‘I see it, I like it, and I buy it’

At first glance it looks like any ordinary house. But should you ever venture into the Aurora, Ont. home of direct marketer Greg Fitz, you'll find yourself overwhelmed by tens of thousands of collectables.

At first glance it looks like any ordinary house. But should you ever venture into the Aurora, Ont. home of direct marketer Greg Fitz, you’ll find yourself overwhelmed by tens of thousands of collectables.

The collection, which Fitz describes as ‘beyond countability,’ includes more than 10,000 posters, 400 advertising watches and 200 neon signs. Free mail-away premiums fill 175 storage bags in the basement. Among the larger items are five jukeboxes, a full-size reproduction Flite Fuel gas pump, and an 8-foot Coors Light Beer Wolf figurine, which he brought back from Los Angeles in a 10-ton truck 15 years ago.

Fitz, who owns the direct marketing company GBF International, but prefers to refer to himself as a loyalty merchandise historian, has dedicated the last 18 years of his life to touring the world in search of promotional products and limited edition collectibles of all shapes and sizes.

There is no particular rhyme or reason for his interest. Fitz simply describes his hobby as a passion that he carries through life: ‘I’m a sentimental person, and each item holds memories of the person I bought it from or the place I was visiting at the time.’

His interest extends beyond the products themselves as he tries to find out about the history of the promotion surrounding each commercial product he collects. He has written numerous articles about his finds for U.S. trade magazines.

Fitz’s obsession began in 1984 when a vacation in Virginia led him to start buying neon beer signs. He later expanded his collection to include cigarette and soft drink neons as well as beer memorabilia.

And from there it simply grew and grew. He joined a number of collectors’ associations and started attending swap meets. Most of his possessions were gathered in garage sales, antique stores, flea markets and promotional products shows. Anything which has been discontinued, recalled by the manufacturer or made with an imperfection is of particular interest, and Fitz thinks nothing of driving to Michigan for a weekend of bargain hunting, or flying to London, Eng. to trawl through the flea markets on Petticoat Lane.

Indeed, a tour through his house is like a tour across continents and through time.

In his living room is an elegantly displayed collection of Coca-Cola merchandise featuring Olympic pin sets and a selection of limited edition Coke polar bears from as far afield as Japan and Australia.

Then there is the ‘toy room,’ home to Fitz’s vast collection of playthings, including Duracell bunnies, Energizer man and Dalek salt and pepper shakers, all acquired in Europe. A McDonald’s Lego set purchased in Japan takes pride of place on the shelves.

The games room contains Fitz’s collection of pinball machines, slot machines and one of his juke boxes. Some more unusual finds line the surfaces of the kitchen, including a small TV set shaped like a 6-pack of Coke cans, several radio-controlled Coke Christmas trucks from Germany and a collection of plastic Astrosnik figurines, the forerunners to the Smurfs.

And there’s no escape in the laundry room, for in here you will find row upon row of Chevron Gas toy cars, still in their original boxes. Even the garage and basement are packed from floor to ceiling with boxes of goodies, including a vast set of limited edition fridge magnets. The walls are plastered with his neon sign collection, 1950s motion signs, and posters advertising Camel cigarettes and Coors Beer Wolf.

Although he prefers to keep most of his finds, Fitz does sell the odd piece occasionally, and if he is trying to make room for more stuff he invites his friends around for a scavenger hunt.

He certainly doesn’t have any plans to stop collecting, and the thought of getting rid of the collection or putting it in a museum never crosses his mind. ‘Why would I stop?’ he asks. ‘There’s always going to be something else, something that will strike my fancy. I see it, I like it, and I buy it.’