Au lutin qui bouffe


I made a lot of nice sales last week, and also received some very good feedback. The eBay part of the business has been quite good of late, providing me a decent income even in the winter months when having yard sales is pretty much impossible. I’m starting to think that I can actually make a decent, if still humble living off trash, as opposed to the sustenance lifestyle I’m living now.

Online selling (through eBay and Etsy, in my case) is the key to making this happen, and the more listings I have the more money I’ll make. I have close to 150 listings right now (after peaking at close to 180 before the holiday season), and I hope to double that before the next Christmas rush. I think it’s totally doable, but I’ll have to find some cool stuff and also get creative to make it happen. For one, I still haven’t figured out how to take earring and necklace shots that I’m happy with. I probably have 30-40 seriously nice pieces (/ potential listings) just sitting around that could be up for sale.

Last week brought some interesting finds, and a few that will make very nice eBay listings. I started Monday night with a casual drive through Cote-des-Neiges and NDG. I found this cool hand-made doohickey, but not much else. I’m not sure what it was made for, but my guess is that it’s related to shining shoes, given the shoe-shaped piece of wood stuck to the top. There’s also a compartment at the bottom where one could store shoe shine materials. I’d guess based on the materials used that it was made sometime between the 1940s and early 1960s. It’s about two feet tall.


I’ve been trying to get in the habit of going out in the mornings. It’s much easier to see things, especially deeper in bags where the best stuff often lies. It’s nice not having to always hold a flashlight. It’s also a little less lonely, as I find going out alone at night pretty isolating at times, considering that I do much of my work at the computer already.

I went to Mount Royal on Wednesday morning, the first time I’ve done a morning run in the area since that security guard told me to buzz off late summer. My plan is to just keep a better eye out for the white SUVs that they always use.

I didn’t find much besides these two bags of clothes. They sat in front of the same recently sold house that provided the porthole mirror the week prior. I’m usually pretty careful with clothes, but I trusted the source so I brought them home.


Clothes aren’t really my main interest, so I won’t go out my way to show you the best of what was inside. To sum it up quickly there was a bunch of nice, if not super valuable or exciting items, and a couple of friends came away with some new additions to their wardrobe. I came away with a t-shirt and some leather boots that appear to have a lot of life in them.


However, it was Thursday that once again made my week. I travelled all around that day! I started in Verdun but also toured around parts of Westmount, Outremont, and the Golden Square Mile, finding a bit at each stop. My friend Sarah came along for the ride, and helped me sort through things on a couple of occasions.


I found this somewhat bizarre painting in upper Westmount. I kind of like it, for whatever reason. It’s quite large, measuring around a metre both ways.


I’m pretty careful when it comes to apartment building trash, as it’s more likely to be infested with bugs than your typical single family home. I figured this pile was at least worth a look, however. Some of the furniture was quite nice, though I never considered taking any. I don’t have any space for it either way.


One of the bins was full of kitchenwares, and this cast iron dutch oven was the most exceptional piece. It’s a vintage Le Creuset and is probably worth around 50$, but I figure I’ll keep it for my own culinary use.


The inside is a bit grimy but I’ve fixed up worse. Assuming all goes well I’ll post a picture of the cleaned up interior in the next week or two.


I took some baking pans that I didn’t need and left them on the curb near my home. Most were gone within an hour.


It seemed like these people in Outremont were ditching the unwanted gifts of yesteryear. There was a bunch of nice stuff, much of which came in its original packaging. There were workers doing some kind of construction project on the property, but they didn’t appear to care about us picking through the trash.


This urn was one of the nicest items thrown out. It’s around 10″ tall, made out of some kind of rock and weighs about 15 pounds. I imagine it has some value as the production quality is quite high.

There were many other collectible items, including: a couple Lilliput Lane collectible houses from the early 90s, a snowbabies Christmas ornament, a duck candle, a wedding figurine by Enesco Corporation (also from the early 90s), and a nice Japanese vase.


Sarah and I were excited when we saw these Pandora bracelets. They’re fairly collectible – a silver bracelet itself sells for around 60$. These would be worth between 100-200$ each if they were genuine. However, it turns out they are imitations – they didn’t pass the silver acid test. It’s a bit disappointing, but I’m glad I was able to detect the fakes. I don’t want this kind of stuff ending up in my eBay store.


My favourite finds of the week once again came from Verdun. I’ve been going to this one spot for a few weeks now, and it’s provided a lot of neat old stuff.


It’s become clear that whoever lived here was a dentist. Inside this Colgate box were some free toothbrushes (one of which appears to be from the 70s), some foam dental protectors of some kind, some metal tools I assume are related to making teeth molds, a air handpiece (whatever that does), and some actual molds of teeth.


I wonder what’s in this box?


True to its word, the box contained some dental instruments. I’m not sure what the thing on the right is, but it looks kind of scary.


These boxes were full of vintage fake teeth.


Some were ceramic, while others were plastic. I bet someone will love finding these at a yard sale, if only to use them to make cool art.


I didn’t just find slightly disturbing teeth-related stuff though. This leather insurance policy holder is pretty cool. Based on its design I imagine it’s from the 1920s or 1930s.


