Friday, April 22, 2016

Way Too Many Words About 1996 Pinnacle: Part Deux

[This post is a sequel to my original 1996 Pinnacle post, so read that one first. Or don't, you rebel you.]

You know that thing when there’s a checklist of cards that are all relatively easy to obtain except for one that is just damn near impossible? Then you actually land the impossible one and figure, “Shoot, might as well knock out the rest of these?” That’s what happened with me and the Griffeys of 1996 Pinnacle.

I’ve already done a pretty thorough write-up on the 1996 Pinnacle brand (which you can read here and which contains my personal favorite crazy disco Pinnacle insert possibly ever) and my strong feelings towards it. Yet, as I’ve been on a 90’s kick of late and found a tremendous deal on the white whale of the set, I just went ahead and dumped a few dozen bucks (why doesn’t anyone ever measure money in dozens? I enjoyed that just now) onto COMC and started picking off the remaining inserts.

Since I’ve already shown the regular versions of all the base parallels here, we are going to begin with the inserts today; but before we do, let’s talk about Pinnacle’s inserts for a sec. The inserts this year fell into one of three fantastically-90’s categories: clear acetate, Pinnacle-exclusive Dufex, and the rarely-see matte-black-meets-holofoil combos (my personal favorites). Of these the Dufex are by far the most common and the most singularly Pinnacle. Now, 20 years later, clear cards can be found in common dime boxes and even the matte black/holofoil combo has made it onto some Topps cards recently, but Dufex remains proprietary and exclusive to Pinnacle. Panini did bring it back for the Team Pinnacle insert in the apparently one-and-done 2013 Pinnacle reboot, but apart from that the cool printing method remains woefully underused.

Let’s start with a bang - here’s that white whale I promised you:

1996 Pinnacle Skylines #1

The unparalleled star of the ’96 Pinnacle show is the infamous Skylines insert. Despite its dubious popularity among ‘90’s collectors, this card remains shrouded in relative mystery, particularly when it comes to its scarcity and value; but I’m here to put all that to rest. Here’s everything I know.

Skylines was available only in magazine and jumbo packs of 1996 Pinnacle. They were seeded at 1:50 magazine packs and 1:29 jumbo. Usher (yes, Usher) has a complete set in high grades registered with PSA. The Griffey sells on eBay pretty regularly between $150-$250, far more than most inserts seeded at 1:50 packs. Those prices suggest an insertion ratio closer to 1:hundreds. So why is this card so hard for collectors to find?

Answer: because the packs they were in were hard to find. I remember Pinnacle hobby and retail boxes being fairly easy to come by, but I had no idea jumbo packs of this product even existed. And I only just learned what a magazine pack is. From of all places: “Magazine packs were available at large retailers like Walmart and had a punch hole top flap to the wrapper so they could be hung on store display hooks.” Oh, so they’re called magazine packs because they hang on hooks like magazines (??).

“Don't let the odds fool you - 
1996 Pinnacle Skylines Cards from this set were inserted 1:29 jumbo and 1:50 magazine packs, and both packs were hard to find.”

Add to that the fact that it’s from a large, 18-card checklist which makes pack-breaking for a specific player an expensive endeavor. I remember retail packs like Pinnacle going for around $3.00 a pop. Magazine packs (if you could find them) were probably a little cheaper having only seven cards compared with the 10-card regular packs. Let’s say they went for $2.00 a pack. Do the math and that’s $1800 to pull a complete set and guarantee a specific player. Them’s Usher prices.

Then add to that the fact that, like it or not (many don’t), Skylines is a significant design in the history of acetate. We were just getting into the swing of the wacky mix of materials and printing methods that defined late 90’s, um, “cardboard.” If someone were to make a list of famous acetate card sets, this would no doubt be on the short list right next to Cut Above and Destination Cooperstown from E-X.

Finally, one of the biggest factors contributing to the high price of this insert is the use of city skylines right in the design. I can assure you that any Griffey collectors who are from the Seattle area or who are also Mariners fans (and I would bet that 99% of Griffey collectors fall into one or both of those categories) would love a copy of this card, and so would every other fan of every other city represented. That combined with the scarcity of the thing has probably resulted in more than a few bidding wars for Skylines cards, driving the prices up. After all, putting the player’s city right across the card front is essentially the cardboard equivalent of Axl Rose screaming “What’s up, Seattle?????” into the mic just to get the crowd all worked up (before running off the stage ending the show early and because someone in the crowd flipped him off or something because Axl Rose).

I’ve seen a lot of negative reviews for this insert from a lot of different collectors, and I honestly don’t understand what the problem is. I think the design is really cool. Plenty of other cards have used city skylines in their designs, and few better than this. Sure it looks a bit like Junior is a giant Godzilla-esque creature here to devour the city, but what about that isn’t awesome? Is that just resentment towards the hefty price tag? Haters step off: Skylines is the bomb.

Not mine

Plus the Bonds includes a shot from the Full House intro.

The “Skylines” insert was used again in 2000 Skybox, but it’s not expensive. Don’t be surprised to find one in a dime box, you lucky devil.

1996 Pinnacle 1st Rate #1

Here’s one that falls under the Dufex category. Where some cards are simply Dufex for the sake of Dufex, here the swirl plays nice with the action shot of Junior deep in mid-swing. Big and bold and characteristically Pinnacle.

