Lovegrove sees long run for 'Recollectics'


Dan Lovegrove sought to be a scriptwriter when he graduated from the University  of Utah a few years ago with a bachelor of arts degree in theater. Surely  the 25-year-old Darien resident could put together a few plots about himself.

For instance, he could write Pin of Dreams: A young man becomes engrossed  in learning about Lou Gehrig, the legendary first baseman of the New York  Yankees. He reads anything he can find on the "Iron Horse," memorizing every  detail about the Hall of Famer's career. Then, he discovers that a one-of-a-kind  pin, designed for Gehrig when he was the American League's honorary captain  at the 1939 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, is up for auction, At his  first memorabilia auction, the man is able to outbid the field, gaining  possession of what may be the finest collectible associated with his idol.

Or, how about Turning Point: A young man undergoes reconstructive hip surgery.  During the ensuing rehabilitation, his activities are greatly limited. To  kill time, he reads about sports and sports memorabilia. His research leads  him to a never-before considered idea - why not marry his passion for sports  and his knowledge of memorabilia collecting to a business venture. Thus,  a new entrepreneur arises at the helm of "Recollectics."

Most likely, Lovegrove would write the story another way, probably under  a title such as The Memory Maker: A young man decides to put his knowledge  of sports memorabilia and sports history into a business. The business,  "Recollectics," is not so much designed to reap a large profit as it is to  get people involved in the field of collecting. Thus, a new form of a memorabilia  dealer is born - one who serves as a consultant, not a seller.

Actually, Lovegrove would change one part of the last script; he would avoid  the term "dealer. "

"I'm a sports-archaeologist"' he says. "I want to build (for) people these  collections of meaningful artifacts. "

A "sports archaeologist" is, of course, much more than a mere collector of  mementos. The phrase suggests someone who is deeply interested in the history  of his subject.

"At home, I compile these newspaper clippings and articles, stuff that covers  all sports," Lovegrove says. "I seek out sports' true artifacts. "

Lovegrove's holdings are not limited to file cabinets of articles. He is  an extensive collector of memorabilia, especially World Series, AII-Star  Game and Super Bowl press pins. He spent $38,000 to acquire the '39 Gehrig  pin (see box),

Lovegrove insists that he did not buy the Gehrig pin simply to resell it  later. Each new collectable he acquires has a story attached to it, a story  that he wants, in some way, to be a part of.

"One thing I like about the pins is that they were there, they were at the  game," he says. "They were in the lockerroom, in the pressbox or downstairs  right next to the players. If they could talk, the stories they could tell.

"That's why any true artifact of sports, that was on the field, they're  recollectic. "

His own business "Recollectics" is a term Lovegrove coined to define his  view of memorabilia, a piece of sports history with more than a price attached  to it. "A recollectic is any type of sports memorabilia that was a true artifact  of the game," he says.

Lovegrove seees his business as a consulting firm for collectors. "I'd love  to go into someone's home, and if they want to build a baseball room in there,  I'd love to help them do it," he says.

Beyond serving as a curator, he would be "a proxy for a busy fan at an auction  or show," or "if kids want to learn about pins or something, I'll help them."

Lovegrove stresses he is not in this venture for the profit, although he  does want to earn a comfortable living from the business. "We have to go  beyond investments," he says. "You have to collect something because you  like it, not because of the investment value alone."

He believes that most collectors buy from the heart, not to fatten their  wallet in the near future. "Some people wonder why recollectics have defied  gravity," he says, referring to boom in the memorabilia business over the  last decade. "The best answer I can find is that it's emotional, it's a passion  ... because they can touch history, and collectors want to get as close to  a player as they can. "

Currently, the only way to get in touch with "Recollectics" is by mail, but  Lovegrove hopes to change that at some future date. "It would be a mail-order  business to begin with, but I hope to get a storefront in Darien some time,"  he says.

A photo start

Dan Lovegrove's fascination with sports memorabilia began with a photograph.  His grandmother years ago gave him an autographed photo of former heavyweight  boxing champion Jack Dempsey that had belonged to Dan's grandfather.

"I guess it's the Jack Dempsey photo," he recalls. "It drew me in. I just  love sports."

His massive collection of press pins started when he bought the 1977 World  Series pin that coin commemorated the series between the Yankees and Los  Angeles Dodgers. Why did he buy that piece? It reminded the diehard Yankee  fan of the team's World Series rings.

Press pins are Lovegrove's specialty and he hopes to write a book on the  subject for collectors some day. He is wellqualified. Not only does he own  the Gehrig pin - "I'm the only person anywhere who has all the New York All-Star  pins," he says -but he also owns a press pin for the 1937 All-Star game in  Washington, something of a find, since most books claim the first AllStar  press pin was issued for the 1938 game.

"They're probably the two rarest pins you'll ever find," he says proudly.

Cost aside, the Gehrig pin holds the greatest meaning for Lovegrove. He not  only finds the on-field accomplishments fascinating, but Lovegrove also has  a special appreciation for Gehrig's overcoming injury and illness to play  a record 2,130 consecutive games.

Dan Lovegrove knows about physical hardship. He planned to study gemology  at the Gem Institute of America in New York after graduation. But in October  of 1988, while still at the University of Utah, he underwent reconstructive  hip surgery, which included a metal plate being inserted into his right hip.

