February 18, 2008

1990 - 1994 Countdown:
#36. 1993 Pinnacle

Black borders and a single white hairline surround crisp photography. Player name along the bottom, team name along the top. Thinly glossed. And a full-color back (de rigueur by 1993), featuring a simple, elegant headshot on what looks like a sponge-painted, GlamorShots backdrop. The only faults may be the choice of body copy font, the little dots that separate the information on front and back, and the Pinnacle logo itself. Otherwise, it’s one of the most striking designs of the early Nineties, and possibly one of the simplest.

You could characterize 1993 Pinnacle as a ‘sophomore slump’ set. The brand’s 1992 debut was a hard act to follow, and the by-then classic Score mindset took over for 1993’s checklist: choke ’em to death with subsets. Of the 620 cards in the base set, only 437 had no extraneous logos, and weren’t part of a subset. But it wasn’t only subsets that killed this checklist—it was an overkill of inserts. Though some of them were good, even great, and all of them of flawless design, there were just so many of them: 195 in all. That’s practically enough for a third series of cards!

Collectors harp on sets with a glut of inserts, not because we don’t like getting them in packs (we do). It’s because it’s a daunting proposition, as if the manufacturer understands neither the collector nor the climate of the hobby. A collector may like your product, even so much so that he or she decides to collect your set. But inevitably they will like other sets as well, so if you overwhelm them with inserts, you will most likely end up with a number of beleaguered collectors turned off by your product. This same thing happened to Topps recently with the Generation Now and Home Run History inserts. There were so many (seemingly) different inserts that collectors (or at least this one) were turned off to the product. But I digress.

Like 1992, this set was released in two series. Like 1992, the black borders and backs set off the clear, somewhat washed-out colors of the photos. The highlight of the set is without a doubt the “Now & Then” subset, horizontal cards featuring a slew of veterans shown in two photos: one taken in 1992, the other in their respective rookie years (like this one of Robin Yount doing his best early Larry Bird impression). It makes for a classy card, and I don’t think I’m too far off base by naming it one of the early decade’s best subsets.

I want to like this set more, but I just can’t. The rookie class is weak beyond Jeter, the Expansion Draft subset has a chokehold on much of the checklist, and the inserts, despite their overall quality, outweigh the base set. It’s really the Now & Then subset that keeps me coming back, and really only–you guessed it–now and then.

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