The first of July is a legendary moving day here in Montreal. In 1973 a law was passed that ended all leases on the first of that month to ensure tenants didn’t have to move during the winter. More than forty years later, the majority – around 70 thousand people province-wide – still move on this day. There’s always tonnes of trash out on the curb as a result.
The day is a trash picker’s paradise, for most people at least. The casual and opportunistic diver can easily find new furniture, clothing, kitchenwares and decorations for their homes. The scrap metal collectors receive an easy bumper crop of appliances and electronics. Even the can pickers have a good day – Having a cold beer during the moving process is a moving day tradition, especially when it’s as sweltering out as it was yesterday (around 40 degrees Celsius with humidity).
For me, however, it’s not really that great. There’s a lot more competition, and most things put out on the curb around moving day aren’t particularly interesting, at least from my treasure hunting perspective. Most things are well worn and don’t have much resale value. The main issue is my lack of storage space though. If I had storage space (or a store, perhaps) I could gather up lots of dishes, utensils, decorations and so on and have a nice sale with it all.
Still, moving day is a big event. A phenomenon. A good story if you’re a reporter. I was contacted on June 30 for an interview with CBC Radio One’s “Daybreak” and an interview for an article with the Canadian Press. Not long after my 7:15AM appearance on live radio (my first time by the way, I was nervous but it went alright) another CBC reporter called me and asked if I wanted to appear on a video segment for the 6 O’clock news.
The video segment was fun to do (it starts around the five-minute mark), and they chose to include a funny clip of a toy Hannibal mask I found. I was pretty exhausted by the time the interview happened, but it went well. The Canadian Press article was a little disappointing. The reporter wrote that my blog was called “Stuff I found the trash” (blasphemy!), but I realize he was in a hurry and it still appeared in the Toronto Star and other Canadian news sources. All the media attention was an interesting experience. It gave me some insight into how journalism works, particularly the commodification of a story and the person (me, in this case) who might happen to provide it.
I decided in advance to take the whole day very casually. I had planned to bike around mostly aimlessly and see what luck would bring me but a Saturday night one-man-and-a-pothole bike accident left me with nasty scrapes on my hands, stomach, and left knee. My wounds made it impossible to hold onto my bike handles for any length of time and made more difficult the bag-opening and sorting process. I ended up cruising around the city in my friend’s car which was quite nice given the air conditioning and the lack of traffic.
After my early-morning radio interview downtown, I looked around the Plateau a bit before deciding to check out greener (richer) pastures in Ville St Laurent, Cartierville and Laval.
I didn’t really find much. There was a silver shoe pendant and a few pieces of gold scrap in Laval but I expect I would have found those regardless of it being moving day. The gold at least paid for my day’s coffee, snacks and gas. Two of the pieces are 18k making the melt value around 35-45$. I found plenty of knick-knacks but having mostly maxed out my storage space, I left them for others to scavenge. I really need to have a yard sale soon. Unfortunately that’s easier said than done given the circumstances.
I was tired after a busy day but got up this morning to check out TMR, a wealthy neighbourhood mostly unaffected by the moving day phenomenon. I found a few cool things in these bags before the owner of the house came out and offered me a few extra boxes of stuff.
The boxes were mostly full of different hardware-related items. I didn’t really have any interest in them but I usually take what people offer me – it makes the person feel good and at the very least I can put the items where other scavengers are more likely to find them. As it happens I was in St-Henri later in the day and dropped off the hardware at the ReStore, a Habitat for Humanity-operated thrift shop. It’s a good cause and an excellent place to donate your old tools, nails and so on. Montrealer’s can find it at 4399 rue Notre-Dame Ouest.
My best find was waiting for me in the trash. I like old technology and loved finding this vintage taxi meter. It looks to have been made in France sometime in the 60s and is totally analog. A sticker on the top tells of a Montreal police inspection in 1972. It was a little bit grungy – normal age-related stuff – but I cleaned it up and it looks great. I asked the owner, a man in his late 60s if he used to drive cab and he told me he had owned a taxi company. Makes sense, most taxi drivers don’t live in TMR.
I think this piece could have some value, I’ll have to do a bit more research to find out.
Inside the bags was this label-maker. It’s not super exciting or anything but I’ve been looking for one for a while!
I also found this canteen. It features some nice leather work and looks to have barely been used.
The original label is still attached to the side. It features an image of a small child holding up a sign, a few words in a foreign script and the name Debrecan which appears to be a city in Hungary. I’ll try to see if it has Ebay value but at the very least I’m sure someone would buy it at a yard sale.
Last weeks sales (June 23 – June 29)
-Collection of paper ephemera: to a local archive for 45$. I love finding old papers – pamphlets, posters, business cards, zines newspapers, whatever. People think this kind of stuff is cool but it’s not a big seller at yard sales and generally not valuable enough to bother trying to sell on Ebay. I’m glad I made the connection with Archive Montreal, a small Rosemont-based organization because it makes finding these things profitable but also because they’re genuinely interested in what I find. If you have old papers, music or whatever that was made in Montreal this is a great place to bring it, preferably for donation as they are a non-profit.
-Old leather bags: to a friend for 10$. I found these way back in March and they’ve been sitting in my friend’s shed ever since. They need some love but could be quite beautiful in the right hands.
-1972 Summit Series preview book: Ebay for 45$. I found this with the Expo 67-related ephemera a few weeks back.
-Chinese propaganda records: Ebay for 200$. This is a nice sale, funny considering I actually tried giving them away at one point before doing the proper research. That would have been a massive brain fart. I found them around a month ago in a low-income, immigrant part of Ville St Laurent.
Total: 300$, 1290$ since May 18. If I made this much every week I’d be set. I’ve been a lot more active on Ebay in the last month or so and it’s paying dividends.
I feel like the finds have been a little dry lately. Hopefully they pick up soon. Tomorrow I’m thinking of doing a run in St-Leonard – I have to go there either way to bring my friend’s tires to a storage facility.