1996 was the sophomoric year for Summit baseball. Featured in 1996 Summit Baseball were a variety of parallels to the base set: Above and Beyond; Artist’s Proof; and Foil. Additionally, there were a series of interesting inserts: Ballparks; Big Bang; Hitters Inc., and Positions. For this piece, we’re going to be talking specifically about the Big Bang insert.
These cards were inserted at a rate of 1:72 packs, or 1:4 boxes, which is still considered a tough pull. They feature a holo foil finish and carry a print run of 600 copies.
There is also a Mirage parallel that features a holographic image of a floating baseball in the foreground and a print run of 600 copies. This version also has a white strip behind the serial number on the back of the card.
Pinnacle ran a promotion that year to market the Summit brand by creating a unique contest around the Big Bang Mirage parallel. There were two levels to this contest, each with unique levels of completion difficulty. Here’s how it went:
- Level 2: Collectors that collected an entire set of 1996 Summit Big Bang Mirage could redeem the set and receive one box of every regular issue of 1997 Pinnacle products for baseball.
- Level 1: Collectors that collected an entire set of 1996 Summit Big Bang Mirage with each card carrying the same sequential serial number could redeem the set and receive one box of every regular issue of 1997 Pinnacle products for every sport.
Think for a moment about how difficult it would be to participate in either of these contest levels. It was 1996, a year when eBay was still in its infantile stages and hadn’t yet gone mainstream. Card shows and shops existed abundantly so that would have helped the collector, but only marginally. Given the scarcity of these cards, they would have been difficult to track down. Not to mention how impossible it would have been to complete a set of 1996 Summit Big Bang Mirage with each card having the same serial number i.e., 001/600.
We need to think about some questions here. Did Pinnacle know that this was going to be a task that carried a difficulty level of such monolithic proportions and as such ran a promotion to tease collectors into thinking they had a chance at a bunch of sealed boxes of 1997 Pinnacle products? A part of me feels like Pinnacle knew that it would be nearly impossible for any collector to complete level 1 of this mega-contest. Which ultimately meant that Pinnacle may have thought that it would be a win-win situation – hopeful collectors would buy more of this product and Pinnacle wouldn’t ever have to give anything away for free.
But think about this, what if a collector did in fact manage to do the impossible and piece together an entire set of 1996 Summit Big Bang Mirage with each card containing the same sequential serial number?
Here’s where it starts to get interesting. Think about the nature of Level 1 of the contest for a moment. Think about how difficult it would be to pull together the entire set of 1996 Summit Big Bang Mirage with each card containing the same serial number. Remember, this was pre-eBay, and for the most part, pre-online marketplaces. Also think about this, there are 16 cards in the set and these Mirage parallels were inserted at a rate of 1:72 packs or 1:4 boxes. This means that for a collector to build the set to accommodate just Level 2 alone, they would have to open (72 x 16) = 1152 packs, or 64 boxes. That’s just to collect a set of 1996 Summit Big Bang Mirage with any serial number!
While you’re thinking about that, think about this, for a collector to build a set of Mirage with each card containing the same serial number to accommodate the ultra elusive Level 1, they would have to open (72 x 16 x 600) = 691,200 packs, or 38,400 boxes, which would be every box ever produced of this limited product. The likelihood of any collector opening that much product is probably ultra slim to none with a gross slant toward none. So that would mean that to complete Level 1, they would have to search and search to no end to find and piece together this 16-card set with each card containing the same serial number. For the time, it would have been an almost impossible task.
But what if, just what if a collector did manage to pull together the entire 1996 Summit Big Bang Mirage set with each card containing the same serial number? How would Pinnacle respond? Would they be in such shock that they would go above and beyond (no pun intended) to accommodate the winner?
Take a look for a moment who is depicted on that promotional piece. Who’s shown there? That’s right, Mr. Frank Thomas. He was the icon for this contest. Think about this for a moment, if you ran a promotion of this impossible nature, and you printed the cards, would you consider doing something special for the winner beyond what was promised?
Perhaps Pinnacle printed one copy, just one, of the Frank Thomas 1996 Summit Big Bang Mirage and sent it to the first person to complete this contest at any level while I’d like to believe that if this was the case, it was for Level 1.
Also, maybe it was the case that Pinnacle didn’t report the existence of this card because it was done last minute and for the sole purpose of doing something special for a winner that achieved a literally impossible task.
Finally, think about this, 1/1s weren’t available to any mainstream degree until 1997, the year after this card was made. That means that if my belief is fact, this may be the first ever 1/1 Frank Thomas card to enter the market, which would make this a revolutionary release for its time and perhaps the most important 1/1 Frank Thomas card that exists today.
I want to learn more about this card so if you know anything, please post a comment. Many thanks.