Arrondissements

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I haven’t found much recently. I don’t currently have use of the car so I’ve been stuck with nearby but less consistently productive routes such as Villeray, Park Ex, the Plateau, and Rosemont. These neighbourhoods certainly have their treasures but finding them is more needle in a haystack-y than in richer areas with larger houses. It doesn’t help that each of these places (other than some parts of Rosemont) have two trash pickup days a week, meaning I have to work twice as hard to see the same amount of garbage.

It feels a bit funny to say this because in the earlier days of this blog I went to these places religiously. I’ve evolved a bit since then I suppose, though I might just be less patient because of the availability of a car.

I can’t blame my dry week totally on the arrondissements, however: I also didn’t do much to help myself. I slept in before my Mount Royal route, losing the opportunity to check out a house that I really didn’t want to miss. I’m still kicking myself and fantasizing about what could have been saved. I’ll be there tomorrow, hopefully everyone waited a week before throwing out the good stuff!

This week has been a little better so far. I took a casual garbage walk with a friend in the Plateau and came across this great wood trunk. I inspected it and it looked clean – evidence in nearby trash showed that it was left behind from a move. We walked it back to her house around six blocks away, taking many stops to break and enjoy the weather. It’s a hand carved piece that I would guess was made in China in the 1970s. It needs a good dusting but I imagine it could be sold for at least 100$ on Craigslist, more if given extensive TLC.

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Today I started a bit late and went to Park Ex. It’s a low-income neighbourhood but once in a blue moon I’ll find some really great stuff. There wasn’t a lot to see but I did enjoy finding this big old hand-painted landscape signed by someone by the last name of Santerre. I doubt it’s worth a lot but I’m a sucker for original art. If anyone knows where this place is let me know, it could increase the value but I’m also just curious. My guess is that it’s from somewhere in the Eastern Townships.

Outside of this I found a nearly complete Mastercraft drill bit set and two shopping bags full of funky bangles.

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I found these antlers in Park Ex around a month ago. The woman throwing them out seemed happy to be rid of them – I’d guess they belonged to her husband! The antlers are really huge, I can’t imagine them being from a deer but I’m far from an expert. I have some research to do but I imagine they’re worth a bit as a decoration or an art material.

Last two weeks sales (July 7 – July 20)
-Gold and silver scrap: 550$. I wrote about this transaction a few posts ago.
-Vintage “Eau de Joy” perfume: on Ebay for 40$. I found this at a pre-estate sale purge in CDN. It’s the second scent I’ve sold on Ebay.
-Yard sales: 160$. It was great to hit the streets once again and I hope to do it again very soon.
-Old food pamphlets: 5$.
Total: 755$, 2070$ since May 18. This is an excellent total. However, without the scrap sale (which happens perhaps 2 or 3 times a year) the numbers would look much worse. Ebay sales have been slow despite my increased focus on listing. However, this is apparently normal in the summer months and just means I’ll make a killing around Christmas.

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That blog

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The car has been unavailable so this week I’ve been doing my trash runs by bike. It’s been a nice change of pace, biking is much more meditative and often more efficient than driving. I’ve neglected the bike too often this summer and hope to find a happy medium between both means of transportation going forward.

My Wednesday morning trash run was productive and also a lot of fun. I went with my friend Luke to Mount Royal and stopped at a house that I’ve been keeping an eye on for a little while now. I opened the recycling bin and noticed a bunch of old books and papers. Two sisters working together to clear out the house noticed me and were quite happy to see me taking some things.

Another woman was there to buy some furniture for her vintage shop in Hochelaga. While loading a piece into her van she asked me if I was the guy from “that blog.” She said she recognized me but I forgot to ask from where. She looked through the things I pulled out of the bin and bought a few vintage recipe pamphlets while playfully chiding the sisters for not offering them to her in the first place. We all ended up talking a bit and it was a great time, definitely one of the most positive and entertaining social interactions I’ve ever had out on “the hunt.”

The sisters saw me saving some books and offered me these 1920s Ontario school readers. They were in an old suitcase and wrapped with care in paper. They’re in exceptional condition, especially the covers which still look fresh after all these years. I put the lot on Ebay for 75$ (with free shipping), a very competitive price considering the others I’m seeing online.

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I found this old 1920s CCM bike ad in the pages of one of the schoolbooks. It’s not particularly valuable but definitely makes for a cool yard sale piece!

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Here are two 1950 “Ward Lock’s” travel guides for London and Glasgow. Some people like collecting these guides, I put them on Ebay for 50$ with free shipping.

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There were also guides for the 1950 Holy Year celebration in Rome. It looks like a couple went on a long European trip that year.

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This pamphlet for the Huronia region of Ontario (north of Toronto) stuck out from a small collection of travel brochures. It looks to be from the 1950s and has a very colonial feel, at one point touting how Huronia was “where white civilization began” and speaking of “stone-age Huron Indians.”

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I also saved a collection of vintage recipe booklets. These are great .50 items for yard sales.

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My best finds though came from the house where I found the Expo 67 papers a few weeks back. It had been quiet since then but came back strong this week.

