I have to admit, I absolutely love the collector’s side of Twitter. When I created Wax Heaven in 2007, I also built a MySpace page to accompany it and to spread the word. When the entire Internet community started migrating to Facebook, I followed the trend and constructed a fan page for the blog. By 2009, every collector started telling me about Twitter but by that point I was burnt out. Blogging and collecting were both taking up too much of my time and I was in no rush to start yet another social media account for my site. Besides, by this point so many collectors and hobby insiders knew about my work that I didn’t need to promote it. I shunned Twitter.
When I returned to blogging 8 months ago, I made sure to hop on Twitter. This time, however, not to promote my writing but simply to meet other collectors and engage in a less nerdy form than say, a message board. For those who don’t know, Wax Heaven is not monetized in any way. Any ads you see on the site belong to WordPress and I don’t make a single penny for the blog. I do this as a hobby that follows, well, my other hobby. I love writing about cards more than actually collecting them and to say that I am passionate in my writings and other public opinions would be a huge understatement. Sometimes, being too passionate can rub people the wrong way.
Who cares what a dead brand did first?
— David Wright© (@LongFlyBall) July 12, 2018
This was a response on Twitter from someone I follow (he follows back). Since I broke the MLB/Topps exclusive last month, I have been overly focused on Topps’ shortcomings perhaps a little too much. I’ve said it before and I will say it as many times as I need to. I LOVE TOPPS COMPANY. To me, Chrome and Refractors are life and there are literally 11 years worth of stories on this site that say just as much. I also love Upper Deck, Fleer Trading Cards, Donruss, Pacific and Pinnacle Brands. Perhaps my agenda on competition against Topps went a little too far but that’s only because I was around during the days of competition and I absolutely loved every minute of it.
That brings us back to the Tweet above from a collector who didn’t like that I was bringing up a brand that’s been dead for 21 years to show that something that was being paraded around as “innovative” by Topps, really had already been done by Pinnacle long ago. My issue was that Topps has already been caught claiming to be the first at something in #TheHobby that Pinnacle did first. Seeing yet another glaring example of not giving credit where credit is due rubbed me the wrong way. That is because at the end of the day I consider myself to be an amateur Pinnacle Brands historian, collector, and a true fan of this company that was sadly only around for seven years.
Look, I don’t have my head in the sand. A lot of Pinnacle’s design elements have not aged well but in their defense, most of its competition at the time had the ability to produce cards for at least a decade or more after Pinnacle’s sad death in 1998. Not only that, several Pinnacle products failed miserably including Pinnacle Inside (the fucking cans), Pinnacle Mint (the fucking coins), and unfortunately several other bombs. BUT, when Pinnacle was on their game, no one could touch them. Their use of super high-end card stock felt like you were buying treasure in every pack. It almost didn’t matter if you pulled a Griffey Jr. or say, Phil Plantier.
Furthermore, Leaf and Donruss’ greatest years, in my opinion, came when they were owned by Pinnacle Brands. Hell, arguably the greatest and most valuable 90s insert of all-time, Crusade, is Pinnacle’s work. A Jose Canseco Red Crusade just sold for nearly $750 dollars and that’s without today’s crutch of a game-used relic and/or certified autograph. Pinnacle didn’t need either and avoided them altogether in baseball even though every other company had already jumped on the “HIT” train by 1998. Pinnacle’s focus was on design and one of a kind card stock and they succeeded. Also, despite years of Crusade knock-offs, no one has YET to properly recreate the technology.
Today, the Pinnacle Brands’ license belongs to the most successful card company around, Panini America. Panini even tried resurrecting the brand in 2013 by producing unlicensed cards without logos or team names and none of the technology or design magic that helped Pinnacle jump to the top of the hobby in their very last year producing cards. That’s right, despite several misses, Beckett Baseball named Pinnacle Brands the Top Card Company of 1998. So say what you will about Pinnacle but in a time when Beckett Media was still “The Bible of Collecting”, Pinnacle Brands was your favorite card company’s favorite card company.
Sorry, I went off on a tangent but at least now you know why Pinnacle Brands matters to me and thousands of other collectors (not just bloggers). They were truly ahead of their time and despite a deep history in our hobby (Sportflics, Score) the actual Pinnacle name was only around for 7 years but it didn’t take long for them to jump over Topps, Upper Deck and all the other companies of that era because of how great they actually were. So yes, even a dumb gimmick like RIP cards being associated as a Topps innovation will #TRIGGER me. The latest is a future Topps product which will feature cards designed by celebrities and athletes.
While this is somewhat exciting for some to me it brings me back to 1996 when Pinnacle Brands gave model and actress, Christie Brinkley, full creative control over a 16-card insert set in Pinnacle’s flagship brand. While some of these cards (and its creator) have not aged so gracefully, it was Pinnacle doing something 22 years ago that people are praising Topps for doing in 2018. Besides, I’d MUCH rather see talented graphic designers of today and yesterday’s card era put to use making our baseball cards rather than jocks and whoever appeared on Carpool Karaoke last week. I can’t be totally alone on this but who knows, I am sure Topps knows what they are doing.
The sad thing is while I love Topps Company and simply expect more from them, the company who owns Pinnacle’s licensing is a god damn mess and not someone I would ever expect to properly revive this legendary brand. With Topps’ MLB exclusive being extended to 2025, this means that I likely will not see a true Pinnacle Brands return till I am at least 45 years of age, if I am lucky. I last bought a new pack of Pinnacle Brands in 1997. This could all change if Upper Deck or Panini end up buying Topps, something I have been told by multiple sources is a very big possibility, but in the end I don’t expect much from Panini or this hobby regarding Pinnacle any time soon.
For the record, Pinnacle Brands is also known for releasing the first “one of one” (by a few months) to the world with pack-inserted printing plates released in their New Pinnacle brand debut in 1997. Along with their Dufex technology consistently improving since its debut and their Beckett award still being hot off the presses, it seemed very likely that this great company was going to be around for a long time when I took a collecting break as a 17-year old. At the time, money was tight and I had other, new priorities in my life such as keeping my car on the road and keeping whatever girlfriend I had in my life happy. Cards would always be there when I returned, right?
Unfortunately, that didn’t prove to be the case for me with Pinnacle.