A Life in Antiques | Billy Clifford

McTear’s is delighted to offer the impressive and extensive collection of the late Billy Clifford (1935 – 2023), one of the auction house’s longest and most cherished customers.



William Francis Clifford, known affectionately as Billy, was one of Scotland’s most famous collectors of antiquities, with a reputation and celebrity client list that spanned the globe. 




Born on December 5, 1935, in Possilpark, Glasgow, Billy was the second youngest of five siblings, raised in humble surroundings by his parents, Catherine and John.

In 1954, following his eldest brother Jack's move, Billy relocated to Ohio, USA. It was here, at the age of 19, that he discovered his passion for antiques, sparked by the gift of an antique music box.  Billy frequently travelled back to Scotland, where he spent much of his time hunting for antiques and expanding his knowledge, as he amassed his vast and varied collection.



By 1965, Billy had joined his sister Mary and brother James in Los Angeles, where he shipped his first container of antiques in preparation for the opening his inaugural store. A year later, with demand for British antiques soaring, the store relocated to a stunning 4,000 square foot beachfront position in Malibu.




Clifford Antiques was a phenomenon among the great and the good of the Golden State and quickly became a favourite among celebrities, movie studios, and interior designers. Stars including Barbra Streisand, Michael Jackson, Olivia Newton-John, Dolly Parton, Jeff Bridges, and a number of high profile pop groups could often be found browsing Billy’s incredible collection. As one of the primary antique importers to California Billy often joked that he was the ‘Sultan" of Hollywood’. 




Over time he branched out into classic cars, with the entrepreneur collecting and shipping multiple vehicles during his career.  Of all the cars passing through Billy’s hands, he always maintained that his favourite was his beloved 1954 Bentley Continental Fastback which he eventually sold in Scotland in 2013.



Working alongside Mary and James, the family business thrived in California, with a further relocation to Santa Monica in the 1980s to cope with demand. Following a break in the early 2000s, Clifford Antiques reopened in 2012 in Burbank, CA, with Billy’s daughter Pauline and son-in-law David at the helm. 


Although the store finally closed its doors in the early 2020s, due to the effects of the Covid pandemic, Billy's lifelong passion for antiques never waned. He continued visiting auctions and castles across Scotland, filling his warehouse in Scotland, and any spare space he could find in his home, with his many fascinating finds.


Although Billy travelled the world in his search for antiques and spent many years running his business in the United States, his heart and home remained in Glasgow, where he was a well-known figure in the antiques community.



Billy was known for his quirky and eccentric personality, always ready with a story to tell. At 88 years old, his enthusiasm for antiques and the thrill of uncovering an interesting new piece for his collection remained undiminished.



His family, including Marilyn, Pauline, and Mary, hope that Billy's cherished collection will be loved and maintained by its new owners, continuing his legacy for years to come.

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