Mike Berkus, the executive director and a founder of the National Sports Collectors Convention, lost a battle with cancer on Friday night. He was 69.
A University of Minnesota alum and native of St. Paul, Minn., who lived in Villa Park, Calif., Berkus was among a group who decided back in 1979 that there needed to be an annual convention for sports collectors. It all started with the idea of getting back to something simple — an idea that it’s still about to this day.
“This is time travel, this is where you go back to a happy time in your life,” he said in an interview with CSN Chicago, “to a time where your whole world was peeling the wax apart, putting the gum in your mouth and seeing you who got.”
The first NSCC was in 1980. That first event was held at a Marriott in Los Angeles with tables costing $50 for the five-day show and admission was $1 a day. The NSCC grew over the years to include several days of big-name autograph guests and all of the major trading card manufacturers under one roof. The 37h NSCC is set for Aug. 3-7 at the Atlantic City Convention Center.
Ray Shulte worked with Berkus handling media relations for the NSCC.
“I know many, many people will miss Mike Berkus,” Shulte said via Facebook. “When Mike and John Broggi asked me to start working with them years ago I was extremely honored and accepted on the spot. I always looked forward to that phone call or meeting with Mike. He was a visionary and really cared about his staff, corporate partners, exhibitors and everyone whoever attended a National Sports Collectors Convention. A class act, a good friend and a great family man. Condolences to Sher and the Berkus family.”
Another who offered his memories was Ken Goldin of Goldin Auctions, who did so on Net54.
“I had the pleasure of having Mike work for me as my executive Vice President for two years in the mid 1990s and learned a lot from him,” Goldin said. “Atlantic City will be an empty place without him this National. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. The hobby lost a true legend.”
Another commenter on Net54 was Leon Luckey, the owner of the forum.
“My heart just dropped to my stomach. Very, very sad to hear this. Mike was a huge supporter of the hobby and of Net54baseball,” Luckey said. “I will miss him and his speeches at our dinners. Thanks for everything Mike. Rest in Peace my friend.”
Former In The Game owner Brian Price offered his thoughts via Facebook.
“My heartfelt condolences to the entire Berkus family at the sudden passing of your patriarch, Mike. I truly enjoyed our long, long talks about the hobby at all levels and our equally as long, discussions about family, children and grandchildren. Mike told me how much he was enjoying this part of his life and now that enjoyment has been taken from him. He will live on in the hearts of his children and grandchildren and will be remembered for his lasting contribution to our hobby and industry. Mike was a pioneer, an innovator and most of all, a true gentleman. He will be missed.”
“Our hobby lost a great one. A pioneer and a good friend. RIP Mike Berkus,” said Blowout Cards owner Thomas Fish.
Baseball Card Exchange offered its memories of Berkus on Facebook as well.
“The staff of BBCE is saddened at the unexpected passing of Mike Berkus, the co-founder and executive director of the National Convention. The hobby has lost one the greatest voices in our industry. A few years ago, Mike took a chance on BBCE and invited us to set up in the corporate area, and it’s safe to say our company took a huge step forward from the higher visibility we gained. We would not be the company we are today without his support and guidance.”
More memories and messages from industry members on Twitter are below.
Panini America issues statement on the passing of collectibles industry pioneer Mike Berkus. https://t.co/AyPXAxNACg
— Panini America (@PaniniAmerica) November 23, 2015
— LiveCaseBreak (@LiveCaseBreak) November 23, 2015
— Upper Deck (@UpperDeckSports) November 21, 2015
Mike Berkus was awesome. So sad to hear about his passing. Just a wonderful guy who was so passionate about the hobby. 🙏 for his family.
— Chris Carlin (@PeteIncaviglia) November 21, 2015
Mike Berkus: One of the ten most important people in Hobby history? I think so. Right up there with Burdick, Beckett, Berger, McWilliam.
— Jefferson Burdick (@stalegum) November 21, 2015
Truly saddened to hear of Mike Berkus’ passing. #RIP & thank you for not only helping the hobby, but for supporting me & my goals
— The Breaks (@WatchTheBreaks) November 21, 2015
Wow sad to hear about the death of Mike Berkus. Thanks for building up NSCC and giving us collectors a place to hang out every year.
— Sooz (@yanxchick) November 21, 2015
— Joe Ranyak (@FoxBull330) November 21, 2015
Cant believe Mike Berkus is gone. I always felt like a novice listening to his stories about the hobby. One of the true pioneers
— ESPN Mint Condition (@ESPNMintCondit) November 21, 2015
Sending our condolences to the family of Mike Berkus (longtime friend of our CEO). We lost a great man and a hobby pioneer. Surely missed.
— Leaf Trading Cards (@Leaf_Cards) November 22, 2015
Sad to report on the passing of National co-founder Mike Berkus. Great to chat with him and get some incredible insight on the show.
— Stephen Laroche (@Stephen_Laroche) November 22, 2015
I will miss Mike Berkus immensely. There just aren’t many like him around right now in our industry. We’ve all lost a great mentor. #icon
— D.J. Kazmierczak (@DJKAZMIERCZAK) November 22, 2015
The hobby lost a remarkable individual and hobby pioneer. Our condolences to the Mike Berkus family. You will be missed. @natsportsshow
— Onyx Authenticated (@Onyx_Authentic) November 22, 2015
ThePit will never forget how Mike Berkus spent hours with us making sure that our #NSCC experience was optimal. Rest In Peace Mike.
— thePit (@ThePitCards) November 22, 2015
Topps remembers Mike Berkus: “Mike was one of the great stewards of this hobby we love.” https://t.co/BXSspmYGt5
— Topps Company (@toppscards) November 22, 2015
Our deepest condolences to the family of National Sports Collectors Convention founder Mike Berkus, a great friend to all of us at TRISTAR.
— TRISTAR Productions (@TRISTAR1) November 22, 2015
— LaytonSportsCards (@RichLayton42) November 22, 2015
REST IN PEACE: Extending thoughts and prayers to the family of Mike Berkus. The hobby pioneer and founder of @natsportsshow has died at 69.
— SCP Auctions (@SCPAuctions) November 23, 2015
RIP Mike Berkus. Hobby pioneer. Founder of National Sports Collectors Convention. Great guy and good friend thoughts and prayers to family
— Goldin Auctions (@GoldinAuctions) November 21, 2015