EDMONTON — Alexander Archbold knew the homeless man as a friendly, kind guy who sometimes came into his antique shop to sell various trinkets and treasures dug out of dumpsters.
Whether Archbold wanted the items or not, he bought them so the man would have enough money to buy lunch.
It was in September when the man he knew only as Adam walked into Curiosity Inc. in Edmonton with an old bag containing a drawing of Bambi in a tattered, dirty frame.
Adam asked for $20 for the find. Archbold agreed.
“I thought, well, it’s Bambi. I can probably clean it up,” Archbold recalled Friday.
It was later, he said, when he took the picture out of the frame, that he realized it was valuable. A certificate on the back said it was an authentic 1937 animation cel from the classic Disney movie.
“I just thought oh my goodness. It’s the real thing and it’s worth a lot more than I thought it was. And I have to do something to help this guy out.”
Archbold detailed the discovery on YouTube where a man from New York, who had once been homeless himself, took interest. That man ended up buying the cel after Archbold posted it on eBay for $3,700.
Archbold said he then made it his mission to track down Adam and give him his share of the profits.
He also wanted to do more to get the man back on his feet.
“I drove up and down every single alley. I went by shelters. I went everywhere I could go to try and find him.”
Archbold finally spoke to a few other homeless people who knew of Adam and they passed on the message that Archbold wanted to see him.
Adam walked back into the shop earlier this week. Archbold handed him $1,600, drove him to a bank to help him reactivate an old account, then took him out for lunch.
He said Adam told him that his life fell apart after he fell into a depression. He had been working as a drywaller but lost his job, his wife and his home. Three of his four children were taken into care. At 38, he had been living on Edmonton streets for three years.
His children are living with his mother in Ontario, and he wants to move there to be with them.
Archbold said he’s trying to make that happen. He has set up a GoFundMe page for Adam. It had raised $5,200 by Friday afternoon.
He said he just wanted to do the right thing and help out a good person.
Adam also told him that he had tried to sell the Bambi drawing at a few other shops before he went to Archbold’s store.
“They just told him to leave because, he said, as a street person they don’t take you seriously,” said Archbold.
“I got the impression that he just really didn’t feel like a person. And that just really made me sad.”
He says he never thought of Adam as anything less than a nice guy who found cool stuff and sold it to him.
He told Adam that they really are in the same line of work.
“I said, ‘I go to people’s houses and dig through stuff they think is garbage and buy it off them. You’re just picking it up after they’ve already thrown it out.'”