It’s been 7,300 days and counting since Pinnacle Brands left The Hobby. Or if you want to be a little more specific, twenty years. As a 30+ year collector who grew up on cheap packs of Donruss and Score, Pinnacle Brands was my first true, card love. Sure, over time Topps’ Chrome and the Finest line surpassed it but that was only because in 1998, Pinnacle Brands left my world abruptly. The belief by many is that they simply ran out of money and shut its doors, much like Fleer would less than a decade later. But the truth is that Pinnacle’s CEO, Jerry Meyer, the man responsible for the original, pack-inserted printing plate, simply chose to walk away.
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“Eventually, Pinnacle recovered. However, Meyer took a hard look at its industry and came to a difficult conclusion. Although investors were willing and eager to pump money into Pinnacle because of Meyer’s track record of reinventing companies, he told the finance people, “Times have changed. The market has shrunk. Technology has made us outdated. Don’t put more money in. I wouldn’t.” Pinnacle was liquidated.”
At the time of Pinnacle’s demise, despite some very public failures such as Mint (see below) and Pinnacle Inside (the damn can product), they were producing what I believe to be the most beautiful, high-end, pimped-out baseball cards collectors have ever seen. What if Jerry had decided to ride out the storm? Would we be in the predicament we are in now with just one licensed company and two knock-offs? We will never know. Pinnacle will go down as a wasted potential of a company much like, say, Jose Canseco, who many baseball experts predicted would one day hold the single-season home run record as well as the all-time one.
These days, Jerry Meyer is long gone and forgotten by most collectors. I managed to do some sleuthing and discovered he is still alive and well and involved in the restaurant business, specifically, BBQ joints and EatZyi’s Market and Bakery in Dallas, Texas. He may not look like it but the man in the picture below is a true, hobby legend who hand-signed every single printing plate that went into 1997 New Pinnacle. This guy is single-handedly responsible for the “one of one” craze and now he deals in European-style sandwiches. Talk about a downgrade.
But what if he was right? In 1998, computers and video game systems were becoming way more powerful than ever before. How could little pieces of cardboard ever look to compete? That is a question I ask now in 2018 when my $1,000 phone serves as a photo camera, video camera, computer, gaming system, radio, TV, encyclopedia, and so much more. If I had an endless amount of money, I’d be spending thousands a month in trading cards but the truth is, an Xbox One is way more valuable in the long run than a couple of boxes of Topps Finest. The same goes for smart phones. I hate to say this but the man who brought Pinnacle Brands to its peak (and killed it) was absolutely right. Baseball cards are now officially a niche product.
Damn it, Jerry Meyer was right.