There was also a small collection of old negatives, most of which appear to be from the 50s. Some of them are cool older shots of Verdun, which could be of interest from a local history perspective.


This file folder held some of my favorite finds.


There were a bunch of old theatre programs, including several from the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. All seem to be from the early 1950s.



However, I most enjoyed the collection of old restaurant menus. Again, most seem to be from the early 50s. I find old menus very nostalgia-inducing, especially the ones written in type. Here’s one from a Howard Johnson’s and the Cascade Lodge in Saco, Maine.


These two are from Valle’s steakhouse, a once popular but now defunct restaurant chain in the eastern United States. These might have a bit of collector’s value, given the former landmark status of the chain.


When Princess (now Queen) Elizabeth visited Canada in 1951, she stopped in Montreal and had dinner at the prestigious Windsor Hotel. This menu is from that event. It’s too bad there’s a fairly noticeable food stain on the cover!


My favorite of the bunch though was this one page menu from a former Montreal institution, Au Lutin Qui Bouffe. The popular French restaurant operated for around 75 years before burning down in September of 1972. It sat at 753 St Gregoire St, on the corner of St Hubert. A car dealership is now in its place.

I didn’t really know what “Au Lutin Qui Bouffe” meant, so I did some research. A lutin is a type of hobgoblin in French folklore that often takes the form of pets and other animals. They can be good or minorly evil, but just in an annoying way (such as filling your shoes with pebbles). They’re a bit like elves. “Bouffe” means to eat, so the name basically means the Lutin (or elf, if that’s easier) who eats. That’s a very literal translation, so if a stronger French speaker can describe it better let us know in the comments!

Restaurant Au lutin qui bouffe

(Source of photo: flickr of guil3433)

Part of the restaurant’s popularity was due to its mascot, a piglet! (or a cochonette in French – a mature pig is a cochon). The staff would bring it over to your table and you could feed it with a milk bottle. A professional photographer was often around to capture the fun. In case you’re wondering, the piglets were apparently saved from the fire.

au lutin qui bouffe

(Source of photo:

I imagine these old menus are hard to find. The only one Google could find was this one from 1968 (which sold on eBay for 12.50$). I think I could sell this one for a fair bit more, though before I do I’ll be sure to scan it and post it online for posterity. It’s a great piece of ephemera. Here’s a better look at the other menus, for those who are interested.

In other news

My sister Thea started a blog that I think you might enjoy. She inherited some hoarder tendencies from our dad, and has way too much stuff as a result. She decided that she needs to unload some crap, and now aims to unload one item a day for all of 2015. Her blog “The Minimalism Project: a 365 day purge!” details the process.

It’s often hilarious, but perhaps my favorite thing about it is that she puts lots of effort into redistributing (like giving buckets of buttons to a friend) and repurposing (turning boxes of wool into an afghan) her old stuff as best as possible. Some thing are impossible to save, like a pair of worn out boots, but she’s not just dumping stuff in the trash bin (as many people do, as evidenced by my blog!). It’s a fun blog that I hope will raise awareness about how best to recycle that old stuff we don’t need, and when to draw the line when it’s not worth the effort.

Check it out!

Last week’s garbage sales (January 12 – January 18)

1. Sterling silver vanity set: On eBay for 180$. I’ve had this for a while and am glad to see it go. Found late March in NDG.

2. Lot of 259 vintage binding posts: On eBay for 250$. I still don’t really know what these do, but apparently they’re worth decent money. They sold to some guy out in BC. Found
early October in Ville St Laurent.

3. Vintage Omega watch box: On eBay for 90$. This was a nice little box that was probably made in the late 1940s. If I was rich I might have kept it myself. It was being used to hold pennies before I came across it. Found early November in Snowdon.

4. Vintage taxi meter: On eBay for 140$. I accepted a “best offer” in this case, as I figured it was a fair deal. It’s a really cool piece. The buyer still has to pay me, but it’s not yet to the point of being an issue. Found early July in Mount Royal.


5. Vintage 935 silver guilloche pendant: On eBay for 200$. This was up for maybe a day before selling. I’d like to thank the reader who informed me of the specific style, as it might have helped me make a bunch of extra money. It’s quite a beautiful piece. Found earlier this month in the Plateau.


6. Vintage 14k Gold Ring (by Birks): On Etsy for 90$. I think I found this in the Plateau two summers ago, but I’m not quite sure.

Total: 950$, 11027$ since May 18, 2014 and 1344$ since January 1st. A great week! I nearly broke four figures, and I cracked the five figure mark from when I started to keep track (May 18). I look forward to see how much I made over a whole year! I’m also glad to be able to start counting from January 1, a more normal time frame.

New listings

Guilloche pendant (SOLD!)

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 I also enjoy reading your comments! Keep in mind that I frequently get behind on emails, so I apologize in advance if I take a few days or weeks to get back to you.

