Monday, January 07, 2013

RIP: Richard McWilliam - co-Founder and Chairman of Upper Deck

The sports card hobby has lost a pioneer.  Upper Deck co-founder and chairman Richard McWilliam passed away this weekend.  He was 59 years old and leaves behind a wife and three children.

Suffice it to say, he was one of the most influential people in the trading card hobby.  In 1988, he along with other partners began an ambitious plan to produce a high quality Baseball card product for a market desperately seeking something different.  At the time, Topps, Donruss and Fleer produced cards, but they lacked the gloss and innovation found today.  Upper Deck soon filled that void.

I remember back in those days as a young teenage entrepreneur and Baseball card dealer seeing specs from Upper Deck officials.  They were a revelation.  Their cards had white stock cardboard that provided brilliant photographic images, and a hologram that gave a strong impression.  I was hooked on the new company, and so were many of my cohorts sitting on the dealer side of the table. 

Much has happened since Upper Deck's intial introduction to the market.  They introduced autographed insert cards, game jersey cards, holograms, and digital trading cards.  There was also a lot of controversy ranging from the loss of major sports licenses to scandals regarding the authenticity of game-used uniforms.  Nevertheless, McWilliam's impact on the hobby cannot be overemphasized.  He ushered in a new era in collecting, and all hobbyist should extend their hand to him as a thank you.

Richard McWilliam was found dead on Saturday from unknown causes.  He had a history of heart problems; including open heart surgery in 2008.  Check out the Sports Collectors Digest story on him here:
“Richard was a thought leader and visionary in the trading card industry. It grew from a hobby for some baseball fans into a multi-billion dollar industry because of the multiple innovations that Upper Deck introduced under his leadership,” Jason Masherah (Upper Deck's new President) said. “He built a company that has weathered difficult times for the entire industry and is well positioned for future success.”

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