Credit: Philadelphia Parks & Rec

Last updated 4:30 p.m.

Hundreds of people lined up in the Black Friday chill for a chance to buy a piece of the old LOVE Park were turned away empty-handed.

The pieces of stone, which were fashioned out of the granite that made up the former park’s basin, had been etched with the likeness of Robert Indiana’s famous LOVE statue. But it appears Indiana had never been consulted about the production of the keepsakes, of which only 250 were created — and the sale of which were highly publicized.

Instead of trading $50 in return for the commemorative stone they expected to purchase at the stand at Philly’s Christmas Village, which is currently set up in the under-construction LOVE Park, prospective customers were asked to leave their email address below a note that indicated the sale had been stopped at the last minute.

“Due to concerns received from the artist who created the LOVE sculpture,” the note read, “we are unable to sell the granite stones today.”

Those who left their email addresses will be contacted if and when the slabs are actually available for sale. “We incorrectly thought we had permission to use the LOVE likeness,” Philadelphia Parks & Recreation spokesperson Jennifer Crandall told Billy Penn Friday afternoon.

According to people on site, workers walked up and down and estimated where the cut-off for 250 would be (limit two per person) — but few people stepped out of line. As of noon, there was still a long queue in front of the shop, despite the word spreading that there would be no actual stones sold that day.

Creation of the keepsakes was a joint project from Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and local nonprofit SkatePhilly. Proceeds from their sale were to be used for continued maintenance of existing Philly skate parks, as well as help defray continued construction costs at the new LOVE Park, which reports is now $6 million over budget.

Philadelphia is not the only city to display one of Indiana’s LOVE statues — they can also be found in New Orleans, Indianapolis and Vancouver. Philly also has a Spanish version of the statute — it reads AMOR — and there’s a Hebrew one in Jerusalem. However, Indiana did once win a lawsuit over a series of unauthorized knock-offs, called “English PREM,” the Hindi word for love.

Given all the “trinkets” that use the LOVE statue likeness, the group behind these trophies assumed it had the right to sell them. “This is surely a Parks & Rec staff mistake,” Crandall said. “We were alerted this morning — by someone, I’m not sure who — that we did not.”

What Crandall described as “an application” for permission has already been filled out, she told Billy Penn, with hopes that it will be granted in time to sell the granite slabs before the holidays.

“We know a lot of people wanted to give these as gifts,” she said, noting that the huge turnout to buy them was entirely unexpected. “I thought maybe 25 or 30 people would be in line. I was shocked when I heard it was more like 300.”

SkatePhilly project manager Josh Nims was less surprised. “I knew there was a strong feeling out there,” Nims told Billy Penn, contacted on holiday in South Carolina.  “My biggest concern was that we made sure to use only broken blocks.”

Most of the granite from the original LOVE Park is earmarked for use in future skate parks, said Nims, who oversees the salvaged stone. It was only bits not suitable for skating that were turned into the keepsakes. However, there are more of those broken bits in existence, he confirmed. And because of the intense interest, per Crandall, Parks & Rec is considering making additional keepsakes, assuming Indiana allows it.

Despite the snafu, the popularity of the slabs was heartening to both Nims and Crandall.

“When we get past this copyright issue,” said Nims, who founded SkatePhilly (née Franklin’s Paine) back in 2001, “what’s really exciting is how far skateboarding’s relationship with Parks & Rec has come. ”

“It shows how much love LOVE Park generates,” Crandall said. “It’s the iconic center of our city. Not only are we excited about the grand reopening of the park next year, we’re excited about what this turnout means for its future.”

A request for comment from Robert Indiana was not returned.

Danya Henninger is director and editor of Billy Penn at WHYY, where she oversees the team, all editorial decisions, and all revenue generation — including the membership program. She is a former food...