CNE Hosts Largest Private Celebrity Shoe Collection

Published: August 23rd 2010
in News » Local

Dr. Hartley Miltchin and the world's largest celebrity shoe collection.
Pic: Edward Gadjel
Left to right: Jermaine Jackson, Elvis Presley, Chubby Checker, John Lennon

When the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) asked Dr. Hartley Miltchin if they could borrow some shoes for a couple of weeks, he of course said “yes.” After all, who wouldn’t want to show off the world’s largest private collection of celebrity footwear, if they just happened to own it?


For Miltchin, who also goes by his nickname “Doctor Toe,” the collection which now features more than 350 pairs of celebrity shoes was “in the closet” for many years.


“I collected for four or five years and my family didn’t even have a clue what I was doing,” Miltchin told Shalom Life. “It’s bad enough people tease me about being a foot doctor and having to look at feet all day. [I thought] they would really tease me if they knew I was collecting old, stinky shoes.”


This former “closet obsession” as he refers to it, began in the 1990’s when he purchased a pair of Michael Jordan’s ’96 shoes in a charity auction. These autographed size 12 kicks were worn during Jordan’s time with the Chicago Bulls, Miltchin’s favourite NBA team from the time in which he lived in Chicago.


For the next three to four years, this lone pair of shoes sat in Miltchin’s office, before he suddenly had an incredible idea. “I decided that if I could get his [Jordan’s] shoes perhaps I could get other sports superstars’ shoes, so I started hunting for this stuff because now there was the internet and it was easier. Then I had sports collectors all over North America looking for shoes.”


And so, the now famous collection began to grow, although it was at first limited to just athletes’ footwear. Miltchin managed to obtain Wayne Gretzky’s rookie skates worn while he was playing for the Edmonton Oilers. “These were his [Gretzky’s] favourite skates because it appears that he broke the blade on one of them and instead of replacing the skates, he replaced the blade for another season.” These skates were unsigned, so Miltchin had a sports collector follow Gretzky at public events and appearances, until he finally cornered “The Great One” and paid around $1000 to have them signed at Greztky’s downtown restaurant.


Miltchin then acquired a pair of Jordan’s playoff shoes, and had them signed by the Bulls team that won 70 games in a season. After acquiring Shaq’s size 23 shoes (Miltchin’s largest pair, the smallest being Canadian ballerina Karen Kain’s size fives) along with those of Kobe Bryant and Tiger Woods, Miltchin decided to expand the collection beyond sports stars. “I figured there must be other types of shoes out there. Perhaps musicians or movie stars, TV stars, whatever. I started a hunt for that and it sort of became a part time job because I was always searching for auctions and all kinds of state sales or whatever I could find.” But still, he was not ready to go public with his growing collection. “What I’d do when I got the shoes is look at them briefly for a split second and I’d throw them in a bin. So they weren’t catalogued, they weren’t photographed. I had them, I knew I had them and they were just thrown in a bin.”


Miltchin, a former Mad Magazine collector, would take the shoes out and bring them to schools for children to see, and was encouraged by the excitement he garnered. As well as buying from charity auctions, he also purchased shoes from Planet Hollywood when they went bankrupt. An original cameraman of “I Love Lucy” hooked him up with three pairs of Lucille Ball’s shoes, as well as a couple pairs belonging to Marilyn Monroe, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and John Wayne.


Related articles: (Foot, celebrity, CNE, the ex, shoes, footwear, podiatrist)
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