Madame Rac had amassed vast collection of jewelry, clothing and art before her death.
It was the presence of the grand piano that convinced Edmonton antique hunter Alex Archbold to take a chance and purchase Bette-Joan Rac’s estate after her death.
The esteemed teacher, known as Madame Rac to her students, had used the instrument to give classical music lessons to hundreds of Edmontonians over the course of her life.
Archbold, who owns the shop Curiosity Inc. in Westmount, paid $10,000 for the contents of her home last December.
“I thought it was going to be a break-even situation, that maybe with the piano and some of the other things, I might be able to get $10,000 worth of stuff,” Archbold said.
“I was shocked and surprised to learn that that was not the case.”
Rac was 76 when she died on Nov. 18, 2020, following a brief illness. She didn’t have children.
Archbold had met the piano teacher a few years prior, when he bought her old blue Cadillac. The two kept in touch.
“She was very colourful, multiple layers of interesting clothing, jewelry, lots of rings and necklaces and a bow in her hair,” recalled Archbold.
“She was just a lovely lady and definitely stood out in the crowd.”
Madame Rac loved to travel and shop and had amassed a vast collection of jewelry, designer clothing, art, furniture and antiques.
“I think over the years, her house became more and more full with the things she’d inherited and she had an attachment to. And I think that it kind of became out of control,” Archbold said.
But hidden in the clutter of Rac’s home was more treasure than the antique hunter could have imagined.
“We were emptying out some leaflets in the front room and some little silver bars fell out. They were hidden among the magazines and garbage,” he said.
“This began the process of looking thoroughly through books and shoes and magazines and newspapers and eventually we amassed this hoard of amazing treasure.”
One of Archbold’s most memorable discoveries was the 100-ounce bar of silver he found hidden underneath a mattress.
“It’s an urban legend kind of story and I got to be there and got to be part of it. It’s just insane.”
Archbold shared his finds on his YouTube channel through a series of videos. Followers from around the world have tuned in to the hunt.
Enamoured with Rac’s story, many have bid on her items once they were put to auction, said Archbold.
“We’ve had people bidding on our auctions from Germany, Australia, Italy, you name the country, and those people are interested in this story and interested in having a piece from this story,” he said.
“It just reminds us of how temporary we are in this world and how important the things that we have around us are.”