Thursday, June 30, 2016

1997 Pinnacle X-Press: the X-Men of Summer

Hey, remember the ‘90’s? When everything was X-treme and X-citing and X-plosive and nearly every product or event figured out a way to feature a big, red, bleeding X that looked like it had been scratched out by a bobcat? XFL, X-games, most of the bands on the Surge Soundtrack (probably) – freaking everything had an X in it. Dudes in white college baseball caps driving pickup trucks with the requisite “No Fear” and Calvin-peeing-on-something-stickers would roam suburban neighborhoods blaring Jock Jams and subjugating their unfulfilled girlfriends, snacking on Gushers Xtreme Kiwi Xplosion and Mountain Dew, comforted by the fact that most brands fully approved their X-treme way of life. I guess what I’m getting at is that big, stupid X’s were everywhere, and it was embarrassing.

But somehow when Pinnacle did it, it wasn’t so bad.

While it is one of the many forgettable one-and-done sets of the late 90’s, 1997 Pinnacle X-Press actually did give us a handful of memorable cards. The base set is just okay, but overall X-Press is a testament to the effort that Pinnacle put into their inserts and parallels.

1997 Pinnacle X-Press #7

The bold, uncluttered base cards are reasonably attractive, sporting a pair of photos, plenty of team color, and just the right amount of gold foil. The back, however, is a lot more interesting.

Well, okay, so the Griffey is not all that interesting. Case in point: an action photo taken from an abandoned stadium. Where the hell is everybody? Is this really the best shot they could have used? And is it wrong to complain about a relatively large, full-color photo on a card back?

Pinnacle chose to forego quantitative career stats for a month-by-month performance breakdown, a unique and kind of ballsy way of doing things. It’s pretty costly in terms of space, so there is no room for a blurb. Altogether this back is a lot like the front: attractive enough, but far from all that and a bag of chips (‘90’s!).

1997 Pinnacle X-Press #7 Men of Summer

Men of Summer is a parallel done right. Where some companies slap a foil stamp on a card front and call it rare, Pinnacle completely changed the look of the card here. I especially like the addition of a shining gold sun in the right border. Sure, it’s just a bit of papery foil for the most part, but I believe this parallel rivals Pinnacle’s exclusive Dufex-printed Starburst insert parallel in terms of attractiveness.

There’s also an indicator of the parallel on the card back. You see that a lot now; not so much in 1997.

1997 Pinnacle X-Press #139 Peak Performer

Junior’s Peak Performers subset card from this set is actually pretty brilliant. This is some solid use of team color and the perfect quantity and placement of gold foil. My favorite parts are the big opening day banner in the photo and the way the Mariners logo appears to shoot diagonally across the card, barely missing the Kid’s knee.

1997 Pinnacle X-Press #139 Peak Performer Men of Summer

Here’s another perfectly-executed Men of Summer parallel. With the placement of the sun element, this card has Junior looking like the second coming (and in terms of guys named Ken Griffey, he literally was). It only made it onto these two cards, but Men of Summer is one of my favorite parallels of the ‘90’s.

1997 Pinnacle X-Press Far & Away #14

This card looks like it should be made of clear acetate, but it’s really more of a Chromium effect. I like the card back alright, but the front is a bit text-focused for my taste. And the film Far and Away starring Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise was released a full five years before this card debuted. That’s hardly topical.

There was a home plate-shaped hobby box you could buy that in addition to a bunch of cards contained one of 20 Metal Works cards ingots. And when I say ingot, I mean it. Say hello to my heaviest Griffey:

1997 Pinnacle X-Press Metal Works #1 Bronze

It really is my heaviest card, even more so than the giant 19” x 25” oversized Griffey I got from Upper Deck last year. I keep it in a super-thick top loader not to protect it, but to protect all the other cards around it. You literally could give someone a concussion with this thing.

These ingots also came in silver and gold versions in runs of 400 and 200, respectively, but the bronze ones are far more common. I guess you can call Metal Works cards “inserts,” but they weren’t really inserted in the strictest sense. They were distributed one per home plate box. How else could you do it? Otherwise these would have been the easiest pack-searches in history. Just buy the one that goes CLANG when you drop it on the floor.

1997 Pinnacle X-Press Melting Pot #6 Sample

No, this is not the real deal. It is a sample because the real card is very much a gray whale: gettable, but for just a little more than I’m willing to pay. They’re numbered out of 500, a tiny run for 1997, so they aren’t very cheap. I think the patriotic aspect adds to the demand a bit as well.

Design-wise there’s not a lot going on here. Junior’s portrait is superimposed over an American flag with all the white bits done up in silver foil. The nameplate is as simple as they come while the back is fun and colorful, featuring the flags of many nations. In the Disney World that is Pinnacle X-Press, this card is EPCOT. There’s also a very brief blurb about the fact that Junior is American, something most of us gleaned from the giant flag on the front (and from, you know, just knowing things).

The funny thing about these is that I believe there are far more than 500 of the sample card floating around. Is that not a little strange to you guys? There being more of a sample card than of the actual card being sampled? And on top of that they created samples for every player in the checklist? So there are in reality literally thousands more samples than actual Melting Pot cards?

Overall, this is a very strange, offbeat insert card with few similar cards to compare it with. Maybe that’s why I haven’t gotten around to landing one. It’s just too darn weird.

1997 Pinnacle X-press Swing for the Fences Game Card

Like "You Crash the Game" from Upper Deck’s Collector’s Choice brand, Pinnacle’s “Swing for the Fences” was based on real-life stats from that year, namely who would lead each league in home runs. Winners could exchange cards for an array of prizes, one of which was a 10-card pack of upgraded versions of the Swing for the Fences game cards. The intricacies of the contest are just a little outside the scope of this blog, but you can read about them here.

Now, if I am interpreting this right, if you have the Griffey card and you win the contest, you can redeem the Griffey for a pack of cards that more than likely does not contain the Griffey? Ouch. The upgraded versions are really stupid, too: the Swing for the Fences logo on the front is gold foil, and that’s it. No other differences. Even the back is identical, game rules and all.

Call it a protest, but the upgraded exchange Griffey remains absent from my collection to this day. I need one, and I want it, I guess, but I am not actively pursuing it. I hate to end this post on a negative note, but there it is.

Here are the Griffeys I still need from 1997 Pinnacle X-Press:

Melting Pot #6 #/500
Metal Works #6 Silver /400
Metal Works #6 Gold /200
Swing for the Fences #26 Upgraded Winner Redemption

There are better one-and-done sets from the late ‘90’s, but there are many far worse ones. Despite a handful of missteps, I’m happy to give Pinnacle a pass here for the prodigious parallels and ingenious ingots they gave us.

"Hey, there are actually some pretty good songs on here" - Me in 1996


  1. I remember these well, but never seen that Metal Works card. That looks insane.

    Tino was part of Swing for the Fences, which I appreciated.

  2. According to an interweb search, this is the track listing of that CD:

    01. Jimmy Eat World - Seventeen
    02. Little John - Shoelace
    03. I Mother Earth - Another Sunday
    04. Us3 - Come On Everybody (Get Down)
    05. Luscious Jackson - Electric
    06. Skeleton Key - Watch The Fat Man Swing
    07. Stir - Looking For
    08. My Head - Killer Hair
    09. Supernova - Vitamins
    10. Five For Fighting - Bella's Birthday Cake
    11. Silverjet - Kid
    12. The Hazies - Dancin' At Seven

    Two questions:
    a) Is that correct?
    b) And be truthful - favorite song on it?

  3. Man, love the metal works card. Don't have that. Men Of Summer don't have either lol. Just the base card.