At 86, Bill McCleave found himself with a little time on his hands this past year, and there were things he needed to get done.
The former Toronto police officer and auction hound weighed his two best options: he could spend months — maybe years — cleaning out his storage units and outbuildings seemingly filled to the brim with everything he’s gathered in his lifetime, or he could start a new business and find buyers for all his stuff.
So, he chose the second route, opening McCleave Auctions — an online auction house in Peterborough’s west end.
Tucked down back of the plaza at the corner of Monaghan and Parkhill Roads, his unit holds only a small fraction of his inventory, but it offers him a space to work, somewhere to photograph his items, and it’s a getaway from his stockpile of odds and ends, antiques, and a massive vinyl record collection he estimates in the thousands.
“I’ll tell you what it is,” he said earlier this week. “It’s an old man’s foolishness. I’ve been involved in auctions for over 40 years.” He recalled going to a farm auction early in his marriage when, after some excited bidding, the auctioneer stopped and asked if he and his wife were still married. “My wife and I were bidding against each other.”
But back then, he said it was entertainment for them. They would get back home, make a pot of coffee, and sort through all the stuff they bought.
“We had a lot of fun. I’ve always had a lot of fun with auctions. My whole intention was to buy and sell, buy and sell, and I continued to buy and collect, or as my children more politely put it, ‘no dad, you hoarded’.”
McCleave had two buildings in Bridgenorth with his collection but when it was time to sell the property, he began to whittle it down. Some of it was given to friends and helpers, some “crap” was just disposed of, but he still ended up with four storage units filled to the rafters.
And his two-car garage at his Lakefield home held his vinyl collection that he estimated at about 40,000 records. He’s downsized that considerably, but it’s about the only item he still continues to buy.
He’ll help others sell items through his new business if they deem sellable to him as well, but most of what goes up for auction are items he’s accumulated over the years.
McCleave says he’s comfortable with computers and working online, but he found the bidding software to be a little overwhelming at times, so he’s hired someone to help look after that end of the business.
“My whole idea is to get rid of what I have … get rid of my storage units.”
He held one sale late last year, but his goal is to hold them twice a month, capping them to 300 items each, and if possible, he wants themed auctions. As an example, he plans to focus an upcoming auction on art pieces he has collected over the years. A furniture auction will also happen soon.
You can view items in his most recent auction at mccleaveauctions.hibid.com.