2014 is nearly over, which means that it’s time to take a look back at the year that was.
I decided to take a look through all my posts and finds and see what stuck out. I present to you the best of 2014, in the form of five different top 5 lists.
The top 5 useful finds
It’s always nice to get something useful for free! Here’s five things I saved from the dump that I now use regularly.
It’s a nice one that probably would have cost 50$ new (and it was pretty much new). I also found a bunch of new batteries in the same pile. Found early November in Westmount.
4. Collection of bike locks, with keys
Found over a couple of different garbage days in front of a house in Rosemont (day one, and day two). One was a Kryptonite lock that sells new for like 100$. I bike a fair bit, so these are obviously nice to have.
3. Beautiful vintage cedar trunk (made in the 1930s or 1940s)
Great for storage and also as an attractive decorative piece, I imagine I’ll keep this for quite some time. Found late October in the Plateau.
2. Vintage Westinghouse multi-band radio
I very much like the look of this radio, especially with the fold-up map of the world and time-zone calculator. It also works great! I listen to the radio a lot while working at my computer, so this thing gets a lot of use. Found early April in Snowdon.
1. Macbook Laptop
I had to buy a new battery and charger to make it work, but this laptop was a great find for me. It’s allowed me to work away from home sometimes, which has actually been really nice. That, and the fact that you don’t find good laptops in the trash on a regular basis, makes it my top useful find of 2014. Found mid-September in Mount Royal.
The top 5 oddities
You definitely come across some odd items when looking through trash. Here are five things that are unusual, slightly disturbing, or maybe just a bit mysterious.
The old woman throwing out these antlers seemed to be happy to get rid of them. Found mid July in St Henri.
Status: Now decorating my friend’s house, but still in my possession. I want to try to sell them at some point.
4. Royal Bayreuth devil ashtray
This ceramic ashtray, made in Germany not long after WWII (it was marked “Bavaria Germany US Zone, so between 1946-1949), was definitely an odd one. It was also fairly collectible, probably for just that reason. Found early April in Rosemont.
Status: Sold on eBay for 200$, after a little cleaning of course.
3. Signed “freak show” postcards
These were definitely a bit strange. I thought “freak show” events were popular more in the early 1900s, rather than in 1959 when these were signed. Sealo, named for his “seal arms,” was the most famous of these performers. They were signed at Belmont Park, an amusement park in northern Montreal that operated from 1923 to 1983. Found late April in the Golden Square Mile, in the same spot as the Nazi passport.
Status: Sold on eBay for 154$. The buyer actually told me they were being gifted to an artist with phocomelia, the same condition that Sealo had, which is pretty cool.
2. Teeth with gold crowns
These are legit teeth with real gold crowns. Weird, eh? They’re worth a bit of money for the gold content, probably around 40$ to 80$ depending on the karat. Technically I found these very late last year, but since I only posted about them in 2014 I think I can include them. Found in December 2013 the Plateau.
Status: Still in my possession (in my collection of odd things). I could melt them for the gold weight, but I feel a bit weird doing so.
1. Tiny handwritten book
I put a lot of effort into trying to identify this little, approximately 8x5cm book. I uncovered a few facts about it thanks mostly to Reddit – I posted questions to three different subreddits, links below – but overall it remains a bit of a mystery. What I do know (or at least think I know) is it was made in the hijri year 1293 (approximately 1874-1875 CE), and that it’s written in both Arabic and Persian, though someone seemed to think it was Balochi. It references Ja’Far Sadiq, the 6th imam of Shi’a Islam, and also references some Muslim prayers. It could be a personal prayer book, though someone noted vaguely but with confidence that it was some kind of “fortune-telling book.”
It’s a really beautiful book, particularly the hand-drawn mosaics on the cover and the first page. That, combined with its age and its unknown meaning, makes it the most curious find of the year. Found early February while biking in Mount Royal.
Status: Still in my possession.
The top 5 decorations
I like to decorate my space with the things I find. Here are my favourite new 2014 additions, many of which relate to the city I live in. These tend to be somehow beautiful (at least to me), but not valuable enough that I have to sell them.
5. Serenity Prayer
It was really hard to choose something for the number five spot. I decided to go with this embroidery of the Serenity Prayer, as it’s something I recently hung up on my wall. I like embroideries, and I’ve always liked that saying.
