Andrew Nelson ’02 has won “Jeopardy!,” competed on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” and has traveled to more than 50 countries.
Regardless of such impressive feats, he has garnered the most attention for a collection of his that has amassed more then 25,000 pieces of campaign memorabilia and over 6,000 BC-related artifacts. He takes collecting to a level rarely seen across the country.
During his childhood in New Bedford, Nelson collected vintage campaign buttons, flyers and any random Massachusetts campaign memorabilia he could find. In addition to his obsession with Massachusetts politics, he sent letters to foreign heads of state and received responses back from many of them, including Hosni Mubarak.
Nelson lived in a house connected to the Ash Street Jail while his father served as the Sheriff of Bristol County. The historic jail is noted for hosting Lizzie Borden, the infamous axe-murderer, during her trial. “It was just the creepiest place,” Nelson said. “I went through like five babysitters because they were all freaked out.”
He resided in that house until 1998, when he started school at Boston College as a political science major.
He lived in Keyes South his freshman year. “It was awesome, I loved it there,” he said. “The only negative thing was the bus, but we made it fun. The last bus to Newton was always crazy.”
His college friends were intrigued by his collecting hobby. “My roommates knew about all the letters I used to send,” he mentioned. “They thought it was funny. Maybe a little strange.”
After graduation, his political memorabilia collection continued to expand. In an ode to his beloved alma mater, Nelson began to include politicians who had gone to BC. He put a spreadsheet together containing all the BC alumni ever to hold public office, from U.S. Senators all the way down to the municipal level. It is quite impressive.
His collection includes all sorts of BC-related items. He is particularly fond of BC sports and had quite a few stories to share, including one about BC’s connection to the Cocoanut Grove Fire of 1942, one of the nation’s deadliest fires.
“The BC vs. Holy Cross football game was the day of the fire, and BC was a national powerhouse going into this game. They ended up getting blown out by Holy Cross, and they canceled their victory party after the game that was supposed to be held at the Cocoanut Grove (nightclub),” he explained. “A lot of the Holy Cross people ended up going because they won. The fire ended up killing hundreds of people."
“I have the program and the ticket stub from that game, and what’s strange about it is on the cover it shows two BC players, and one of their number’s is 12 and the other is 55 and the final score of the game was 55 to 12.”
Another of his favorite items is a ticket to a concert at BC that never happened. It was called the BC Eagle Rock Festival and the headliner was Led Zeppelin. “The local politicians heard from the neighbors that they didn’t want all the noise, so the concert was canceled,” Nelson said. “But they issued the tickets already, so I have one.”
One of Nelson’s oldest BC artifacts is a ticket stub from the 1866 Grand Fair “in aid of Boston College.” “That’s a really cool piece,” he commented. “Can’t get much earlier than that.”
Much of Nelson’s collection comes from alumni. “A lot of alumni send me stuff from out of the blue,” he said. One alumnus sent him a “chunk of a goalpost back when the goalposts were wooden from a 1956 BC vs. Rutgers game. I guess they took down the goalpost and chopped it up.” The rest of his collection comes from auctions and stuff he finds in the attics of alumni that he searches through with his dad, who also has a knack for vintage items. He runs an antiquarian book business, after all.
Nelson is still actively collecting, but with approximately 6,000 BC items it’s getting harder to find things. He collects current memorabilia, too. Nelson attended the New Era Pinstripe Bowl this past December; “I was there trying to grab ticket stubs and programs,” he said.
He’s already planning his next venture: APIC—American Political Items Collectors—is having a show in Medford in a couple weeks, and he plans to spend most of his day there looking for Massachusetts political items to add to his collection.
When you love something as much as he does, there is no such thing as too much of it.