Monday, October 26, 2020

With a Bang: 1998 Pinnacle

As great as Pinnacle was things did get messy towards the end there. In 1997 they gave us a decent enough flagship product which they scrapped halfway through, never releasing series 2 and giving us instead a rebooted single-series base set. Then they followed that up in 1998 with yet another half-finished flagship product, again never getting around to releasing the second series. Pinnacle brands filed for bankruptcy in July of that year.

The worst part here is that all this went down just when Pinnacle’s offerings were at their coolest, making this the most ironically-named brand of all time.

Unless that was all part of the plan – to become the mack daddy of card companies and, upon achieving that goal, disappear forever. Maybe the timing was perfect. Maybe they had nowhere to go but down. They certainly left us wanting more.

In any case the cards they gave us were incredible especially in those last few years. If this is starting to sound like a love letter to Pinnacle, well so what if it is? You ‘90’s guys know I’m right. Cardboard was never the same after Pinnacle went away. Ultra was in the ballpark, but nobody did what Pinnacle could.

On that note let’s dive into Pinnacle’s swan song, the 1998 flagship set.


The cards were simple but attractive in the same way as Stadium Club. You would think Pinnacle + holofoil name plates + color bars might add up to a gaudy, overbearing base design, but that was not the case. The photography was left to do the talking while the card itself still looked like a Pinnacle card. Plus it was less ugly this year, so we're off to a good start.

Full, Home, & Away Stats

They did something entirely new and unique this year with the stats, releasing three versions of each base card: one with home stats, one with away, and a third with full stats. This aspect wasn’t needlessly complicated by tiered parallels which would have otherwise multiplied player checklists a few times over. It was just different enough to be interesting without also being too daunting for us player collectors (although set builders probably took issue with it).

Just as it happened in the previous Pinnacle flagship set, Junior was to appear in series 2 which never got released, so his subset cards are the only base Griffeys to be had.

1998 Pinnacle #187 Field of Vision

His first base card comes in the Field of Vision subset which, despite the pretty title, is about neither fielding nor vision. The back is just a short blurb about the subject player, a few key stats, and that’s it. The design is tidy and attractive with some nice photography, but nothing really sticks out about this one apart from the holofoil nameplate as found on every Pinnacle base card this year.

I hope you love this design because you’re going to see it five different ways. Oh, Pinnacle.

1998 Pinnacle Museum Collection #PP90 Field of Vision

This would normally be where we look at parallels, but Pinnacle did something similar to what they did with Starburst in 1996 and designated it an insert despite it having all the characteristics of a parallel. Junior's card is a bit lacking in photo background on this one, so the Dufex is just waves there. That will not be the case for his other base card where the Dufex really gets to shine.

1998 Pinnacle Museum Collection #PP90 Field of
Vision Artist’s Proof

And it wouldn’t be a Score/Pinnacle set without some Artist’s Proofs. Personally I’ve found previous  Pinnacle AP’s to be a little disappointing considering their rarity. In ’94 and ’95 they were just little foil stamps, then they upgraded to “Artist’s Proof” stamped into the Dufex which was slightly better albeit underwhelming. In 1997 something finally clicked and we started seeing the gleaming AP’s we always deserved. They did away with any semblance of a background photo in the process, but who needs it with that golden Dufex sunset?

Once again, I can’t believe they finally got this right only to go out of business the same year. Have you ever seen Brewster’s Millions? You know when he keeps getting the interior designer to redo his office into a room he “could die in?” She tries and tries the whole movie, and then right at the end when he’s all out of money, Richard Pryor looks upon her final design and says “I could die in this room.” She is so relieved to have finally satisfied him, but then immediately calls out, “Alright, boys,” and the repo men all come in to take everything away. That’s my way-too-complicated analogy for 1998 Pinnacle Artist’s Proofs.

The backs have a quirk in that they have the same card numbering as the Museum Collection cards with that PP prefix, but they are missing the Museum Collection indicator despite this being a Museum Collection parallel. This is a good way to tell them apart from just the backs, I guess, but who is doing that?

Power Pack Jumbos #6 Field of Vision

These were distributed one per “Power Pack” which is similar in nature to a blaster. It’s just a slightly bigger version of the regular card. There are samples of these jumbos to be had, but I’ve never seen the Griffey and a priority they are not. Kudos to them for keeping the holofoil here. These probably cost a lot to print which maybe was part of the problem at Pinnacle.

1998 Pinnacle Uncut Field of Vision

Same here. I can only assume Dufex stock wasn’t cheap, and yet they were selling these 13" by 18" monster sheets of the stuff retail for $9.99 apiece. If you price Dufex cards by the square inch, that is practically giving them away. You could print two dozen regular-sized Dufex cards with all this stock. What a wacky idea this was.


Here it is with my wallet card and a four-year-old human for size reference. It is still not my biggest Griffey card. Also I’ve seen a sample of this one with Frank Thomas, but never a Griffey.

All that said, you should get one of these for your favorite player. They are very satisfying.

