I'm a professional scavenger making a living selling curbside garbage. This blog details my finds and sales. It also acts as an archive for things beautiful and historic that would otherwise have been destroyed.
Yesterday I scored one of the best finds of my trash-picking career. I finished work early and drove to a scheduled appointment at noon near down-town. I was around thirty minutes early but noticed there was trash on the curb (or: a great way to kill some time!).
I started poking around the bags above and found two that were full of old b&w and colour photos. I didn’t have time to look too closely so I put both bags in the van to look at later on.
When I dug deeper into the bags I came across a bunch of really old photos. Many have German writing on the bag indicating the person’s name and the year. Some date back to the late 1800s.
The best find was yet to come.
As a history buff I was awestruck when I saw it.
It’s a passport issued in Nazi Germany in June 1939 – just three months before the beginning of WWII. What’s really interesting though is that it belonged to a Jewish person. Starting in 1938 all Jewish passports were stamped with that red “J.” In addition, anyone without a distinctly Jewish name was forced to add Israel or Sara to their name (depending on their gender). You can see that Sara was added here as a second middle name.
It appears that the woman made it out of Germany just in time. She got a VISA to the UK on June 7th 1939, less than three months before the beginning of the war. There’s a stamp that indicates arrival in England on July 3 1939.
It’s truly an amazing piece of history. It’s easily one of my top two favourite finds, the other being the WWI Lieutenant’s dog-tags. What’s odd is that I had to be extremely lucky to find either of these items – neither appeared on one of my usual routes. The WWI dog-tags I found while biking to my sister’s in Ville St Laurent, a neighbourhood I frequent only occasionally. This passport sat just north of down-town near Stanley and Docteur-Penfield. I never go to that area because most of the homes are apartment buildings; big buildings have a greater accumulation of disgusting waste and are more commonly infested with bugs. I was also lucky in concern to timing in both cases. I found the dog-tags in the late afternoon – long before garbage is usually brought to the curb in that area. I saved this passport around 11:40am, definitely very late in the collection run – garbage collection usually begins around 7 in the morning.
There were many more potentially interesting papers, including letters from the late 30s to early 40s and other Nazi government documents. They’re all written in German so I’ll have to find someone to translate them.
The fact that I came across these things completely by chance makes finding them even more special. The prospect of coming across the occasional treasure really helps to make garbage picking fun. It also gives me something to feel good (or righteous) about when I inevitably get self-conscious about scavenging.
I’ll be pretty busy with work until the 1st. I probably won’t be able to post before then (for real this time!).
I started work on a temp job last week that ends the beginning of May. It’s good to have cold hard cash but it does make it hard to do much on the garbage front. Until the end of the job I’m going to focus exclusively on checking out “producer” spots and doing a little run after if there’s time.
On Tuesday I went to where I found the cool Expo stuff from my last post but didn’t find anything particularly exciting. I had some time before starting work and decided to see if Hampstead had anything to offer. I wouldn’t have gone if not for time constraints – I’ve never found much there and feel like a outsider when I do go.
I stopped at this house that appeared to be preparing for a move. A woman opened her door as I was looking around and asked that I close the bags after I was done. The “just don’t make a mess” is the neutral one of the three ways people relate to me when I’m looking through their trash. We’ll see examples of the other two later in this post.
I think someone living at the house was into jewellery making.
This little white shopping back was just full of jewellery, a lot of which is marked or looks to be sterling silver.
A lot of pieces had price tags attached, including these three pairs of earrings marked for 25$ each.
Some pieces were really gaudy but some were quite pretty. I like this necklace which showcases a beautiful coloured crystal.
I also liked this simple necklace. The crystals at the end change colour dramatically based on the angle of the sunlight. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
This bracelet is getting into gaudy territory but it’s still pretty cool. The metal bits are marked sterling.
This bracelet with nicely carved crystals and rocks has a 90$ price tag.
