Rue St-Jacques

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The art I found in St Henri on Thursday inspired me to further explore one of Montreal’s oldest neighbourhoods. I had planned on going in the morning but instead I went last night, partly to avoid the rush hour traffic but also because I felt like sleeping in.

It was a great trip. I discovered large parts of St Henri that I hadn’t seen before (or didn’t appreciate enough at the time). These parts were filled with beautiful old late 19th century brick row houses and the community in general had lots of character. Other parts of the neighbourhood, especially east of Atwater, were a bit more modern and were the home of several large apartment complexes. This area seemed to have a big issue with bed bugs: I saw close to ten mattresses while driving around, and in one case an entire apartment full of IKEA-style furniture had also been tossed to the curb. Not every thrown-out mattress is infested with bugs but I definitely wasn’t going to go out of my way to take a closer look!

The run was pretty quiet before I stopped to check out some bags in front of an old house on historic rue St-Jacques. My interest was piqued by the number of bags – more than you’d expect for a week from one house. Inside was a collection of old art materials, from fountain pen nibs to crayons (vintage made in Canada!) to charcoal and pastels. There were also some tools, many of which I don’t know the purpose of, candles, a worn leather-bound bible, a painted folk art sea shell, a hand-made carved wood fish, an old Canadian military button, and a really amazing piece of WWI history.

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The real treasure was inside this old, somewhat stained Birks jewellery box.

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This 10 karat gold medal was given to every “Plumas boy” that fought in the Great War and returned home. I had never heard of Plumas before and had to look it up – it’s a very small town (population 227 according to Wikipedia) in Manitoba not too far from Winnepeg and Portage la Prairie. A note inside the box explained how it was given to this serviceman’s daughter as a keepsake, presumably after he passed on.

It’s a really amazing piece that I have a hard time believing anyone would throw out. You’d think that seeing a 10k gold hallmark on an old medal would at least bring you to the pawn shop but hey, I guess that’s how I make a living! By gold weight alone this piece is worth close to 180$ (9.84g) but it’s obviously more valuable to sell it as it is. I could find only one similar medal (same design, different town) on eBay and it sold at auction for almost 200$ Canadian. I think though that a fixed price listing would garner an even better sale price.

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I’m on a bit of a hot streak right now. Let’s hope it keeps up!

New listings:

WWII Air Force cap
Lot of ticket stubs from 1976 Montreal Olympics
Acqua di Gioia by Giorgio Armani, 50ml
Vintage Japanaese miniature ceramic masks
Vintage Rodenstock eyeglasses

Last week’s sales (September 8 – September 14)

-Winston Churchill “Painting as a Pastime”: to a reader for 17$. I asked for 10 (with free shipping) but they just sent me 20. Thanks! Found in a Ville St Laurent recycling bin in mid-August.
-Vintage gold-filled locket with “Suzanne” monograph: to a reader for 23.50$. A few different people asked about this piece but unfortunately only one Suzanne could have it. Found in Outremont around the end of August.

Total: 40.50$, 3086.50$ since May 18. A poor week for sales. Without my readers I wouldn’t have sold a thing!

If you have a question, see anything that you’re interesting in buying, or to just want to say hello feel free to email me at thingsifindinthegarbage@gmail.com. I also enjoy comments!

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32 thoughts on “Rue St-Jacques

  1. What a find! And the accompanying medal makes it that much more interesting.
    I can’t help but feel sad everytime you find something like this … But grateful that you’re there to save it!
    Keep up this important work.
    -Michelle

  2. pepaulmier says:

    It is amazing what people throw out. Thanks for the history lesson.

  3. This is great. If you don’t sell it, I would suggest that you donate the art supplies to a school. Art teachers often have to buy supplies themselves and really appreciate when these are given to them.

  4. Two posts in a week. Zowieeee … life is good!

    Great bunch of art materials, and that wooden fish is simply sweet!

    My goodness, and that medal is absolutely wonderful. What a find! I can’t imagine how anyone would throw that out! And with a note to boot!

    And thanks too for the history lesson. There’s always something new to learn, and what a great way to do it, reading your blog! 🙂

  5. wildsprouts says:

    One of the tools (in the center of the photo) is a wood chisel. The one with a transparent yellow handle.

  6. BeachThrifter says:

    as far as the tools: the first one I’m not 100% on my assumption is it’s a file if the flat part is textured, a chisel, spatula for mixing oil paint, chalk/pastel holder

    There my art degree wasn’t a waste of money,

    and the Gold pendant is amazing!

    • One could get some material, and then carve a picture into it, and then roll some ink over it and print. I forget what it was called, I know my sister dabbled in it at some point decades ago. Some of those tools do look like a carving tool, and somehow this old memory pops into mind.

      Michael

  7. susanna says:

    That medal is wonderful, more so for the story/history behind it. But it has such a background that I can’t help wondering if whoever tossed it knew what they were tossing. I guess it’s a mystery, but that is a piece of family (and Canadian, as you said) history.

