Collector Hits the Pinnacle Mother Lode

I’m not just a collector. Baseball cards have been a part of my life for well, most of my life. I’ve obsessed over Topps, Upper Deck, and the like for 30 of the 39 years that I’ve been on this planet. Before that, Transformers had most of my attention but that didn’t last long. For me, baseball cards were simply by my side through almost every aspect of life. Just recently, while going through a break-up, it was #TheHobby Twitter that helped me with moments of boredom and often put a smile on my face when I was feeling blue.

I even dream about baseball cards. I have one particular reoccurring dream in which I enter my mid-90s, local card shop in Sunrise, Florida with stacks of money and start buying everything on the shelf. Other times, it is the middle of the night and I am breaking in and ransacking through wax boxes. The funny thing is that I’ve been in card shops in parts of several different decades but it’s always the mid to late 90s that stick in my subconscious like stale gum and enter into my dreams.

The first “guaranteed” hit in baseball

There’s a reason why those years have overtaken my thoughts. You see, the pack-inserted autograph was introduced by Upper Deck right smack in the middle of the “Junk Wax” era, which meant you’d have to have the luck of Frane Salek (Google him) or be a rich kid with unlimited funds to be able to bust enough cases to ever find one. However, by the mid-90s, card companies were making these “chase” cards easier to find and even introduced a product, Leaf Signature, that guaranteed you’d pull one in every pack.

At the same time, Upper Deck was killing the game with an all-hologram set called SPx and even introduced the game-used memorabilia card in 1997. Topps was no slouch, either. The Refractor, which had yet to really explode, was spun-off in Bowman’s Best with something called an “Atomic” while absolutely blowing the minds of collectors with Finest and the debut of Bowman Chrome. Pinnacle, however … was in an entirely different galaxy when it came to baseball cards.


Pinnacle Brands, a company spun off from Sportflics and Score, was only in their 6th year as a company in 1997. They also didn’t have a single, certified autograph or game-used relic in any of their baseball products to assist with sales. None of it mattered because from 1996 to the end of 1997, they produced baseball card magic the likes of which will never be seen again. Then, they bought Donruss and released into the hobby an insert which ruled the entire world of cards for two decades, Crusade.

The best way to describe Pinnacle’s dominance is by using the Oscar-winning film, Rocky, as a reference point. Think of the underdog, Rocky, as Pinnacle Brands. This is 100% accurate as Pinnacle didn’t carry the prestige of Topps and Upper Deck; they truly were the underdogs. Now, picture world champion Apollo Creed. That’s Pinnacle, too. Hey, remember that little, old and frail trainer of Rocky? What was his name? MICKEY? That was the rest of the card companies when compared to Pinnacle Brands.

Crusade Wins Everything

That’s why Gary O’Brien of Syracuse, New York may be the luckiest collector on the planet right now. Gary, who has been collecting baseball cards since 1988 found a unique listing on Facebook Marketplace for an entire case of Pinnacle Inside, one of the company’s rare misses in their short timeline. Gary, like any sane collector thought it was strange for anyone to have an entire case of the product 21 years after its release and dubious reputation as a dud. Turns out Gary’s intuition was absolutely right!

Upon his arrival to the owner’s house, Gary was shocked to discover an endless supply of Pinnacle Brands product by the cases. This find is likely to be one of the biggest, non-Junk Wax finds of all time and likely, the last. All Gary needed to take ownership was a loan and a few friends to help move 3,000+ boxes. I was lucky enough to ask the very busy “Pinnacle Man” a few questions about his score. As a hardcore Pinnacle Brands collector, you can imagine how envious I am of this discovery.

You can find Gary on Facebook, eBay, and his new website.

Q & A with the Pinnacle Man, Gary O’Brien

Can you tell me a little about yourself?

My name is Gary O’Brien, I am 34 from Syracuse NY. I primarily collect Barry Bonds cards, as he is my all time favorite player.

When did you get into collecting?

My older brother got me into baseball cards in probably 1988 or so.

How familiar are you with Pinnacle Brands and 90’s cards and inserts?

I am quite familiar with them, I was mainly a Topps refractor collector but have always loved the etched foil type inserts that Pinnacle made as well. I love 1990’s inserts, they are my favorite cards of all time.

Please tell us how you came across this Pinnacle “buried” treasure.

I answered a listing on the facebook marketplace for 1 case of 1998 Pinnacle Inside baseball. I thought it was an odd item some guy would just have for sale, it was his only listing. He let me know he had a “Ton of cases and boxes” and I should come see them all.

What was your initial reaction to seeing the Pinnacle score?

I walked into this guy’s half a million dollar house, and down into his basement which is bigger than my house. There I saw so many boxes that I was in shock. Just hundreds of cardboard boxes full of products. He told me he wanted to sell it all in one lot, I instantly had to think about the logistics of it all. How to move it all, where to store it, how long it would take to sell it, how to even come up with a number to offer him was going to take a long time. Most of the stuff is sealed loose boxes, and all mixed matched years and brands in each box with each other, so it was a nightmare trying to figure out exactly what was there.

It took me and a friend 4 hours of opening boxes and writing down whats inside to get through roughly 40% of what was there. We had to stop due to time constraints and I was left to look up all of those products, and give a rough estimate on the value of the 60% of unseen stuff. We agreed on a number, I got a loan and here we are about a month later and I am still in shock that I actually bought it.

Just how much is there? Total boxes? Highlight product?

I am about 1 month into trying to organize it and I still don’t know exactly how much is there. I am still trying to consolidate products together to figure that out. I am working with so much in such a confined area that it is a really big task. My rough estimate on everything though is about 3,000 boxes, 15,000 loose packs, 1,500 Promo Packs, and about 2,500 loose promo cards.

My best single item I found so far was a nice sealed big Green 1998 Preferred tin of Derek Jeter, which I sold for $300 on ebay.

What are your plans for the Pinnacle treasure? Do you plan to move it all?

My plan is to move it all but I have also been ripping packs and boxes while organizing because I have no will power. I set up a website to sell everything on I am still in the process of adding different products to it all the time. I am also planning on getting some weekly cheap group breaks going soon. I also have the facebook group I made as you are aware to show off things and give updates in there to those interested.

3 thoughts on “Collector Hits the Pinnacle Mother Lode

  1. The Lost Collector

    What an awesome find, and so interesting how someone came into all that product to begin with.

    FB Marketplace and Craigslist, among others, are usually a giant pain in the a$$ filled with worthless junk, but it really does pay to keep checking. Every few months I end up finding quite a big score. Back in November, I got two boxes of cards that cost me $25, and included was a Michael Phelps A&G auto (goes for $200 on eBay), and just back in July I found two massive boxes of cards (about 25-30K cards) for $20, which housed tons of cards of stars like Trout, Harper, Acuna, Judge, etc.

    So for every listing of “Vintage 1989 Donruss for $200”, there are definitely some deals to be had with a bit of patience and diligence.

  2. This is kind of neat, although it would’ve been more interesting if the guy had bought all of these to open himself — when all was said and done, he would’ve most certainly had the world’s premiere Pinnacle collection. Also, it would’ve been nice to know how much he paid, but nobody ever asks that question, so I understand why it isn’t mentioned here.

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