The year was 1997 and Pinnacle Brands was on its last legs. This is still hard to fathom, even two decades later. All across the board, Pinnacle’s ’97 fleet of releases easily compares to any from the competition that year. Pinnacle was producing Delorean’s (Totally Certified) in a time when card companies were pushing out Yugos (’97 Topps). The trading card world and collectors just weren’t ready and in 1998, Pinnacle Brands dropped its final baseball product with little fanfare.
Pinnacle Brands had so much promise. Their big parallel, Dufex, was still in its infancy during their final year. Topps’ refractors changed the Hobby forever but even that technology needed to be tinkered with for years before it went on to rule baseball cards. Has anyone ever seen a Refractor from ’93 to ’96? Now look at them in 2018. Topps was able to learn with experience what works and what doesn’t. Can you imagine if Pinnacle had the same option? Dufex may have become something truly amazing.
How about this? An alternate universe where Donruss still loses their MLB license, as does Upper Deck and Topps goes bankrupt. That would leave only Fleer and Pinnacle Brands in baseball, producing out of this world, INSANE baseball cards for every type of collector. Fleer and Pinnacle were both producing absolutely awesome sets by the mid-90s. Maybe with those two still in the game, there wouldn’t be so much card burnout.
I am a player collector, which means 99% of the time I couldn’t care less about a product unless it has my player in it. However, if I spent thousands a year bustin’ wax I would easily get bored if all the licensed product came from only one brand. Competition breeds innovation. Can Panini ever TRULY compete against Topps Company producing unlicensed cards of players wearing unrecognizable colors?
You Either Die A Hero, Or Live Long Enough To See Yourself Become the Villain
Pinnacle Brands, the REAL Donruss, and Fleer Corporation all suffered a hero’s death. Companies who just couldn’t compete with the BIG TWO in baseball. Some came back temporarily (Upper Deck’s Fleer) and one has become a regular, Panini with Donruss but neither of the two were/are able to recreate the magic of 1997 and the few remaining years the originals had left.
So what we are left with is ONE company. Granted, this company is producing amazing cards and will live and die with their Refractor technology but at what cost? Did we chastise Donruss for over -saturating the market with parallels but ignore the fact that Topps is seemingly doing the same, exact thing? Did we crush Upper Deck for redemptions autographs but accept Topps’ program with a smile?
I’m not saying we should go back to 1990 when there were only 4-6 releases per year OR back to 1997, which I still consider the best year of collecting, because I’m OLD … I’m just saying there is room for competition. Topps is now the WWF/WWE and we need a WCW. We need an ECW. Anything that can provide a challenge for Big Brother, which is essentially what Topps has become.
This is exactly why I am genuinely excited to see images for a product like 2018 Donruss. Sure, this isn’t the real Donruss from our childhood but it’s an attempt to go after Topps’ market. Sooner or later, something is bound to stick to the wall. Maybe it’s a future product from Panini, maybe a surprise punch from Leaf. Who Knows? The point is to keep trying and to keep supporting the hobby.
On January 19th, after an over 2 year break from collecting, I will be attending a baseball card show in Tampa. I will of course be showing off the goods I pick up on this blog. My first step back was resurrecting Wax Heaven. Purchasing new cards is naturally the next chapter. Yes, I was out (again) but this hobby, which I discovered in 1990 somehow always finds a way to bring me back.