    • martng says:

      I like when the stories come along with the treasure. My friend wondered if they even opened the box – I guess I could see that because it’s kind of worn out and is stained with old tape marks. Still, I would definitely (and did) open any box that looked like that! Some people also just don’t know the value of gold, silver, and antiques.

  8. Jacques says:

    I can’t believe how people keep throwing out great historic stuff and that you keep finding gems in the trash.But you are still not able to cover many neighborhoods.You should cover Eastern NDG,Montreal North and the big borough of Ahuntsic too.I have never seen you write about a trip to Montreal North.Montreal North has a lot of wealthy older homes too —Montreal North is not just about street gangs.Please go there.

    • martng says:

      I would like to check out Montreal North, at least the more well-to-do part. I’ve been to eastern NDG a fair bit but haven’t found that much of note (though I had some great success earlier this summer in Snowdon). It’s a similar story with Ahuntsic. I’m sure there’s great stuff to be found in these places but I just haven’t gotten lucky when I’ve gone there. Timing is everything

  9. I think I had those crayons when I was a kid! Very cool art supplies!

  10. Paul Crevier says:

    I am curious if scavengers often steal each others’ finds.Besides the Town Of Mount Royal,which neighborhoods do you find the least scavengers in?Outside the Plateau and MIle End,which neighborhoods do you find the fewest scavengers in?A great business—yours is—but I think other scavengers operate more clandestinely than you.You think?

    • martng says:

      As a general rule I think there are fewer pickers the further you get from the core of the city. That’s because it’s a generally an activity of working class, poor or marginalized people who tend to congregate more in down-town areas than suburban. I’m much more likely to have a nice bunch of trash all to myself in Mount Royal, Ville St Laurent, Kirkland or even Cartierville than I am in Rosemont, St Henri, or the Plateau. For example, today I was biking around Centre-Sud and saw a place that had been torn apart by others scavengers (who had also left a mess). In other neighbourhoods these piles wait for only me to arrive. It largely depends on the socio-economic status of the area.

      That being said, I think I have an advantage no matter where I am by being thorough and experienced. I’m often able to identify spots where few clues exists that something great might be sitting there waiting to be taken. The gold medal from this post is a great example of that. I found it in St Henri, a neighbourhood where a lot of people tend to pick. However, there were only maybe six large garbage bags, all packed nicely (no holes or tear revealing the contents) and it wasn’t totally evident that there might be anything cool inside. I’m sure many people walked by those bags without a thought, even those who might otherwise pick, partly because there’s still a commonly held assumption out there that things inside the black bags are total trash (which is often true). Many people only pick where there are boxes full of stuff, or when there are holes in the bags that reveal nice stuff inside.

      Either way, I’m not sure how someone could steal my finds. If they get there before me then it’s their right to take it. That’s the way of the business – you never know when that garbage truck will come up the road and take everything away, even the stuff you haven’t sorted through. I suppose someone could steal from me if we’re picking from the same spot, but I’ve found that garbage pickers are just happy that they’re getting stuff for free. In these situations I also tend to keep quiet about possible awesome finds, just to make sure nobody gets jealous or starts thinking about be as a target.

      • I think there is some etiquette, even if I can’t define it.

        I know I’d prefer a chance to go over a pile if I get there first. The other side is that if someone is already looking over a pile, I’ll usually move on, coming back a short time later. But then there was that large pile on a July 1st, where someone was pulling cans off one end, so I didn’t feel much obligation to wait, he didn’t seem like he’d be interested in the good stuff at the other end.

        One time in NDG there was a big pile, it was on or around July 1st, and someone was there warning people off. Now it’s possible she was moving and it was her stuff, but it didn’t seem likely. I think I forgot to check that pile coming back.

        There was a time when I found a pile of computers, and was checking them and stripping them, and a woman came along, interested in the same stuff. I think she let me have first choice, of course, I had tools and she didn’t, so it was easier for me.

        Like I’ve said, people take what they can process. So generally, there isn’t that much competition. Someone with a truck looking for metal isn’t going to stop and dig or look for things where metal can be extracted, they want the easy sinks and metal chairs that offer up the most return. I always worry that other people will be interested in what I’m looking for, but that generally hasn’t happened.

        Wait, one time there was a box of stuff on the sidewalk, and I’m looking it over and not even sure if it was and I’m holding something, and someone comes along and makes a motion “give it to me”, and I did, because I thought it wasn’t garbage and he was the owner. But he just walked off with it.

        The real arguments would come if two people come on the pile at the same time, and are looking for the same things. That’s not going to happen much. The reality of “how can people throw this out” is that nobody is really interested in it.

        Michael

        • martng says:

          I agree with this as well. There is some etiquette and I will usually defer if I happen to see someone looking through a small to moderate trash pile. If it’s larger or particularly interesting I will look but start as far from possible as the other person. I haven’t found there to be much competition despite shared interests (cool old stuff), largely because I am sure to remain quiet when I do find something great (like that gold watch from two years ago – lots of people were with me at that place but none knew about my nice find).

          That being said, it’s rare to see someone out on the road who I see as competition. It’s mostly can collectors, scrap metal people, or casual / opportunistic pickers. The first two have different interests than me while the last generally doesn’t take things too seriously.

