'A museum in somebody's basement': Items from Alberta's Stan Reynolds collection to be sold
EDMONTON -- A tip not unlike many others he receives has led an Edmonton antique shop owner to "one of the most historic finds" of his career.
"They didn't mention any ancient artifacts or anything like that. They just said they have some antiques. Come out and have a look," Curiosity Inc.'s Alex Archbold recalled of an invite to look through the collection on an unknown owner.
It wasn't until he was standing in a basement full of ancient items -- from coins dating back to the Roman Empire and Roman Republic, to a lost translation of The Tutelo Tribe by Horatio Hale -- did he realize the tip was anything but ordinary.
"What's the story? How'd you come by this?" he remembers thinking.
"It's like looking at a museum in somebody's basement."
That couldn't have been truer.
"Then it came to light that the family was the Reynolds family and these... were all former museum artifacts."
'A LEAP OF FAITH'
The Reynolds-Alberta Museum that opened in Wetaskiwin, Alta., in 1992 was named after local businessman Stanley George Reynolds, who had made himself an international reputation as a collector.
Some of the items Archbold stood amongst in the basement that day had been purchased by Reynolds during a trip to Mexico in the 1960s, plus more that he had once displayed or which had been temporarily housed in a University of Alberta exhibit.
"This will be the only place in the world you could find many of these items right now."
Recognizing that, Archbold and his wife took "a leap of faith" to purchase the artifacts.
Holding a 'Brown Bess' musket dating back to the American revolution, he commented, "Grandpa's gun becomes grandpa's gun becomes grandpa's gun, you know? … Being stored in basements in houses, under people's beds. You think of all the things that had to happen for this to survive and for us to have it here today."
Most of the items will be resold in an April auction thousands have already signed up for.
"At the end of the day, I'm not a museum myself," he explained, though at least two ancient masks will be kept for a display at Curiosity Inc.
'IT'S NOT YOUR AVERAGE AUCTION SALE'
The store owner expects the early interest in the auction is only a fraction of the international attention it will receive come selling date, given the expansive collection.
There's an Ethan Allen dragoon pepperbox six-shot -- one of the first made in the 1830s -- whose ivory grip makes it nicer than the The Metropolitan Museum of Art's in New York City, by Archbold's estimate.
A national flag, 10 by 15 feet in size, dates back to 1876 -- not even a decade after confederation and only the fifth year Canada had flown its own flag.
A Second World War Japanese general sword with folded steel blade.
An autographed photograph of Jacques Cousteau in scuba gear.
West coast Indigenous baskets made in the 1800s.
A Guerrero jade mask dating back to 0-250 BCE, the Teotihuacan early civilization era, the likes of which fetched more than $60,000 USD the last time one was sold, Archbold said.
"It's not your average auction sale."
He estimates the auction, if successful, could see between $150,000 and $200,000 worth of merchandise sold.
"You really hope that it goes to a good home and it goes for a fair price as well because you have to recoup your investment... I'd love if a museum in Mexico was bidding on them and ended up taking them back home," he said.
"I would hate to see them in a basement. That's why I bought them in the first place. Languishing in a basement is not the place for these artifacts. They need to be back out in public and somewhere where people can see and enjoy them."
More information about the April 24 auction, which will be livestreamed by Edmonton's Kastner Auctions, can be found online.
With files from CTV Edmonton's Bill Fortier