Hobby Icon Deaths

For those of us that knew of these fellas, let’s have a moment of silence for their departures. They were loved for their impacts, their legacies, and their personalities. May each of these legends rest in peace and forever be remembered.

Sy Berger: Cause of death: Natural Causes. Date: December 14, 2014. Age: 91.

Credited as co-designer of the 1952 Topps Baseball set and remained with The Topps Company for over 50 years. He was honored by the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1988. He’s been featured in various Topps Baseball sets. His legacy lives on as the father of baseball card collecting.

Mike Berkus: Cause of death: Brain Cancer. Date: November 20, 2015. Age: 69.

Berkus was a true pioneer and one of the hobby’s most important icons. Berkus founded the National Sports Collectors Convention (NSCC, or The National) in 1980 and attended every installment until his departure in 2015. The National is the largest annual collectors conventions that’s attended by thousands of collectors and dealers alike. Mike directed and headed nearly all of the public relations for The National.1

Bob Lemke: Cause of death: Congestive Heart Failure. Date: January 3, 2017. Age: 66 or 67.

Lemke was a pivotal icon in the hobby. He worked closely with Kraus Publications and is best known for his prodigal work on the Standard Catalog Of Baseball Cards (SCD).2 The SCD has been and still is one of the most cumulative volumes and is a staple library reference on the book shelves of many baseball card collectors. He was also an active researcher and writer on his own blog @ boblemke.blogspot.com.

Richard McWilliam: Cause of death: Unknown with possible link to heart problems. Date: January 5, 2013. Age: 59.

McWilliam was the owner of The Upper Deck Company, which was founded in 1989.3 He was the key investor in the early years of the company and by 1993 was the only original founding member left. Known for his notable business sense and ultra competitive work ethic, McWilliam had his hand in some of the industry’s most talked about innovations. He was loved by many and is missed by all. For tons of details of the firm’s early years, read Card Sharks.

Alan Rosen (Mr. Mint): Cause of death: Leukemia. Date: January 26, 2017. Age: 70

Known as one of the hobby’s biggest buyers of vintage sports cards, Rosen, a hobby ambassador of sorts, was found front and center at many shows.4 He had a reputation for his often arrogant attitude toward sellers but he’s been on the receiving end of some of the hobby’s most notable finds of all time. Several copies of the T206 Honus Wagner, as well as piles of the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle have passed through Mr. Mint’s hands. Like any respectable business man, he was always interested in buying no matter what it was. If he could make a profit, he was interested. Rosen published, True Mint.

1985 Big League Cards


  1. National Convention Director Mike Berkus Dies at Age 69. www.sportscollectorsdigest.com ↩︎
  2. Bob Lemke, former SCD editor and publisher, passes away. www.sportscollectorsdigest.com ↩︎
  3. Richard McWilliam, Trading Card Innovator, Dies at 59. www.nytimes.com ↩︎
  4. Iconic sports card dealer Alan Mr. Mint’ Rosen dies. www.fox25boston.com ↩︎


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