten, Rivaldo, Pavel Nedved and Ruud Gullit.
Keegan won the award 2 years running, 1978&1979 whilst playing for German side Hamburg. Cruyff won the award an incredible 3 times, initially in 1971 while at Ajax and then he won it 2 years straight during his time at Barcelona, in 1973&1974. Marco Van Basten won the award 3 times in his short career, all while playing for AC Milan, and with the years he won it being 1988, 1989 and 1992. Dutch maestro Ruud Gullit won his only Ballon D’Or in 1987 while playing for AC Milan. Brazilian legend Rivaldo won the award in 1999 and was playing for Catalan giants Barcelona at the time. Pavel Nedved was another player for Juventus to win the award, doing so in 2003.
Here are the worldwide blister pack production volumes for those 6 figures:
Cruyff - 5,815
Van Basten - 5,467
Gullit - 5,275
Nedved - 6,355
Making a total of 30,414 blister packs produced.
As mentioned at the top of this article, Corinthian had planned to release a 16th figure for the 2005 Convention, which was to be newly crowned European footballer of the year Andriy Shevchenko. Sadly this figure was never released and the range of Ballon D’Or ProStars ended.
It is believed the reason behind the sudden stop of such a popular range of figures was due to the fact that the Ballon D’Or itself required a license for it to be replicated, a license which Corinthian was not aware it needed. I dare say the cost of acquiring this license was not deemed cost effective, so the series was discontinued.
The Andriy Shevchenko master model was sold to a private collector and then later sold for a huge sum of money!
I do feel Corinthian would have actually released the vast majority of Ballon D’Or winners from the past, as legends like Di Stefano, Law, Weah, Charlton, Eusebio, Best, Muller, Stoichkov, Sammer would all have made excellent figures and surely been a commercial success.
The Ballon D’Or range remains as collectable and popular as it ever was, with the figures really holding their value. Below is a rough guide price for the figures in blister pack format:
Van Basten £10
As mentioned these are only guide prices, based on personal dealings and what other collectors have told me they paid for these figures in Blister pack format. I would value a full and complete set of 15 blister packs at around £200-250.
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Inter Milan - 1997
Real Madrid - 2000
1983,1984 & 1985
1972 & 1976
Marco Van Basten
Barcelona - 1973&74
Below is the unreleased Andriy Shevchenko Ballon D'Or Master Model!!!