Mickey Mouse visits Grimsby Museum by the thousands

·3 min read

A Mickey Mouse collection that's been over 20 years in the making has made its way to the Grimsby Museum.

Over 20 years ago, Paul Bottos and his late wife were out hunting for Beanie Babies for his wife’s collection when he came across a small Mickey Mouse toy that he said brought back memories for him.

It brought him back to his time as a young boy, growing up in Hamilton near a theatre that played only Disney movies, where a manager allowed Bottos and his friends to come back and watch the cartoons, often for free.

“I grew up in foster homes and group homes and stuff as a young kid,” Bottos said. “That was one of those things that you hang on to, that kids think about, that wonderful things happen.”

That memory from his childhood inspired him to start collecting. After his wife’s death, he said the collection became something of a catalyst between him and his son for emotional recovery.

Over 20 years later, Bottos boasts a collection that he estimates to be worth between $60,000 and $100,000, “but there is no value to this; the value is in the hunting,” he said.

His collection contains thousands of Mickey Mouse-themed products, some dating as far back as the 1930s. Toys, TV guides, playing cards, over 1,000 ties, custom artwork, cutlery, dishes and keys, Bottos even has tattoos of the cartoon mouse on his arms.

“I know he’s only a cartoon character, but to me, he’s like that movie star that you want to try to meet and see where he’s from and all that stuff,” said Bottos.

“Mickey is that character that people want to be around or be with,” Bottos said. “Sometimes he’s mischievous, but he’s never really negative in his behaviour.”

For Bottos, he said his collection of Mickey Mouse toys serves a bit of therapy from his day job. For over 30 years, Bottos has been program co-ordinator at a maximum-security psychiatric hospital, dealing with patients who are a danger to themselves and the community.

He said his collection has made him famous on the internet, as well as earned him several VIP trips to Disneyland, and even earned him the title of the Canadian ambassador to Mickey Mouse from the Disney Company.

While Bottos is grateful for the accolades, he said the collection is not about the fame or fanfare; it’s about the feeling of joy it brings others. He recalled, on more than one occasion, people being moved to tears after seeing his collection and being overwhelmed with joy.

“When I see a grandparent and a grandchild come in here, that interaction that they have with each other, you can’t pay for that, that’s, it’s overwhelming to me, brings me to tears.”

He said so long as their passion is not detrimental to them or others, he encourages other collectors to surround themselves with the things they enjoy.

“It’s a lighthearted, fun exhibit,” said Tiffany Tifan, collections management assistant for the Grimsby museum. She said the exhibit has overall been very positively received by the community and outside community members as well.

“Children, all ages, everybody really relates to it and can have fun with it,” she said. “Some people want fun right now, and it’s something to do.”

The exhibit is on display at the Grimsby Museum until November.

Moosa Imran, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News

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