BALTIMORE -- For most Americans, Nov. 22 is the one day of the year when they are likely to think about John F. Kennedy's assassination and his brief presidency. Robert L. White, however, thinks about Kennedy nearly every day.

White, a Baltimore-based dealer in autographs and historical items, owns a large private collection of Kennedy relics, including a wallet, eyeglasses, key ring, Senate identification card, cigar case, pens, hairbrush and pocket combs that once belonged to the president. He even has a pair of sunglasses that he said Kennedy had available in Dallas the day he was killed.

For each item in his collection, White has a document signed by the person who supplied it, often a close aide or friend of Kennedy's. White declined to allow their identities to be published, although he readily showed the documents to a reporter.

Each item is displayed in the well-lit glass cases of a small, private museum White has built in the finished basement of his mother's suburban Baltimore home. He opens the museum to viewers on request.

The discretion with which White deals with those who sell him the Kennedy mementoes, and the care with which he preserves them, evidently account for the astonishingly intimate nature of some of the pieces.

"They see that I'm sincere about my collection on Kennedy," White said. "I'm knowledgeable about him . . . . We just don't talk about the money {involved in the acquisitions}. That's tacky. And they know I appreciate the value of these pieces."

White said he even goes to the trouble of sending a color photograph of an item to the person from whom he got it once it is put on display.

Although White said it is probable that his Kennedy collection -- which also includes numerous documents handwritten by JFK -- is worth "tens of thousands of dollars," he intends to keep most of what he has and is picky about those to whom he occasionally sells an item.

"To be a true collector, you must have a great love for the thing you collect and not be interested in the money," he said.

Paul Hartunian, a veteran autograph dealer in Montclair, N.J., praised White's collection.

"Bob is a perfect example of a great collector," he said. "He just goes out and scours the country for the things that are his love. And I've seen some of what he has, and it's astounding. I know of no comparable private collection."

White, 38, attributes his fascination with Kennedy items to the fact that he "was a teen-ager when Kennedy was president and it was the first time in my life that I was visibly moved by the death of someone I felt close to.

"It was a time when everyone came together, and I haven't seen anything like it since. I remember all of my emotions and feelings. But I talk to my kids about it, and it's like I'm talking about the death of McKinley."

White works full time as a salesman for an industrial cleaners and paper distributor, but his collecting complements his moonlighting.

White and a friend, William Kulick, operate Federal Hill Autographs, a mail-order autograph and memorabilia business.

They distribute a catalogue several times a year to clients around the country and overseas, although White does not list parts of his private collection among the items for sale.

He said the Washington area is a gold mine of historic material.

"It's crammed, it's loaded, it's a treasure trove of documents and items. And it all stays here. Former congressional aides, secretaries, you name it -- going back to FDR -- all have tremendous items on their walls. But it's all memories to them, they ate it and slept it, and they don't think of the money" such items may be worth, he said.

Sometimes superb autographs and memorabilia can be found in "little charity shops in Georgetown," White said, "but you more or less have to wait and hope that the people who own this material will find you."

White has developed his own network of "finders" and sources for autographs and personal items that belonged to the famous. He said he knows people who were among JFK's closest aides and he gets "referrals" from them.

"Once you get close to some of them, it mushrooms. The funny thing is, these people have stayed in contact, and invariably the subject of my collection comes up," he said.

White's private collection of autographs and memorabilia contains far more than the Kennedy items, and it is astounding in its variety -- and quirkiness. History and Hollywood are side-by-side inside his display cases and in the frames on his walls.

In one section of his museum that features the hats of famous people, White displays a sombrero that once belonged to Pancho Villa, the Mexican revolutionary, alongside a sombrero that actor Wallace Beery wore when he played Villa in the 1934 film "Viva Villa!"

The same display case contains top hats that belonged to presidents Pierce, Grant and McKinley, as well as Great Britain's King George VI; Charles Laughton's tricorner hat from "Mutiny on the Bounty"; Gary Cooper's Army helmet from "Sergeant York"; a hat Joan Crawford wore in "Mildred Pierce"; one of Oliver Hardy's derbies, and a topper that Groucho Marx wore in "Go West."

The walls of White's museum display autographed photographs of every 20th century U.S. president -- as well as the autographs and photos of more than a dozen horror movie stars.

White also collects hair locks, a hobby that was common in the 18th and 19th centuries. Among the strands are ones he said once graced the heads of George and Martha Washington, Napoleon Bonaparte, Andrew Jackson, Gen. George Custer and Abraham Lincoln.

The Kennedy collection is the centerpiece of White's museum, however, and the paper items in it are both funny and poignant.

Among them is a typewritten note from an aide who relayed a question from a wire service during the 1960 campaign: "Do you plan on taking your rocking chair with you to the White House if you are elected president?" Kennedy wrote in reply: "Whither I goest -- it goes."

On a notepad from the Rice Hotel in Houston, Kennedy doodled a sailboat the night before his death, and on a piece of stationery from Air Force One, he jotted down some thoughts for a speech as his plane was landing in Dallas. White believes the paper bears the last words Kennedy wrote as president: "We are going forward."