1996 Pinnacle Team Pinnacle #6 (w/ Reggie Sanders)

More Dufex for the familiar Team Pinnacle insert. I'm happy to report that Griffey made it onto every imaginary team Pinnacle cooked up in their short lifespan - from Team 2000 to Z-team. He also got the slightly cooler Dufex side of this double-sider. Reggie Sanders got stuck with the slightly less-intriguing gold foil side. Tough luck, Reg. At least you made the team.

1996 Pinnacle Essence of the Game #7

As acetate cards go there are cooler ones out there, but few are more beautifully-assembled than this. We have a rare, noticeably hatless photo against a field of bronze stars and a prominent holofoil banner. Great fonts, a cool nameplate, and a dreamlike feel make this a personal favorite, arguably more so than the Skylines insert.

1996 Pinnacle Starburst #155 Hardball Heroes

Here we get to see the parent-teacher conference in the dugout through radiating bands of shiny Dufex. It doesn’t fix completely the clunky angles of the gold foil below, but it helps.

1996 Pinnacle Starburst #185 .300 Series

Here is a rare case of obtaining the rarest version of a parallel before the not-so-rare one. Unlike the rarer counterpart, the lovely swirl here is not broken up by clunky text stamped all up in the Dufex. Feels good.

1996 Pinnacle #394 Checklist Foil

Not much to speak about here – just a mystery foil version of one of Pinnacle’s many superstar checklists. I’m still not 100% on where these foil versions of Series 2 cards come from.

Here’s a bonus ’96 Pinnacle card:

1996 Pinnacle All-Star Fan Fest #3

These were pulled from 2-card giveaway packs at the event of the same name. Pinnacle sponsored the Fan Fest for three years in the 90’s (Upper Deck sponsored a lot more), and of those this the my personal favorite probably because the design appears to borrow from 1995 Leaf’s 300 Club insert, and I love me some ’95 Leaf. While not particularly rare and not technically an insert from 1996 Pinnacle, they’re great-looking cards and a must for any Philadelphian Griffey fans out there.

So that’s all the inserts and the vast majority of the parallels from 1996 Pinnacle. No, I’m not 100% done just yet. I do still need:

1996 Pinnacle Starburst #41 Artist’s Proof
1996 Pinnacle Starburst #61 The Naturals Artist's Proof
1996 Pinnacle Starburst #155 Hardball Heroes Artist’s Proof

But these are all just simple parallels of an already parallel-esque insert with little difference to speak of than their slightly higher rarity. At any moment I could say screw it and grab them all for 15-20 bucks a pop, but I’m in no hurry. I’d rather set my need for instant gratification aside (for once) and wait out some good deals. I’ll tell you all about it when I do get a hold of them.


  1. Skylines make for a beautiful design concept - I wish something like this would pop up in the collecting landscape again.

  2. Damn, these are pretty. I don't remember Skylines at all from this year. I did always like Starburst as the parallel.

  3. Dude I am beyond jealous of this whole post lol. That skylines insert is plain beauty. Pinnacle had some amazing inserts.

    1. By the way, I am ebaying to look up Griffeys now because of you lol

  4. "So that’s all the inserts and the vast majority of the parallels from 1996 Pinnacle. No, I’m not 100% done just yet. I do still need:

    1996 Pinnacle Starburst #41 Artist’s Proof
    1996 Pinnacle Starburst #61 The Naturals Artist's Proof
    1996 Pinnacle Starburst #155 Hardball Heroes Artist’s Proof"

    there is a 1996 Fanfest Playing Card like the 1997 that was used in another House of Cards Event that year too

  5. I have the 2000 Skylines and I really hope some day to add the significantly better 1996 Skylines card to my collection.

  6. "Usher (yes, Usher) has a complete set in high grades...."

    I secretly like some of his music. Now he just moved up a few notches.

  7. Do you know what the insertion ration for the Essence of the Game cards was?

  8. I'm late to the program, but yeah, I like those Skyline inserts. If folks didn't find a team / player they liked in there, there were some good sets made by Donruss (Leaf?) Studio in the late 90s / mid 2000s that I'm just finding now with more teams and their hometowns featured.
    The first card in this post is just awesome.

  9. It's not actually THE Usher. It was my set. I've been an Usher longer than him anyways. However, that's the only thing I've got on him. LOL

  10. I think I might have an answer about that mysterious foil card.

    For 1996 Pinnacle Series Two Baseball, Pinnacle added a new pack type: The SuperPack (which you refer to in your article as a "magazine" pack). A standard 96 Pinnacle Hobby/retail wax pack had ten cards and had an MSRP of $2.49. Jumbos had 12 cards and were pre-priced at $2.99. Like the Jumbos, SuperPacks were pre-priced at $2.99, were primarily distributed to mass-market retail outlets, and had a hole in the top of the pack so that it could be hung from a standard retail pegboard display.

    Unlike the Jumbos, each SuperPack had only seven cards. You can now see why SuperPacks didn't sell all that well -- I mean, what would you rather have? Seven cards for $3 or ten for $2.50?

    The main selling point of the SuperPack was that all 200 Series Two base cards that emerged from them were printed on foilboard. Earlier in the year Topps had released their "Chrome" brand, and these cards can be seen as "Pinnacle Chrome."

    I never seen a Series Two Jumbo pack in the wild; however, I did see some SuperPacks at a K-Mart in Nebraska where I was living at the time. I put them back and bought the retail wax instead.