Estate sale unearths 40 years of treasures at south Edmonton home

Michele Watts knew her mother loved collecting antiques. But three months after her death, Watts is starting to understand just how extensive her mother's collection is. She's selling it all — about 20,000 pieces, plus the WIndermere house itself — during an estate sale starting Wednesday.

20,000 antiques and collectables, art, furniture, and a Hummer up for grabs at south-Edmonton estate sale

Michele Watts says her mother, Jean, was an avid collector of art and antiques her entire life, amassing about 20,000 pieces in her Windermere home. (Peter Evans/CBC)

Every time she opens a cupboard in her childhood home, Michele Watts finds another amethyst vase, gilded tureen or bronze candelabra.

She knew her mother, Jean, loved collecting antiques. But three months after her mother's death, Watts is starting to understand just how extensive the collection is.

Every surface of the 5,500 square-foot Windermere home is covered with fine china, rare books, furs, vintage dolls, toys and coloured glass. Original oil paintings and Chinese embroidered art compete for wall space, and tapestries sit stacked on the water bed. There's a room filled with dolls, just across the hall from a room filled with teddy bears.

"She was a very cool 80-year-old woman," Watts said of her mother, an Oil Wives club member who loved gardening, art classes and driving her black Hummer. 

Michele Watts says her mother always had a keen eye for Asian art and antique treasures 1:42

Starting Wednesday, all of it — about 20,000 pieces, plus the house itself, the furniture and even the Hummer — will be for sale. 

Watts said her mother always had a keen eye for antique treasures. When Watts was little, her mother would take her to antique stores on Jasper Avenue and Whyte Avenue. In her early 20s, Watts owned her own antique store. She would go to England to buy containers of antiques for her store. Her mother would go along, bringing back a container for herself.

Despite the number of antiques Jean Watts collected over the years, her house was always tidy. She'd cycle through her collection like a meticulous curator of her own museum, pulling out certain pieces for certain times of year and tucking others away in trunks, cupboards and spare rooms.

Watts' father, Derek, died a year ago. He owned an oil service company and was a generous man who even built additions to the house when Jean's collection became too large. He wasn't much of a collector, but his small collection of signed golf and hockey memorabilia staked out a corner near the basement bar.

It was when her mother died of pancreatic cancer in February that Watts discovered just how much stuff her mother had collected over 40 years in the home — even her childhood Fisher-Price toys, still in their faded boxes.

Some of the porcelain and fine china on offer at the estate sale. (Peter Evans/CBC)

"She really loved to preserve and rescue some of the items that she could remember when she was young," Watts said.

"We knew that there was going to be a lot of stuff involved, but my sister and I had gone through it and we realized it was a lot more than we could handle on our own."

We knew that there was going to be a lot of stuff involved, but ... we realized it was a lot more than we could handle on our own.- Michele Watts

Watts called in an estate sale company for backup. She hopes to sell almost everything during the five-day sale, and expects up to 1,000 people to walk through the house at 136 Windermere Drive each of those days.

Except for the Hummer, items range from a dollar to $4,000.

Watts salvaged a few things for herself. Nothing of tremendous monetary value, but rich with the sentimental kind — some of her dad's golf balls, and some pictures on the wall she remembers from when she was small enough she had to look up to see them. 

"It was really quite interesting to see all the different things that we have in this house," Watts said.

"It was a good time for us, we have really good memories. But I think it's time for somebody else to enjoy it now and have their own."

An entire room in the basement is filled with books and magazines. (Peter Evans/CBC)

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