1998 Pinnacle #198 Goin' Jake


Maybe I’m less baseball-literate than I let on, but I had never heard this “going jake” expression before this set. And I watched Baseball Tonight for many years. I take it this means to hit a home run not unlike "goin' yard," but does it? Who is Jake? Why are we…goin’…him? Maybe the Wikipedia article on unofficial baseball terminology has an answer:

“Jake: Half-hearted or lazy effort by a player, i.e. "He jaked that play."

O….kay.

Well, awesome card, anyhow. The stadium background is gorgeous, and I am crazy about big ol’ Derby Griffey positively dominating every inch of this thing. Mighty is his jake…I think is how that works.

I'm also beyond happy that Junior's left thigh is covering up where he was standing in the stadium photo from the All-Star Game. Were that not the case, every Goin' Jake card would be a Griffey cameo. Dodged a bullet there.

1998 Pinnacle Museum Collection #PP96 Goin' Jake

Wow - the background kills here. Where the Field of Vision cards got a wave pattern in the Dufex, Goin’ Jake got a starburst pattern with an effect that looks like when you take a photo through a very fine mesh net. It’s all very busy, but a stunner to be sure.

By the way, why did they go with this "PP" prefix in the first place? That sounds like it should be something like Pinnacle Proof or Printer's Proof. And why is there a space in the card number on this one, but not on the Field of Vision card? Just more quirks, I guess.

1998 Pinnacle Museum Collection #PP96 Goin' Jake
Artist's Proof


Oh, yeah. These AP’s are still the bee’s knees, baby. They kept the big gold circle design, but I’m not complaining.

Power Pack Jumbos #12 Goin’ Jake

And, again, super big.

That doesn’t quite do it for the base set, though. Check this baby out:

1998 Pinnacle #198 Checklist

Doesn’t matter how you slice it: that’s a Griffey card, and you need it. This was the heyday of my MLB fandom, so I extra-love this thing. Peep my derby bros!

I also got this because I needed a closer looks at it to be certain:


Junior is standing on this field in the 1997 MLB All-Star Game, but he is on the third base line too close to home plate to be visible here in the gaps between NL players. Had he not been a starter we might have gotten a very blurry peek at him way off in the background here, but after multiple viewings of this game on YouTube I can confirm that he is definitely out of the frame. Oh, well.

There were also printing plates available, all 1-of-1’s or course, with four colors available for both the front and back designs of each card that got one. No, I do not have any of these, but fun fact: we can use them to discover how many of each card exist.

"Press Plates" as Pinnacle called them were produced for the full base checklist plus three of the inserts (Epix, Hit it Here, and Spellbound) for a total of 284 cards. At eight plates per card with an insertion ratio of 1:1250, you had to bust over 2000 boxes to get one. With these figures we can determine that 2,840,000 packs were made, thus allowing us to figure out many of each card exist based on their insertion ratios.

For example, this puts the regular Museum Collection cards at 3,155 produced per player and the Museum Collections Artist’s Proofs at 728, more than double that of the previous year. We will also be computing the total number of every other insert here as we go.

Oh, and there are 112 individual Griffey printing plates in 1998 Pinnacle. Seriously, 112.

On to the inserts:

1998 Pinnacle Epix #E1 Game Orangle, Purple, & Emerald

While I’ve already done my Epix post, these are the three Griffeys that were packed out in 1998 Pinnacle, so they are, in the strictest sense, 1998 Pinnacle flagship Griffeys. Using the seeding of the plates, we can now figure out that there are 5,635 Pinnacle flagship-released Epix cards of each player. That’s 3,945 Orange, 1,127 Purple, and 563 Emerald. This makes the Epix Game Emerald, not the Museum Collection AP, the scarcest Griffey of 1998 Pinnacle.

Of course it’s also possible they held back some of the Epix cards for the never-released series 2, so it’s possible there are even fewer. Maybe even half. I’d sure love to know.

Hey, here's 14 scans in a row:

1998 Pinnacle Spellbound #26 G


1998 Pinnacle Spellbound #27 R


1998 Pinnacle Spellbound #28 I


1998 Pinnacle Spellbound #29 F


1998 Pinnacle Spellbound #30 F


1998 Pinnacle Spellbound #31 E


1998 Pinnacle Spellbound #32 Y

I prefer the previous year’s Spellbound insert (which spelled “J-U-N-I-O-R”) as it was all about those big, bold letters. These are not quite as bold, splitting focus with a superimposed action photo. As a result they don’t look quite as striking when assembled. It is still pretty satisfying, however, to have them all together on one binder page. I say go for it.

1998 Pinnacle Spellbound Griffey Complete (I flip-flopped the F's, but would you have noticed
had I not said anything?)

Plus it’s not that hard - at 1:17, the Press Plate figures put this insert at a reasonable per-card print run of 3,341. Shoot, build a few sets and give them away as stocking stuffers.