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On the curb was this strange carrying case. The top is clear plastic and there’s a series of holes on each side. If anyone knows what it’s made for let us know! I strapped it onto the back of my bike and used it to carry my finds.

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In the recycling were a series of newspapers from the days of the October Crisis. They’re unfortunately incomplete, mostly front pages or specific sections, but they’re still cool and will look interesting at a yard sale.

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A 1960s-era world map was popping out of one of the bags. The map was cool in itself but wrapped up inside were these two 1950s Snoopy posters. They’re quite large (28×20″) and in amazing condition for their age. They look brand new.

I figured they’d have some value given their iconic subject matter. I did a look through Ebay completed listings and found a pair that sold at auction for 61$. I figured though that these would be best sold as a “Buy it Now” listing and found evidence – a single Snoopy posted that sold for about 120$ US – that supported this notion. I listed mine for 150$ each but with free shipping, you can see them here and here.

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Also inside a black garbage bag was this folded up British 5 Pound note. This is worth around 9$ Canadian if I can find a place to exchange it.

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My favourite find though was this old wool cap.

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It’s a WWII Royal Canadian Air Force hat. Hidden inside one of the folds was a piece of paper bearing the name of the airman who wore it. It’s in really amazing condition for its age and a great piece of history. It should make me some money as well: there was one just like it on a military collectibles website that sold for 210$.

That’s all for now! I hope to have similar good luck next week.

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A lesson in selling silver and gold

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Last night I biked out to Ville St Laurent for their heavy garbage pickup. I don’t do late-night runs very often these days but heavy rain was forecasted for the morning and I felt motivated to see what I could find.

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The giant pile above looked to be the result of an eviction. Most was pure junk but I noticed a few pieces of gold and silver jewellery at the bottom of two clear garbage bags. The top three pieces – two sterling silver earrings and a 10 karat gold ring – went into my pile of gold and silver scrap. The necklace, also 10k gold is actually very nice. It should go for around 80-100$ depending on the weight.

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This is all the scrap that I saved since I last sold my collection in January. It’s composed mostly of single earrings, broken chains and jewellery too worn or ugly to bother trying to sell otherwise. I had been planning on selling it off regardless (I need the cash!) so finding a few extra pieces last night was a bit of a bonus.

I decided around noon to get on my bike and pay a visit to the coin and antique dealer I sold to last time around. However, the rain came pouring down as soon as I left and I ended up getting soaking wet. I went home to change and think things over. I had seen a posting by a generic pawn shop on Kijiji (basically Canadian Craigslist) offering “best prices” for silver and gold. While I knew I’d get a good deal at my usual place this other option was a lot closer, just a five minute walk as compared to a fifteen minute bike ride in the pouring rain. I chose to check out the new place and see if I could get myself a deal.

I walked in and asked what they were paying for gold. I usually ask for 85% of the melt value, a percentage I think is fair for both buyer and seller. The attendant mostly dismissed the question and instead offered to take closer look and weigh things out. I agreed and he spent the next 15 minutes acid testing my metals.

Here’s the thing: when you’re selling gold and silver you really have to shop around. Some places will pay more than others and some will outright rip you off. There’s no law that prohibits offering someone a bad deal – it’s up to the seller to know what their product is worth and ensure they receive a fair price.

I knew I wasn’t going to get a good deal when the attendant placed all the gold he tested into a single pile. My usual guy tests every piece and makes different piles for 9k, 10k, 14k, and 18k. 18k is worth a lot more than 10k, 34$ per gram vs 19$ per gram respectively, so you definitely want your 18k to be recognized as such. He was just mixing them all together.

The offer came in after a few phone calls to the boss in a language I couldn’t understand: 150$ for the gold, about 17 grams worth. I knew this was a pretty bad deal – about 50% of melt value assuming everything was only 10k. He also offered 30c a gram for my silver, a little less than 50% of its 62c melt value and about 70$ in total. I told him I was going to shop around and pretended I might return later in the day. It’s not worth negotiating when the starting point is so bad.

The rain had died down. I got on my bike and headed off to meet my regular gold guy. He recognized me and gave me the 85% that I asked for.

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All in all I came away with 553$, more than twice as much as I would have made if I had sold it at the other place. It’s an awesome payday, basically next month’s rent and a little extra. It just goes the importance of shopping around and knowing the value of your product.

Last weeks sales (June 30 – July 6)
-Backgammon set: to a friend for 5$.
-Audio mixer: to a friend for 20$.
Total: 25$, 1315$ since May 18. If not for a couple of friends I would have totally struck out. I had no Ebay sales but apparently those tend to lag a bit in the summer months. Regardless, this week should be better: my scrap sale will be included and I should (knock on wood) finally be able to have a yard sale, this time with my sister in Verdun.

Another note: I did an interview with Jay and Ryanne at Scavenger Life, a really cool blog and community focused around making a living off Ebay. I haven’t listened to it yet but it was a lot of fun to do – check it out here.

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Moving Day Madness

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Inside the bags was this label-maker. It’s not super exciting or anything but I’ve been looking for one for a while!

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I also found this canteen. It features some nice leather work and looks to have barely been used.

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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.

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