Unfortunately, complications eventually developed when the bone began to  grow back over the plate. The intense pain Lovegrove suffered forced doctors  to remove the plate. "That's one of my recollectics, the metal plate they  put in my leg, " he says proudly. "I kept every screw."

The operations forced Lovegrove "to learn to walk all over again for the  second time." He put his post-graduate studies on hold and took a job collecting  tickets at the New Canaan Playhouse. To avoid being idle, he read books about  sports, especially about Lou Gehrig.

That's how 'Recollectics' came to be," he says, "because I had so much free  time on my hands and wasn't able to go out to parties and socialize at the  time.

"I got so attached to these sports books. They kept me going. "

A valuable lesson

The rehabilitation taught Lovegrove a big lesson. "I also learned you should  never take a single day for granted," he says. "I guess that's why when I  had the opportunity to acquire the Gehrig pin, I had to try to acquire it."

Now, he hopes the Gehrig pin will open some new doors for him. "It will be  on my stationary, my invoices to help me advertise and stuff," Lovegrove  says.

While Lovegrove eventually plans to loan the pin to the National Baseball  Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., he first hopes to show it to two people  in particular. One is former Yankee broadcasting great Mel Allen.

"I'd like to talk with Mel Allen because Lou Gehrig is to baseball what Mel  Allen is to broadcasting with 'This Week in Baseball' (Allen's weekly television  program)," Lovegrove says, adding that the broadcaster also was at the '39  All-Star Game and may know the story behind the presentation of the pin to  Gehrig.

Another person Lovegrove wants to show the pin to is a former first baseman  who now lives in Washington, D.C. -President George Bush. "I know George  Bush played baseball at Yale, and he was a first baseman, and he was captain  of the team his senior year. What a coincidence," Lovegrove says. "I know  he's a baseball fan, and I'd love to show it to him."

Maybe he can even help George Bush the fan begin an extensive collection  of memorabilia.

Gehrig is collection's pinnacle


Lou Gehrig means almost as much to Dan Lovegrove as he did to the New York  Yankees.

Lovegrove, a 25-year-old Darien resident, seeks information about the life  of the legendary Hall of Fame first baseman with the passion of a scientist  searching for the orgins of mankind. Then again, that's not so unusual for  a man who calls himself a "sports archaelogist."

While Lou Gehrig's extraordinary feats have entranced countless baseball  fans, he is a singular passion to Lovegrove. After all, not many enthusiasts  would pay $38,000 for the 1939 Major League Baseball AllStar Game pin which  was designed specifically and only for that year's honorary American League  captain, Lou Gehrig.

The 1939 All-Star pin is no ordinary one. Shaped like a baseball diamond,  the inner field is made of gold, with a raised baseball proclaiming the game's  site and date - "New York 1939" - serving as the pitcher's mound. The basepaths  are a dark blue featuring the words "All Star Game, American League." Four  individual diamond stones represent each of the bases, Whereas each member  of the attending press usually gets a commerative pin for an All-Star contest,  only one pin was issued for the '39 game, and that went to Gehrig. It was  his last appearance in a Yankee uniform.

Of course, Gehrig was no ordinary ballplayer. Nicknamed the "Iron Horse"  for playing in an all-time record of 2,130 consecutive games, Gehrig put  up some immortal numbers in his 17-year career. He hit .340 over that span,  slugging 493 home runs - including 23 grand slams - and batting in 1,990  runs. In 1934, he won baseball's triple crown by leading the American League  with a .363 batting average, 49 home runs and 165 RBIs. What is more incredible  is that he achieved his extraordinary lifetime stats while hitting behind  Babe Ruth for most of his career.

There was more to Gehrig than just his bat. He still is considered as one  of the finest fielding first basemen of all time. Off the field, he was  well-known for his kindness and generosity. Unfortunately, his career, and  ultimately his life, ended prematurely, as he fell victim to ALS - Amyotropic  Lateral Sclerosis - since known more commonly as "Lou Gehrig's disease."

"Gehrig put his life on the line for the Pinstripes (Yankees)," Lovegrove  says. "He was the epitome of a ballplayer."

When the chance to acquire the "Iron Horse" pin arose Lovegrove jumped at  the opportunity. He and his father attended the April 28 Guernsey auction  in New York City hoping to get an outside shot at acquiring the pin. After  all, it is not often something of such magnitude becomes available.

Though many might not be able to fathom spending $38,000 on a sports artifact,  Lovegrove feels that he arrived at his price quite logically. "Right up through  April, I kept planning a strategy - 'How am I going to get this pin?' I just  decided to learn everything about Gehrig and then take it from there," he  says.

The most significant fact that he learned during the quest was that Gehrig  never earned more than $39,000 in a season. "I finally decided to go as high  as Lou Gehrig's highest contract, and that's as high as I'll bid," he says.

His chances seemed slim, since the auction house listed the value of the  pin at approximately $75,000. But when the bidding ended, the price was still  within Lovegrove's range, and he was the highest bidder. Thus, he became  the owner of what he believes to be the ultimate piece of Gehrig memo-rabilia.

"I still can't believe that when the gavel came down at $38,000, it would  be mine," he says.

The pin's worth is now irrele-vant to Lovegrove. He does not plan to resell  the piece at any price, not even if someone offered him the original listing  of $75,000.

"To me, it's worth more than that," he says. "How can you put a price on  a national treasure?

Darien News-Review, Thursday July 26, 1990.  Volume 18, No. 30.

Reprinted by permission Darien News-Review. (c) 1990 Darien News-Review.