From Italy 90 to Qatar 2022: the story of the man who has sold World Cup tokens for more than 30 years in the center of Ibagué

There is only one team in the entire history of football that has managed to score an Olympic goal in a World Cup. No one has been able to match him and there he finds himself alone with his merit. Do you know what it is? The Colombian National Team, in a feat that it carried out against the Soviet Union in the year 1962.

I say this because not only soccer teams break records in the World Cups, but also the fans who enjoy it, like the protagonist of this story.

His name is César Montoya and there are already nine soccer world cups and half a life the one that has dedicated to the sale of tokens in the center of Ibagué. For more than 30 years, he has filled in all the albums from Italia 90 to Qatar 2022 and has resold them to collectors: people who put their souls like him into the biggest party in football. This is his story.

I have sold tokens in this position since 1987, when an album for girls came out called ‘love is’. That was very well received and sold like bread and almost the same as a soccer World Cup”, said César as he closed his eyes and remembered.

Then he added: “already in the year 88, With the rise of cyclists like Lucho Herrera and Fabio Parra, an album called ‘ciclismo a fondo’ came out, where all the world teams and also the Colombian ones appeared. It had very good sales.”

But the explosiveness came from 1990. There was a growing World Cup fever because Colombia had not qualified for a championship since 1962.

And there was an elite team that made half the country scream around the agonizing last-minute goal against Germany, in a match that ended 1-1.

The Colombian National Team qualified for the World Cup in Italy with all that combo of Higuita, El Pibe, Leonel Álvarez, Freddy Rincón. So it gave me a lot to open up and it was excellent for me: that album sold incredibly well. That time I filled it all up, I kept it for a few years and sold it for good money to a collector”, recounted Montoya.

“For the United States 94 there was even more enthusiasm because Colombia had just scored five goals against Argentina in qualifying. It was the same story: there were incredible sales. But in the World Cup that has gone better for me was definitely the one in France 98 and I don’t know why. There was a lot of money at the time. That left me a good million in sales, ”he said.


From then on, however, Colombia disappeared from the World Cups and despite the cold water that many Colombians felt, César continued to report good sales with the records for Korea-Japan 2002, Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010.

After He lived a fleeting, but beautiful moment, with Brazil 2014 for the reappearance of Colombia in the World Cups. There was another elite team with stars like James Rodríguez or David Ospina. Sales were sky high. But they went down with Russia 2018.

And so we come to Qatar 2022, where César has also managed to break another record: selling the most expensive token of his life.

The most expensive card that I have sold of all the World Cups was ‘Messi Gold’, this year, a man offered me $350,000. It is a very rare file, imagine: I have uncovered six bales in this World Cup. Each bale has 12 displays. Each display contains 520 chips. And I only got one ‘Messi Gold’”, explained César.


If we do the math, César does not lie: he has opened 37,440 chips and has only gotten this expensive sheet once for which a citizen paid its price in gold. In fact, César pointed out that the filling of the entire previous album was worth what that token was worth.

More or less that was worth filling the previous albums: $350,000. I have stuffed all the albums since 90. I fill a few and sell them. There are people who personally ask me to fill it out for them. There are others who ask me to save all the cards for them to fill out card by card at home. They love it,” he maintained.

And he added: “The most expensive album that I have resold was one of Spain 82. It was about $800,000, Many years ago. It was quite a lot of money.”

The prices may seem high, but there is a whole market for collectors who are willing to pay anything to obtain these rarities.

“Once upon a time there was a man who offered me another album, a relic, very well preserved, for $5 million”, he recounted.

Caesar, moreover, He keeps records from past World Cups at home. And through his contacts, he has helped others get hold of previous unfinished albums when guilt-ridden on World Cup dates.

“This work has been my livelihood and my blessing, imagine: there have been nine World Cups, more than 30 years. With that I have supported my three children. It gives me great joy to know that The children and even the grandchildren of those who were my clients decades ago have gone to buy me“, said.

César is working in his small wooden stand on Calle 10 with Carrera Tercera, from 9:00 in the morning to 5:00 in the afternoon. There have been nine World Cups, as he says, quite a record. And he plans to sell chips forever, as long as life and God allow him to.

From Italy 90 to Qatar 2022: the story of the man who has sold World Cup tokens for more than 30 years in the center of Ibagué