This ring might be the gaudiest thing I’ve ever seen. The rock (probably another coloured crystal) is huge to the point of being comical. It’s about an inch tall, or about half the length of my pinky finger.
I’m going to have to test to see if it’s real gold or not. It looks like gold but could also just be relatively new gold plate.
There was a receipt for various jewellery-making materials inside the bag. The receipt pretty much confirms that a lot this jewellery is sterling. Even just for scrap I can make a decent chunk of cash here – scrap sterling is worth about 300$/pound.
I also brought home three Ikea picture frames in good condition. It’s too bad I couldn’t take anything more. There was a lot of good stuff (including cool-looking kid’s toys) but the car was already full.
I had the morning off today and did my usual rounds in TMR.
The bags above provided some obsolete but still desirable electronics. I sold a walkman just like this yellow one on Ebay for 10-20$, I forget exactly. The discman at the bottom is a good model and should sell for around the same amount. I still have to test them but generally these types of things work when I find them.
I also found this Timex Ironman watch. These cost 100$+ new, I should be able to get 30-40$ for it (assuming it works, of course).
I stopped here for the racquet in front…
… and ended up finding these boots inside one of the bags. Must be spring cleaning! They’re Italian-made Aquatalias and look like they’ve barely been worn. A similar pair on Ebay sold new for 100$ + 40 for shipping. They’re really nice and seem to be good quality.
I was almost done looking through these bags when a man called out from his window telling me not to look through his stuff. “Get out of my garbage” is number two on the list of ways people relate to me and is obviously my least favourite.
Before he asked me to leave I found a saw in like-new condition and a nice vintage “Penguin” hot and cold server. Usually I’m good at keeping my cool in these situations but I was a bit irritated today and commented that he should have donated the saw to charity. The server generally sells online for around 20$ plus a hefty shipping charge.
Let’s finish up here. I’ve been stopping every week at this house ever since I noticed this vintage box (which contained an old pair of seal-hide boots) on top of the trash bin a few months ago. I’ve made the occasional good find since then including a deck of Gucci playing cards and a collection of official Expo 67 slides. The garbage here never looks very exciting from the outside and I might never have stopped here if not for seeing that old box.
(I used this old “stock” photo because I didn’t shoot one before meeting the owner of the trash, which makes it a bit awkward and weird to start shooting photos).
Inside a mostly empty trash container was this old Soligen (EIS Cutlery) knife. The handle is made from the hoof of an animal. I need some glue to get the blade attached to the handle but otherwise the knife is in great shape.
As I was about to leave an older man called out from his door asking me to wait a minute. He went through his house to his garage and opened the door.
He offered me two boxes.
The top one contained some miscellaneous items including this Aristo-Hyperbolog slide rule. He explained to me that he used to be a chemical engineer and that this is what he used before calculators.
The bottom box contained his old tobacco pipe collection. There’s 16 pipes and a bunch of pipe-smoking paraphernalia. Tobacco pipes can be fairly collectible so I’ll have to do some research before I do anything with them.
The “here, take this too!” is the final and obviously most desirable way people relate to me. I’d say it happens just about as often as the opposite, negative reaction. The man seemed very nice and treated me with respect which is all I really want. All told what he gave me is worth a decent amount of money. He’s certainly pretty well-off though and likely just didn’t want to go through the trouble of selling them.
After he gave me the boxes I showed him the knife I found. He told me it had been given to him by his mother when he was just 12 years old, which I’d guess would have been around 60 years ago. It’s always nice to know the story behind the things I find. The experience certainly improved my mood after the previous negative interaction.
I’m not sure I’ll be able to post again before this job is done around the beginning of May. Don’t worry though, I’ll be trash-picking full-time again soon enough!
There’s been some crazy weather the past couple of days. Yesterday’s temperature was summer-like, reaching a high of 24. I had planned to take the day off from picking but I happened across these bags while walking around enjoying the weather and couldn’t help but take a look.