4. 1977 Grey Cup pennant
As you’ll see in this list I’m a sucker for anything Montreal related. I like this pennant, particularly for the image of Olympic Stadium. It’s currently pinned to the wall above an old spaghetti lamp I found. Found mid April in Mount Royal.
Given my love for history and nostalgia (and again, of Montreal) it was really cool finding my own house number plate! These things are pretty iconic of the city, at least in my mind. I have it hanging above the door to my room and I can’t imagine ever getting rid of it. Found mid September in St Henri.
2. Montreal Royals folk art
I very much love this piece. It combines my appreciation of Montreal, baseball, and folk art (it was likely made at a summer camp, or at school) to create a great item I’ll likely hold onto for a long time. Found early April in Snowdon.
I found this very beautiful watercolour back in September at the same spot as the 811 number plate. It was signed “Muhlstock,” indicating that it was painted by locally famous Jewish painter Louis Muhlstock.
I’ve been meaning to update you on this piece. I contacted the estate of Louis Muhlstock (basically one of his relatives) to confirm the painting’s authenticity, telling him I found it in the trash and had no knowledge of its origin. When he first saw the pictures (he opened the email attachments as I listened on the phone) he seemed excited and thought it was a true piece. Not long later, though he expressed doubt, and ultimately decided he thought it was a fake.
Still, I’m not really sure about that. It’s a very nice piece, regardless of who painted it, and certainly looks similar to some of his other work. It has pinholes on the corners and came in a very humble, old frame, which is a good sign that this wasn’t made to deceive. The estate cited inconsistencies to the signatures, but other signatures I saw online showed that there was at least a bit of variance, some of which matched up to the signature on this one.
Either way, I can’t sell it as a Muhlstock (it would be worth several hundred dollars in that case), so I’m just going to keep it myself. It’s a great piece that reminds me (again) of Montreal, the whole interesting process of trying to authenticate it, and the fact that finding it indirectly led me to my #2 top find of the year (I’ll tell you more about that later). Found mid September in St Henri.
The top 5 “best of the rest”
These didn’t quite fit into any of the other categories but are still cool enough to be worth a mention. They might be somewhat valuable, somewhat mysterious, or just the #6 best find of the year.
5. Big change
I find change pretty regularly – I made about 126.85$ from it this year – but rarely this much at a time. This one place in Upper Westmount decided that the 56.85$ stored away in a cardboard whiskey container just wasn’t worth the effort. Found early December.
Status: Quickly traded for bills using the change machines at TD Bank, and now long spent.
4. Envelope full of 25c bills
If you told me earlier this year that I was going to find an envelope full of bills, I would have never guessed that the total would add up to 2.50$. That’s just what happened though when I found ten 25c shinplaster bills from the early 1900s. Found mid September in St Henri.
Status: Listed on eBay.
3. Handwritten French books from late 1800s
One of a kind and written in beautiful calligraphy, these books could shoot up the list depending on the quality of the contents. Unfortunately, my French isn’t nearly good enough to understand its nuances. One book is filled with “Poésies d’amitié” (love poems). The other looks to be filled with thoughts on philosophy and religion, and while parts of it are definitely quotes of famous thinkers the rest seems to be original, and fairly poetic. Found early January in Rosemont.
Status: Still in my possession.
2. 1948 Winnepeg phone book
Phone books are quickly becoming a thing of the past, and even in their prime they were generally obsolete in a few years. However, someone in Montreal decided to hold onto a Winnepeg phone book for nearly 70 years. I’m glad they did, because it’s a great ephemeral find, a personal favourite of mine.
Status: Listed on eBay.
1. 1824 German-Jewish prayer book
This leather-bound book was in amazing condition considering that it was nearly two hundred years old! It sold quickly when listed on eBay to a Judaica collector.
Status: Sold on eBay for 150$.
The top 5 finds of 2014
These are the best finds of the year. They all have historical and monetary value. Some taught me things about the past, while others made me feel things I never would have felt otherwise.
5. Collection of flags
Finding these taught me what Canada’s flag was pre-Maple Leaf. There were four flags in all, two of which were Canadian “Red Ensigns” that served as Canada’s national flag from 1921-1957. There was also an old Australian flag and a one of Switzerland. Found late July in Mount Royal.
Status: All sold on eBay. The two Canadian flags went to one buyer for 305.50$, while the other two went for about 60$ each.
