N.J. man owns world-class World's Fair collection

  • Article by: JAY LEVIN , The (Bergen County, N.J.) Record
  • Updated: May 23, 2014 - 4:22 PM

A New Jersey man has one of the biggest collections of World's Fair memorabilia.

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John Riccardelli shows off his huge collection of World’s Fair items in his New Jersey apartment.

Photo: CHRIS PEDOTA • The Record,

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The last New York World’s Fair, celebrating “Man’s Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe,” lives on in John Riccardelli’s tiny New Milford, N.J., apartment.

Riccar­delli is a foremost collector of memorabilia from the 1964-65 exposition, which was underway 50 years ago at Flushing Meadows, and from its 1939-40 predecessor.

The first two 1964 tickets issued by the New York World’s Fair Corp.?

Riccardelli’s got them.

The TelePrompTer script that President Lyndon Johnson read from on opening day, April 22, 1964?

Riccardelli’s got it.

 

The leather-bound registry that visitors to the British Pavilion signed at the 1939-40 fair?

He’s got that, too. Two signatures stand out: George R.I. and Elizabeth R — aka King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

“Some of this stuff I can’t believe I own,” Riccardelli exclaimed in a pinch-me sort of way.

Riccardelli, who works for a photographic agency, was a small boy when his parents took him to the 1964-65 fair. (He remembers walking along the rim of the Unisphere, the stainless steel globe that was the fair’s symbol and is still a Queens landmark, and falling into the water.) He started collecting a decade later, after he found a box of fair souvenirs in the family’s Dumont, N.J., attic.

Today, Riccardelli’s collection fills every cranny of a one-bedroom apartment; boxes of things are stacked to the ceiling.

There are buttons and badges and pins and guidebooks and maps and signs and postcards and brochures and uniforms and photographs and the banner that Robert Moses, urban mastermind and president of the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair Corp., kept in his office.

There are souvenirs: a chunk of maple syrup candy from the Vermont Pavilion in 1939-40, a canister of tea from the India Pavilion in 1964-65.

There’s the press kit and poster from “Lucy Day” on Aug. 31, 1964, when the fair honored comedian Lucille Ball.

There’s a never-opened box of Chux disposable diapers promoting a “Wing-Ding-Fling” — first prize, two round-trip tickets to the 1964-65 fair, baby sitter included.

“It’s so wild I just had to buy it!” its owner gushed.

Riccardelli won’t discuss the value of the culturally significant collection. Nor will he say how many objects he has; suffice it to say, thousands. He lends to museums, notably the Queens Museum, which occupies the New York City Pavilion from the 1939-40 fair. That, too, was held in Flushing Meadows.

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