Insert Card Craze: Team Pinnacle Baseball Cards of the 1990s

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In the days before serial numbers, relic cards, certified autographs and countless parallels, simple base insert cards ruled the hobby.

The first modern insert cards arrived on the market in the late 1980s, but it wasn’t until the early 1990s that the insert card craze truly swept the hobby, aided in part by rising young superstars Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Thomas.

In the coming weeks, we will be taking a look back at some of the more memorable insert sets from that era and their progression over the years.

Up next is the Team Pinnacle inserts that were a staple in the Pinnacle product line from the brand’s inaugural release in 1992 through its final year before bankruptcy in 1998 when it was known as Pinnacle Plus.

1992 Team Pinnacle

Cards: 12 (double-sided)
Hall of Famers: 8

The Series 1 release of the first Pinnacle baseball set featured just two insert sets. The Team 2000 inserts were found three-per-pack in SuperPacks, while the Team Pinnacle were an extremely tough pull at 1:100 wax packs.

The first Team Pinnacle inserts are double-sided illustrations from Chris Greco, and the checklist is made up of 12 cards highlighting the top players at each position. The starting pitchers arre split into right-handed starters and left-handed starters. There are also two relief pitcher cards, bringing it to an even dozen.

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1993 Team Pinnacle

Cards: 11 (double-sided)
Hall of Famers: 9

Team Pinnacle inserts were once again a Series 1 exclusive in 1993, and they were again joined by Team 2001 as the only two insert sets in the initial release. They were a slightly easier pull at 1:90 wax packs, and the illustrations were again done by Chris Greco.

The checklist was trimmed from 12 to 11 with only one card dedicated to relief pitchers this time around. It would be cut back again the following year. Sluggers Juan Gonzalez and Barry Bonds, Hall of Fame pitcher Mike Mussina and Greg Maddux, and outfielders Joe Carter and Larry Walker are among the top combinations.

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1994 Team Pinnacle

Cards: 9 (double-sided)
Hall of Famers: 7

The 1994 Pinnacle set is the first to feature the Museum Collection and Artist’s Proof parallels. The insert card selection was also expanded.

The Team Pinnacle inserts were shifted to Series 2, with Rookie Team Pinnacle now occupying a spot in Series 1, and they were again found in 1:90 packs. The nine-card checklist now featured just one starting pitching duo and no relievers, and Hall of Fame first basemen (Frank Thomas and Jeff Bagwell) and catchers (Ivan Rodriguez and Mike Piazza) are among the duos.

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1995 Team Pinnacle

Cards: 9 (double-sided)
Hall of Famers: 12

The 1995 Team Pinnacle inserts returned to Series 1 packs with the usual 1:90 packs insertion rate, but the design underwent a significant overhaul.

The illustration approach was scrapped in favor of a centralized player photo with a gaudy orange and brown background and a large team logo for the corresponding player. Pinnacle’s famed Dufex technology also joined the party. Each card has two separate variations with a Dufex front and a Dufex back for each duo.

The Ken Griffey Jr./Barry Bonds card from this set might be the best of all the Team Pinnacle inserts.

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1996 Team Pinnacle

Cards: 9 (double-sided)
Hall of Famers: 11

There are 10 different insert sets in 1996 Pinnacle split between Series 1 and Series 2, and while the Team Pinnacle inserts were a slightly easier pull at 1:72 packs, they were still the longest odds of the bunch.

With a striking gold background that featured some baseball seams and a player nameplate at the bottom, the design is among the sharpest of the bunch. The shiny Dufex finish was again utilized, though there were not two different versions this time around, as only the AL player on the front was given the Dufex treatment.

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1997 Team Pinnacle

Cards: 10 (double-sided)
Hall of Famers: 8

The 1997 Team Pinnacle inserts hava a horizontal orientation for the first time, once again featuring a Dufex front and a plain back. However, for the first time, they shuffled up which league was on the front and which was on the back, with a mix of AL and NL players on the front of their respective duo.

The tenth card on the checklist features a small picture of all 18 players, with nine on the front and nine on the back, serving as a checklist of sorts.

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1998 Team Pinnacle

Cards: 15 (double-sided)
Hall of Famers: 14

The 1998 Pinnacle Plus set was the final set released by Pinnacle before they declared bankruptcy not long after. The release was also home to the final contiguous Team Pinnacle insert set.

The checklist was expanded to 15 cards, and there are five different variations of each card. There is a silver foil version for both the AL and NL player, with the other side featuring a non-foil design. There is also a gold foil version for both sides of each card, and an extremely short-printed Mirror Gold with only a foil front.

The regular foil are found in 1:71 packs, gold foil are 1:199 packs, and the mirror gold do not have stated odds but have a print run of just 25.

The Team Pinnacle inserts would return once more in 2013 when the brand was resurrected by Panini.

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Joel Reuter

Joel is a National MLB Columnist at Bleacher Report who has spent the last decade as a full-time MLB writer. A lifelong Cubs fan and Chicago resident, nostalgia drives his card-collecting focus. He is currently working on assembling the entire base catalogs of four of his all-time favorites—Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee.

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2 comments

  1. Mike 25 June, 2022 at 13:15

    First year Team Pinnacle came out was a favorite set of mine as a teenager. Think I had only had one but it was a good insert set.

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