When I think about my list of “Unappreciated Sets” – yes, I have a list – I’m surprised by some of the names that appear on it. One that sticks out to me: The 1996 Zenith Z-Team Football insert.
The overall appeal of 1996 Zenith Football was strong, and the product as a whole remains somewhat under the radar. But the heartbeat of the set, for me, is the Z-Team insert.
I think one of the issues of why the set may be somewhat forgotten is that it followed up a 1995 Zenith Z-Team set that featured the Dufex technology. Dufex was the hobby McRib, every collector looked forward to every time Pinnacle brought it back out just as foodies looked forward to a trip to McDonald’s. It’s still just as popular today among nostalgic collectors, although production costs have rendered use of the technology all but retired.
Because of the power of Dufex, I don’t think many noticed a 1996 version of the Z-Team inserts had even been released. But, if you were to ask me, I preferred the 1996 version more.
Sorry Dufex, I still love you, just not as much in this case.
Instead of Dufex, the 1996 version featured a bold, black Z in the background, along with the featured player on the front and a new technology never seen before – called SpectroView – on the side. The dark against the Spectroview and full color bleed player really made the cards stand out.
The 18-card checklist for the set was also loaded with stars of the 1995 season. You have guys like Dan Marino, Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice, Steve Young, Brett Favre, Deion Sanders, Marshall Faulk, Troy Aikman and many others.
On top of that, they were not easy pulls. The insert fell 1:72 packs or, in other terms, 1:3 boxes. This is part of the reason it took me about 15 years to chase this set down card by card, but I did it and let me tell you, it looks amazing. By far, a top 5 set I have chased down.
1996 Zenith Football Z-Team Checklist
1 Troy Aikman, Dallas Cowboys
2 Drew Bledsoe, New England Patriots
3 Errict Rhett, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4 Emmitt Smith, Dallas Cowboys
5 Jerry Rice, San Francisco 49ers
6 Cris Carter, Minnesota Vikings
7 Curtis Martin, New England Patriots
8 Deion Sanders, Dallas Cowboys
9 Brett Favre, Green Bay Packers
10 Michael Irvin, Dallas Cowboys
11 Chris Warren, Seattle Seahawks
12 Dan Marino, Miami Dolphins
13 Steve Young, San Francisco 49ers
14 Marshall Faulk, Indianapolis Colts
15 Barry Sanders, Detroit Lions
16 John Elway, Denver Broncos
17 Isaac Bruce, St. Louis Rams
18 Carl Pickens, Cincinnati Bengals