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20 thoughts on “Au lutin qui bouffe”

  1. You know to always check the pockets of clothes-last time I did I found a twenty dollar bill; in a different sack of clothes was a fast-food gift card; only had a couple of bucks on it but that’s a hamburger or fries and a drink

  2. Self-employed shoe shine people had very simple, often hand-made working tools. Like this box, the one on the lower left on this page. and this green one on this page which is listed at $69. Some shoe shop might want to buy it for display purposes.

    Nice boots. Those things sell new for around $100.

    Waaa … your painting looks like the subject was Rosemary’s baby. Hahaha.

    There’s a similar stone urn on this page, made to house cremains.

    The green vase with the birds is wonderful. Is there a maker’s mark/sticker on that?

    The dental protectors are likely for people who suffer from bruxism, clenching and/or grinding of teeth. I’ve just discovered there’s a whole category of vintage dental things on ebay.

    I enjoyed reading the Au Lutin Qui Bouffe information. Who’da thunk that fun = feeding a mascot piglet. 🙂

    Lots of ephemera, so right up your alley. And you made lots of money; that’s great too. And your sister’s blog is a fun read, as well.

    All good.

  3. I like people who hoard stuff as long as it is manageable.I live in Pierrefonds and we love to have a lot of stuff but we give away some redundant but usable stuff via Kijiji and Craigslist every month.We also have five fruit trees in the backyard.The extra fruits that we cannot eat or use to make jams –we donate to food banks,including a student food bank.But to give up collecting and clutter is not interesting to us.’hOARDING’ has become a dirty word but hoarding can be very useful and handy in several situations.Our home is cluttered but still very manageable and quite clean,though not neat or spotless.Praise people who hoard,not those who keep throwing stuff out.

    1. Hoarding is fine to a certain limit, though I’d only call someone a “hoarder” if it’s something that seems to be getting out of control. For example, I wouldn’t say my sister is a hoarder, but she definitely has a bunch of stuff she has no use for any more that’s just cluttering up her life. Those people on the TV show, however, have some issues. I’d call those people “hoarders”, not your person with more stuff than the average.

  4. Awesome finds and sales once again. It occurred to me that some beachcombers spend hours swinging their metal detectors on the beach and often end up with very little. (I know cause I’ve tried it.) You’re armed with a flash light and a good eye and find stuff the many beachcombers dream about…nice job as usual!

  5. amazing finds, yet again.

    re clothes. one of your commenters mentions to check pockets, please do, as I can recall many cases of folks finding money in pockets.

    also, re clothes, there is a show on t.v., where a couple of men travel around to junk/second hand shops/garage sales buying up vintage stuff/especially clothing /men’s shirts and sell it on their on line shops (amazon/ebay etc) for quite a bit…since you already have shops , might be worth checking out if you run across any vintage (often means gaudy) shirts.

  6. You got the French right. “The elf that eats” is indeed a literal translation of lutin qui bouffe. I always figured an elf was a lutin. If you google image both words, they both wear pointy hats. I wasn’t aware of the nice/not-nice distinction for lutins. If you ever watch Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulin (“Amélie” in English), there is a “lutin de jardin” (“garden elf”) that ends up disappearing from Amélie’s family home lawn. It may be in the marbles-in-shoes category of lutins as it sends her pictures of itself from different locations across the world (Eiffel tower, Colosseum, etc). It is a very funny and heart-warming movie.

    Focussing on eBay is a great idea, especially that you’re getting the hang of it and you’re building a strong reputation. Good luck!

  7. Awesome progress with sales! So wonderful that you rescue items before the landfill. The “air handpiece” can be used with a drill head or a prophylactic cup (for polishing tooth enamel).

  8. I think you are correct with the shoe shine cabinet. I’m getting to an age when the mental filing cabinet is overloaded and thus not always filed well. I can’t recall where but I have seen similar being used for shoe shine, I do know I saw it at least 25+ yrs ago. The Le Creuset indeed a good find, I’m a little jealous of that one.

  9. Happy to help with the guilloche pendant 😉 I was raised by a antique dealer and love jewelry so I tend to know a lot about vintage pieces. I also sell on Ebay 🙂
    P.S I have found $5 in a pair of kids pants once.

    1. Yeah, thanks for the help! I wish I had that background. I’m mostly self-taught (but have learned a lot through blog comments) and I still have a lot of blind spots. Knowing the right terminology makes a big difference.

  10. For getting good pics of the necklaces and earrings, one person on Etsy suggested scanning them. Or making a homemade lightbox!

    1. I’m never heard of scanning them… I have heard of the light box, and that’s something I’d like to set up at some point down the road.

      1. hey, that is a good idea, scan them.

        haven’t for long time years and years, but I did used to scan a lot things, and it came out very well.

  11. I love the fact that someone’s rubbish can allow you to make a living. We all have excess items that are no longer appreciated and instead of ending up in land fill, you save these items and make a profit. Well done and I love your candid blog about your search.

  12. For jewelry photos I just read about someone using a milk jug. I can’t remember the details but go a quick google search. She said it works fantastic!

  13. Incredible the things the folks throw out. I can’t imagine the work that goes into finding it all but I think it’s awesome that you are able to take someone’s supposed trash and make good on it. Best wishes, Tammy

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