4. Buried treasure
Buried in kitchen waste, that is! These coins and tokens, some of which date back to the mid 1700s, were for some reason at the bottom of a bag of total crap. It was only thanks to my kicking the bag – and hearing that familiar jingle of coins – that I found them at all. There were also a few ripped up photographs in the bag, which makes this all slightly odd. Found early December in Verdun.
Status: In my possession and awaiting listing. The most valuable is likely a late 1700s coin American stamped “Nova Eborac” (New York in Latin). If you want a closer look at the coins, I added a special gallery to my Facebook page.
3. Teacups and saucers
I found these all in the same place, so I think it’s fair to list them as a single find. They were all in great condition and perfectly packed away in aged boxes. My guess is that someone inherited them and some point and just didn’t know what they had. The majority are made by Aynsley and Paragon, brands renown for their quality.
Status: Most are sold or listed on eBay. I’ve already made over 1000$ dollars from the collection, much of which came from a set of three uncommon cottage-themed cups by Aynsley that sold for 750$ (top left photo of gallery above). A set of three turquoise Paragon “rose” cups sold for 180$, while a similar green set sold for 170$. This just goes to show that keeping your eyes to the curb can occasionally pay off in a big way! Found early October in Ville St Laurent.
2. 10k gold service medal from WWI – Plumas, Manitoba
This would have been an easy #1 last year, but there was stiff competition this time around. This medal is a great piece of history, with World War I ending nearly 100 years ago. It’s beautifully crafted in 10k gold, and the note that accompanied it gave it the context I often spend so much time trying to discover (“all the Plumas boys who served and returned got one of these”).
I also came across it quite luckily. I had found the Muhlstock painting while randomly driving around St Henri (an area I had never covered) on a non garbage day, and decided to come back on trash day for a real run. The timing was impeccable, as I found this medal on my first St Henri run.
Status: Sold on eBay for 290$.
1. Passport from Nazi Germany (that belonged to a Jewish woman)
I think this may have been the easiest choice of them all. It’s simply an amazing find that carries all kinds of historical and spiritual weight. The “J” stamp in particular, which the Nazis used to mark Jewish passports, makes me ponder hatred and the power of bureaucracy. As well, the date of departure – July 3rd, 1939 – highlights how lucky it was that this woman escaped Germany before the war broke out on September 1st. By then, it would have likely been too late.
Documents like this have power because they make you feel things that you might never have felt otherwise. Intellectually, I knew many things about WWII and the holocaust from school and reading. However, seeing this artefact and feeling it with my own hands makes that ugly history feel much more real, and somehow closer to home. I hope I was able to share that you with you as well.
I was extremely lucky to find this at all. I happened to be in a part of town I don’t usually cover for an appointment, and I found it long after most garbage is long compacted. The circumstances make it an even better find, and it’s an easy choice for #1. Found late April in the Golden Square Mile.
Status: Still in my possession along with many of the other amazing things I found at the same place. I contacted the local holocaust museum about it, but they said they have five already and I didn’t see a point in giving them a sixth. I’ve considered selling it, but I wouldn’t want to sell it to just anyone. I prefer to keep it myself, selling it only if I am ever desperate for cash. It’s something I can show my friends, and maybe my kids or grandkids someday.
My first full year as a professional scavenger was a great one. I found lots of amazing stuff, made a few more notable media appearances (including one on Definitely Not The Opera, a radio show that plays nationally here in Canada), and improved as a businessman, blogger, and scavenger. I’m excited to see what the new year brings!
I would like to thank all of you, my readers for being so supportive. The blog now has nearly 3000 followers and your interest is a big part of what keeps me motivated. It’s a lot of fun sharing my finds with you and I always enjoy reading your comments. I would like to extend an extra special thank you to my friend Sarah for her unconditional support. Not only did she inspire me to start this blog but she also let me use her car and fill it with trash all year long. Without the car I would have missed out on many of my best finds.
I hope you all have a prosperous and happy New Year!
31 thoughts on “2014: the year in review”
Congratulations on all your success, Martin! Definitely looking forward to another year of your finds! All the best in 2015!
Thanks! Keep up your blog too, I enjoy reading it.
very nice review. like the idea of a review, and you’ve picked good items/content.
Have an EXCELLENT New Year, lots of good finds/lots of good adventures/some time to mellow.
There’s a lot of great finds that didn’t quite make it (the RCAF cap for one), but of course you can only pick so many. Hope you have a happy new year as well!
Happy New Year to you. Thanks for this blog. May 2015 be even more fruitful.