  11. Martin says:

    IWould like to know if the security guard harasses you in TMR again while you are doing the rounds.In other neighborhoods are scavengers warned by security agents or cops?I see a lot of people rifling through garbage in Point St.Charles and St.Henri.Never seen a scavenger warned by anyone.

    • martng says:

      I’ll definitely keep you all posted about that. I’ve never had a problem in any other part of the city. Even the police haven’t done anything to stop it. At the same time, I suspect harassment by security guards is possible anywhere that has its own security force, ie: TMR, Hampstead, Ville St Laurent, Westmount.

  12. Nicole Lefaivre says:

    Goodmorning Martin…What are you going to do with all those nibs(Plumes)…I would love to look through them as I do write very often with my porte plume…

  13. thriftcycler says:

    Wow Martin – I guess you’re the most hardworking and lucky person in Canada. I like your finds man and I’m happy for you.

  14. thriftcycler says:

    The only thing I got today is a wicker basket. Haha 🙂

  15. leslie lutsky says:

    Hello,
    The candle holder looks like a menorah for Chanukah

  16. Henry says:

    I admire your blog more because you venture outside the Plateau,Mile End and Rosemont far more often.Before you were often confining yourself to 2 or 3 boroughs and thereby missing out on great finds elsewhere.It is so good that you finally started foraging St.Henri.Readers had been pushing you to do St.Henri for months.When will you forage LaSalle,LaChine and Ville Emard?Ville Emard has some very nice homes,and is in the same borough as St.Henri.You did explore Cote St.Paul once,but apparently never a bit north in Ville Emard.

    • martng says:

      I would like to go to these neighbourhoods more often but logistics make it difficult. It’s much more economical for me to hunt closer to home. You’re never guaranteed to find anything and for neighbourhoods like Lasalle, Lachine, Ville Emard and even St Henri using my friend car (and paying for gas) is pretty much completely necessary if I’m to take the run seriously. My great find in St Henri was a lot due to skill but also to good luck – I could have very easily come home with nothing.

      Regardless, you’re right that switching up neighbourhoods is good – when one is not producing you might as well go to another. That’s something that having a car available to me has enabled me to do more. On bike I was mostly limited to nearby Villeray, Rosemont, Outremont, the Plateau, Park Ex and TMR.

  17. Bernard says:

    Do you find or rescue great tools,usable car parts and interesting stuff that can be used for construction projects?If so,please save them and donate them to Habitat for Humanity that has a restoration and repair store on Notre Dame Street in St.Henri.Since you just posted on St.Henri,this is worth mentioning.

    • martng says:

      I’ve donated to them on a couple of occasions. I take when I see them and they look to be worth saving. I never really find car parts, though I did sell an instrument display and steering of a 1960s BMW 2002 a few years back. In general I try to save things that I think have value while not overwhelming myself with too much stuff (to the point of stress)

      • Wood in some form does seem common, though I don’t know if it’s that useable for making homes.

        But why don’t these groups do their own scavenging? I saw an ad for one group wanting to create a “too library” and it seemed like they thought they’d advertise, sit back, and the tools would come in. Better to start with their own tools, get the incoming members to buy into the library by bringing tools of their own, and point people to garage sales and garbage to find more tools. Put the list of what they need up on their website, and encourage people to look at garage sales and even the garbage. If I knew something specific was valuable to a group, I’d grab it if I saw it, but until they make the effort, it’s only possible that they might have some value in the item.

        Habitat for Humanity could be scrounging for themselves. You can even find the kitchen sink in the garbage piles. But maybe they’ve decided it’s not worth the cost (anything big really does require some motorized vehicle), or there’s some reason why they have decided such castoffs aren’t worth the trouble.

        I know some groups go out after elections and retrieve the posters, now all on that “plastic cardboard”, to reuse for making their own posters or signs, or some other project. IN an age when every group has a webpage, internet policy circa 1996 was to put up a specific list of things you needed (whether it’s material goods or skills), because finding things used is way cheaper than raising money and buying new, but the general population can’t help unless they know what to look for.

        Michael

  18. Thomas Lee says:

    You seem to do most of your scavenging early in the morning or in mid-day.Do you scavenge sometimes at night,under cover of darkness?Are there more scavengers working during the night or in the morning?

    • martng says:

      I usually go in the mornings but will sometimes go at night (like this trip to St Henri for example). Generally it’s better to go in the morning as more people have their stuff out and the light makes it easier to see potential finds. However, picking at night is a lot more relaxing. I find most scavengers work while there’s light out.

      • I’ve gotten into the habit of carrying a flashlight around, fallout form the ice storm of 1998. But I know I’ve come across some big piles coming home from something, and it’s just too hard in the dark to look. Or, that time I approached a pile in the McGill ghetto one night, and thought I saw some cats, but it turned out they were racoons.

        Michael

  19. […] a similar medal (albeit, slightly less complete) sold in an eBay auction for just 200$. Found mid-September in St Henri. -Ferrania camera film – expired 1967: on eBay for 37$. There’s definitely […]

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