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LeRoy Kilps Will Be Missed

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I read on a blog post by a Wisconsin collector that LeRoy Kilps, the president of the Wisconsin Sports Collectors Association, has passed away.

LeRoy has been with the group in some capacity for a very long time, helping run the monthly shows at Gonzaga Hall in Milwaukee. The WSCA has held them there for close to 30 years. I think LeRoy has been part of the club as long as it’s been around. The show–and the people who ran it–remain exceptionally fond memories for me.

I lived a couple of hours north of the show’s location, but when I was a high school and college student, I’d get in the car with my dad or some older collecting friends and set up there on a fairly regular basis. The shows were small, but usually busy. It was an exciting time in the hobby. Fleer and Donruss were joining the game and every new product the companies put out (and there weren’t really that many compared to today), was red hot:  ’81 Fleer Star Stickers. Donruss Action All Stars. And there was nothing hotter than the new series of 1979 Topps test comics.

People on the outside were starting to realize that cards weren’t just kids stuff but just about everything was still affordable. You could buy a complete set of Topps, Fleer or Donruss for $15 or less.

We’d typically make a few hundred dollars selling the latest, hottest products I was able to get my hands on via our little ‘dealer network’ and through my dad, who worked in a grocery store and had access to unopened boxes. It’s also how I got rid of the duplicates I was got from buying collections through ads in local papers and visits to flea markets and auctions. The 100-card 1970s ‘bricks’ as we called them, sold like hotcakes at 5 or 10 cents a card with a star on top.

LeRoy was the guy we called for a table. He’s the one who collected the money and tried to keep the show organized. He was unfailingly friendly and usually had something funny to say. He was just an average guy who worked at the post office and loved sports and collecting sports stuff. His table was usually right across the aisle from mine–which was next to the one manned by Frank Fulop, the guy who helped create the original Hartland Statues.

I moved out of Wisconsin in the mid-1980s and I’ve never made it back to a WSCA show. I’d always been meaning to do so, to say hello and hope he remembered me. Both Frank and my Dad have been gone for several years and now LeRoy is too.

Sometimes you just can’t do things fast enough.