1998 Pinnacle Hit it Here #2

This was a high-concept contest that would award $1,000,000 to the owner of the card with the correct serial number (as chosen by a drawing) on the card of the players who hit for the cycle on opening day. The odds of a player hitting for the cycle on any given day are approximately 0.00590%. Then on top of that you had to have the right serial number out of THOUSANDS. Yeah, the odds were bad, hence the name of the contest (nobody ever hits it “here.”).

Don't count on it

Oh, and FYI: Nobody hit for the cycle on opening day that year, there was no drawing, and nobody won. Go figure.

Now I hate to say this, but our printing plate figures fall apart when we get to this set. At 1:19, the per-card figures would put these at just a little shy of 15,000 cards per player, but obviously there are plenty of cards with serial numbers higher than that. They appear to be numbered out of something close to 20,000, but for there to be 20,000 cards per player we would have to have a total pack production of 3.8 million which is almost a full million more than the plate figures suggest.

I wrestled with this problem for a long time, going so far even as to redo all the math as though the plate seeding had been listed per card (as opposed to per plate), putting the serial-numbering of the Hit it Here cards in a single numbered run across all ten players. This would have given an explanation for the production problem and even show a total print run of 18,684 total Hit it Here cards (1,868 per player) and thus a significantly lower chance of winning this contest. The ramifications of this also extended to the production runs of 1997 New Pinnacle (which also had plates). But it was all based on a total misinterpretation of the numbers.

Finding two sequentially-numbered cards of the same
player also kind of disproved that theory.

BBCP notes an estimate of 20,000 Hit it Here cards, but I’ve spent plenty of time perusing card backs (this is my life now apparently), and the highest serial-number I’ve ever come across is 17,833. I’ve looked through hundreds of cards. General probability says I should have come across at least one higher than that. I’ve never found a card in the 18,000’s or the 19,000’s. If you have one, I'd love to see it.

This is the highest number I've found.

All I can confirm is that there are at least 17,833 of each card. The problem with the numbering not matching the production figures remains unsolved.

Regardless the odds of winning this particular contest were insanely low - something like 0.0000003% - so there was little value in playing outside of getting to keep the cards themselves. They ran that contest just to put that sticker on the box, didn’t they?

1998 Pinnacle Hit it Here #2 Sample

And of course there was a sample.

Pinnacle wouldn’t be the quintessential doomed mess of a ‘90’s brand it was without a few unsolved mysteries like that, and yet here’s yet another for you: there is a gold version of these Hit it Here cards. I’ve never seen one, but allegedly at least one Griffey has been confirmed to exist. It doesn’t appear to have been officially released, so more than likely that Griffey someone saw was backdoored after the bankruptcy. For reasons of scarcity and general peace of mind, I am not counting it as a need to finish off the Griffeys of 1998 Pinnacle.

But do I need it? Yes, I do.

Speaking of cards I need, here are the ones I would be mildly interested in adding to the collection:

Power Pack Jumbos #6 Field of Vision Sample
Power Pack Jumbos #12 Goin’ Jake Sample
Hit it Here #2 Gold
Printing Plate 1/1’s

That’s two potentially non-existent samples, an alleged backdoor beauty, and a sizable stack of 1-of-1’s. I don’t consider any of these cards part of the Griffey master set for 1998 Pinnacle, so this one is finished. And yet the stupid caveman part of my brain will not rest until all 112 Griffey Press Plates are resting safely in my cave.

So Pinnacle wasn't perfect, but you still talk about it, right? It's like the baseball card version of that hot-but-crazy girl you dated in college - a total trainwreck and just way too fun to age gracefully, but you came out of it with some crazy stories to tell and a few memories for the ol' spank bank. So what if it wasn't meant to last? Nothing great is.

That said, I'm ready for another stab at a reboot. C'mon, Panini. You've got the chops now. Let's give this one another shot. I'm in for a box when the time comes...

6 comments:

  1. Goin' Jake was just a play on Goin' Yard, except that the Jake in this case was the then-new Jacobs Field (host of the ASG, aka The Jake.) Or maybe it was some catchphrase on ESPN in the '90s that I also totally missed out on.

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  2. Goin' Jake was definitely a SportsCenter catchphrase.

    Goin' Jake are some of my favorite Pinnacle cards. Tino won that HR Derby, so I couldn't get enough of cards that featured that. In fact, my first TTM success from him was on a Goin' Jake card.

    Sadly, I don't have the checklist card. I need to find a copy.

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  3. I've always liked this design, and I'm sad Pinnacle went kaput before we could see another series of it. Somehow never knew about the Full/Home/Away stat variations on these though - now I'm gonna have to go back through my '98 Pinnacles and see which one I have of each card.

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  4. I never knew about the Home/Away back variations. Found a few of them in my duplicates box. Thanks for the tip!

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  5. LOL @ "a few memories for the ol' spank bank" - Another great posting. Keep 'em coming please!

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  6. I've always been a sucker for the dufex cards. Those are among my favorites in my Griffey collection. :)

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