I love your blog as I have a relative who often makes great finds in the rubbish bins outside charity shops before “bin day”. Mind boggling what is thrown away!
All best wishes for 2015
You’re fabulous, Mar! I love being reminded of your favourite finds and the stories behind them. It’s nice that the Green Booger is being put to good use as a garbage chariot too. Goodness knows I wouldn’t be using it much here in Montreal anyway. The risk of having to parallel park it is too high. 😉 When the GB eventually ends up in a junkyard somewhere, it’ll have a rich, wacky history of its own thanks to all these adventures. Maybe we should leave a note in the glove-box when the time comes. Wouldn’t it be neat to know the past lives of garbage vehicles?
I feel pretty lucky to have you as a friend, and I hope you realize what an inspiration you are for so many of us creative types and deviants. You show a mighty amount of courage, curiosity, sensitivity, perseverance and generosity in forging this unconventional existence. Here’s wishing you more treasures, silliness, and growth in the year ahead!
not long found your blog and loving your finds, pictures of your area and stories. I live in England and it is illegal to go through anyones bins plus anything not household rubbish has to be taken by the owner to the tip.
Tip workers find all sorts of great things but the tips are well guarded from Joe Public.
Keep up the rescuing and liberation of historic and useful objects from landfill. All the best for 2015
Thanks for the kind words. Sounds like I’m best off staying in North America!
Wow, what a great wrap-up of 2014!
You provide great information about the objects you find, and about yourself as well. I loved learning what you kept for yourself, and why. I loved learning the depth of the impressions various items had on you. I love hearing the twists and turns of your research. I love knowing that you can exist comfortably doing the thing you love to do.
What can I say? I love your blog, and your own fine self.
Wishing you a stellar 2015! *hugs*
I hope that you find more wonderful things in the garbage. It’s amazing what actual treasures wait at the curb for the landfill. Keep saving them! I look forward to your reports! Best wishes in the new year! Thanks to Sarah for being a wonderful enabler, too.
Thanks for the kind words! Happy new year to you as well
some tips on how to “pack more on your bike”..grin
don’t know what is in these bags…but WOW
check this out…
All I can say is WOW
not sure if they are suggesting this, or…
Lol. The closest I got to this was when I was biking with a trailer, found another trailer, and hooked the second trailer to the first and made a double trailer. Good times, I must have looked crazy, especially considering I was biking through the fancy part of town.
It was last November, if anyone’s curious http://garbagefinds.com/2013/11/13/the-cisco-kid/
I enjoy reading about your finds and have learned to appreciate the items that others discard. Your blog has also made me more aware of the need to be mindful about what I choose to accumulate. Happy New Year and a great 2015!
Glad I’ve made a difference. Happy new year to you too!
Great post. Thanks for sharing it all with us…
[…] This guy supports himself with things he finds in the trash. Pretty incredible. […]
I really love your blog, and look forward to your posts. I follow another blog called The Non consumer advocate, and shared your blog on the Facebook page. Lots of people were very impressed! happy new year!
That may explain the surge of facebook views I got a while back… I can track down a lot of traffic sources, but with Facebook it’s always a mystery where the hits come from. Thanks for sharing, and happy new year to you as well!
It’s just incredible to see it all in one post –
I’d love to mention this on my blog ( with your permission ) and link back to your blog – I have a lot of followers – it could bring business your way !
Let me know
Suzan ( also a Montrealer )
Simply Vintageous……….by Suzan
Go for it! Glad you like the blog, I’ll check out yours too
Hi Martin, Interesting review…Wish you a 2015 with even more great finds. A faithful follower (and I must add admirer), Catherine.
Envoyé de mon iPad
i adore your blog. i’m going to link to it on friday! more people need to know about you!
Glad you like it! I like you’re blog too. I’m thinking I should start hitting up some estate sales…
This is amazing. Doesn’t it make you wonder about all the things you’re unable to salvage!
Definitely, I wish I had garbage-related super powers
That passport sent chills down my spine. Amazing finds.
Your new follower.
I found you from a blog in a blog in a blog – the last one I read was about where to go in Venice – I have to say I spent much more time on yours 🙂 You do have super powers!!!
Appreciating the time and effort you put into your website and in depth information you present.
It’s nice to come across a blog every once iin a while
that isn’t the same old rehashed information. Wonderful read!
I’ve saved your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to myy Google
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