It looked like someone was clearing a house. I found a bunch of canned food, none of which was even expired.
This hat is definitely made from animal fur. The pattern looks similar to that of a leopard. I’ve never seen anything quite like it before.
Inside the bags was some jewellery. None of these watches are super valuable but they should go for 5$ each at a yard sale.
This watch is a little more interesting. It’s a 15 jewel “Mona” (a brand which seems to have no reference on Google) with a gold-filled Fahys case. It was probably made in the 1920s and is really quite beautiful. It doesn’t work unfortunately but it might be worth fixing and at the least could be sold for parts or repair.
The pin at the top is a JJ (Jonette Jewelry) and is likely made of pewter. The ring at the right is silver and I think the heart on the left is gold, though I have to do a test to confirm this. If it’s indeed gold I’ll sell it for scrap as it’s a bit dinged up.
This sterling silver ring was my favourite piece. It’s marked 1946 and features an emblem with the Latin phrase “Ardens et Lucens” and the acronym ESSC. I have to do more research but I think it’s was made either for a school or the military.
I’m going to keep an eye on this place going forward.
This morning was super rainy but thankfully the weather was passable for the few hours I was out on the hunt. I returned to a place in CDN where I keep finding interesting old stuff and this time was no exception. I brought that bookcase back home, my friend really likes it!
Inside one of the bags was this beautiful 1920s leather policy holder made by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. Outside of a minor issue with the strap it is in pristine condition. It looks to have never been used – the policy envelopes and other papers inside are in excellent condition. I imagine it must have some collector’s value.
This is a telephone book published for 1967-1968 made specifically for businesses in Hampstead, Cote-des-Neiges and Snowdon. It’s a cool piece of Montreal ephemera.
I seem to find a few books here every time I come.
The most notable books were these two large tomes offering “Critical and Explanatory Commentary” of the Old and New Testaments. The pair were published in 1876 and are in excellent condition.
I love finding old medals. This one was made for the YMHA (Young Men’s Hebrew Association) of Montreal way back in 1937. I think it’s bronze. The back refers to a “membership campaign.” If anyone knows what that might have entailed let us know!
Here’s a 1962 TV Guide. It’s not particularly valuable but there’s definitely people who love this sort of thing.
This is a pamphlet (and an accompanying letter) sent by the Foundation for Judaism to members of the Jewish community asking for donations to help build the Jewish pavilion at Expo 67. One paragraph reads: “We sincerely believe that every Jew in Canada ought to have a share in helping create the Pavilion of Judaism and are appealing directly to you to join and support our efforts by making a financial contribution.” The letter is written on nice paper with a watermark saying “Rolland Colonial Bond” and “Rag Content Canada.”
I think that this is probably a relatively uncommon item. It was likely only sent to Canadian Jews and it wouldn’t surprise me if most have been tossed out or ruined over time. As such it might be somewhat collectible. Regardless, it’s pretty cool and I always love finding Expo-related items. Check out this page for a look at how the Judaism pavilion turned out.
I’ve spent the last few Tuesdays going out of my way to check out that previous place in CDN. Usually when I’m in the area I’ll also go to NDG and Hampstead being nearby neighbourhoods that also have Tuesday morning trash collection. Today however I skipped Hampstead (which has been pretty unproductive from my experience) and headed down to Pointe-St-Charles and Verdun. I like it down there, the more blue-collar population is less disturbed by trash picking than they are in Hampstead and other richer neighbourhoods. That makes me feel a bit more “at home.” There’s also a lot of great history.
My friend and I found a bunch of old tools and other bric-a-brac in the bags above. While I was looking through the bags a man walked over and kindly offered me that bucket full of 5″ nails at the top left. I don’t have a use for them personally but I know some of these things cost a lot of money new. I’d like to do a bit of research on the tools but I’m going to give away the nails, bolts, fasteners and etc.
Overall a pretty good day! Tomorrow morning I head off to the Town of Mount Royal hoping for better luck than last week.