Monday, October 19, 2020

1997 New Pinnacle: the Ol' Hidden Set Trick

Let’s get this out of the way now because we’re going to get to it eventually anyway, and I prefer to have everything out on the table.

1. Is this a Pinnacle flagship set? And 2. What do we call it?

Yes, it is a flagship set. It meets every definition of one despite the fact that a flagship set (or at least the first series of one) had already been released that same year. I did not, however, count it among the flagship sets for the Pinnacle Design Timeline as I prefer to err on the side of history which shows that you only have one flagship set in any given year. Despite that, the answer is yes - a reboot of a flagship set can only be a flagship set.

"Original" 1997 Pinnacle

As for what to call it, Pinnacle calls it “Pinnacle.” I already made the Pinnacle design timeline which I’m not budging on. I will continue to call this NEW Pinnacle until the day I die. Most online repositories of cardboard knowledge seem to be on the same trolley.

That said, kudos on this bad ass reboot, Pinnacle. I don’t know why it happened, but I am certainly happy it did. 

1997 New Pinnacle #1

The regular base cards are LIGHT YEARS BETTER than the scrapped flagship set. Just look at them. This nameplate remains one of my favorites in cardboard history. Then they gave us great photography as well as gold foil AND holofoil on every card? I mean, come on. These have more in common with Ultra or Stadium Club in all the best ways. 

And how about that photo? Looks to have been a tough leap back to first for the check throw. The Kid must have been leading hard not unlike that one scene in Little Big League wherein Griffey (playing himself) exchanges words with the great Timothy Busfield who says "You gotta do what you gotta do, Junior." And if you don't remember what happens next, I suggest you give this one a watch.

No, it's not as good as Rookie of the Year, but it is still better than Angels in the Outfield.

They carried that roaring 20’s nightclub font over to the back along with a nice, big action shot and a reasonable stat box. The blurb is essentially just repeating stats here, but no big complaints.

1997 New Pinnacle brought with it a new concept that continues to this day: printing plates. They called them Press Plates, but it’s the same thing.

I generally avoid printing plates, but if there were ever one to break this rule for it would be these as they were the first. There were eight plates per card (including inserts but not parallels), four colors for each side. As Griffey had nine cards in this set (including inserts), that gives Griffey a total of 72 plates. However one of those inserts is a dual-sided number he shares with Tony Gwynn, so if we subtract the Gwynn-side plates that gives us 68 Griffey plates.

The insertion ratio is 1:1250 for the plates of 288 cards with 8 plates per card giving us a total pack production of 2,880,000. I’m ashamed to admit in an effort to explain one of the mysteries of the following Pinnacle set (which also had plates), I originally made the mistake of interpreting the asterisks in the distribution table as meaning the 1:1250 was for all the plates of each given card rather than individual plates. I have since learned that is not the case and do not do that for the love of God because you will look like an idiot.

But using the correct plate figures one can determine the quantity produced of every insert and parallel from 1997 New Pinnacle. I invite you to whip out your calculator and see for yourself.

1997 New Pinnacle #1 Museum Collection

1997 was a banner year for parallels in general. How on Earth any company can release a banger like this year’s Museum Collection and fold the very next year is a travesty. This was the case with the scrapped Series 1 flagship, too, which gave us what may be the coolest parallel of the ‘90’s. These have the look of an ultra-scarce, #/100 super premium of the highest order; but at 1:9 they are not terribly hard to find.

1997 New Pinnacle #1 Artist's Proof Green

Where in the scrapped flagship they divvied up the Museum Collection AP’s into gold, silver, and bronze backgrounds, here they assigned the best 25 players the color green, the 50 mid-level guys blue, and the remaining 125 players red. All the colors fell at 1:39 or just short of on in every two boxes, making this the rarest Griffey of 1997 New Pinnacle by a wide margin.

And every color looks awesome.

1997 New Pinnacle Spellbound #1KG-6KG

This would not be the last year of Spellbound, but it would be the best. Where the following year’s set was that papery foilboard stuff, these were big and bold with plenty of foil, Dufex, and photos integrated right into the giant letters. And they really fill out a binder page nicely.

Check out the back of #4. Look familiar?

The bat isn't hitting a ball on the Spellbound card, but the spirit is there...

And this, I guess:

They’re a great option for people who want that multi-card, spell-stuff-out effect in their collection but don’t want to shell out hundreds for giant letter patches and autos on every card. I am one of those people. Hi.

While the Museum Collection and its AP are some serious stunners, this one remains my favorite Griffey of New Pinnacle. By the numbers these have only the 4th smallest production run of ’97 NP, but the recent market seems to treat the Griffey like a short print (which does not seem to be the case) with prices climbing well into the hundreds. None of the other players in the checklist go for even half that – not even the Jeter. Either the Griffey is harder to find for some unstated reason, or this is just another case of his cards being a hobby anomaly. Man there are a lot of those.

And here’s the best part: the information on the back is relevant to the theme of the card. And it’s actually interesting! This shouldn’t be such a big deal, but so many inserts forget what they’re about. This one nails it. 

I like to think we’d have seen more from this insert in later Pinnacle sets, but that would not be the case. Fleer would release a football insert in 2001 called “Keeping Pace,” but that’s as close as anyone would get.

1997 New Pinnacle Interleague Encounter #3 (w/ Tony Gwynn)

With a set like Keeping the Pace to be had, putting this one at the highest insertion ratio feels a bit like the insert version of burying the lede. The cards are cool (more so in person than in scans), but they don’t even approach the appeal of KTP. Sure everyone was excited about interleague play, but come on. 1:240 or about 1:13 boxes is just crazy talk for what is essentially a very standard-looking dual-sided card.

Granted they have the exact same foil-stamped mirror quality of Pinnacle Certified, and I can testify that they really are impressive in person with nothing between your eyes and the card surface. Maybe I'm just being picky.

That's all the Griffeys from New Pinnacle. Again it is amazing that Pinnacle had the gall to bust out a surprise second flagship set, and it's even more amazing what an improvement it was. Weird move, but it worked out. The cards hold up to this day.

There is only one more Pinnacle flagship set to cover before I've shown them all, so look out for that one next week. Thank for reading.


  1. Damn, great rundown. I've always liked this set...New or not. Agree with your comments on the look. I've never seen Spellbound...very, very cool all together like that. "Keeping the Pace" look awesome as well.

  2. I am the N, I and O away from completing the JUNIOR. More inserts for me to go after now on the AP, ILE and KTP.

  3. BTW, the ending of LBL was epic...when I saw it in the theatre I was the only one cheering after Jr stole the game away! Classic that never gets old!

  4. Thanks for breaking down the different colored backgrounds on those Pinnacle Artist Proofs. I thought that each player had a red, blue, and green background.

  5. There really are some nice looking cards in that set. Too bad I wasn't collecting then. And great analysis and odds breakdown, as usual. I appreciate that kind of info.