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With too many instruments to count, Edmonton collector puts a new spin on house music

From ukuleles and guitars to harmonicas and kazoos, the basement of Ron Mercer’s Edmonton home is stuffed with a musical collection that’s been 35 years in the making.

“I keep going through and I always get lost around 1,700 or something,” Mercer said about how many instruments he has crammed into the lower level of his home in the Inglewood neighbourhood. 

“I get bored or start counting the same thing twice, so I’d say probably close to 2,000.”

Two narrow walkways allow Mercer or his visitors to wander through the collection which, despite looking a bit chaotic, is meticulously categorized.

“My wife and I travelled a lot and whenever I went to a different country, I picked up an instrument or something from there,” said Mercer, who has focused on his collection and taken up teaching music since retiring from his job in the RCMP human resources department.

The collection features a Ukrainian section, a Middle Eastern section and even a hillbilly section.

And though the instruments are on display, they’re definitely not just for show.

Mercer’s passion for music started with learning the guitar, which led to banjos, which led to playing the bass. Now he can tinker with just about anything.

“Everything’s playable, nothing’s not playable,” he said of his collection. “I don’t buy stuff just to be a wall hanger, it’s got to be playable.”

Mercer admits he hit a few wrong notes in creating the museum-like displays in the basement of the home where he has lived for about 25 years.

“I had 200 pounds of white sand for my steel drums and stuff like that,” Mercer recalled. “But the cat was fascinated with that sand. And so that was a bad idea.”

And despite having lost count and running low on space, Mercer said he isn’t done adding to his collection, scanning everything from eBay to thrift stores as he bides his time waiting for his next big find.

“I know everything I have, so I’ve never bought two of the same things,” he said. “When I look around I see white space, I got a lot more instruments to buy.”

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