Garbage picking is often a lot cleaner than you’d expect. The good bags usually contain a collection of non-gross things from around the house, and most of the nasty stuff – kitchen waste, diapers, Kleenexes, cat litter and so on – is packed together. It makes sense, because if you’re cleaning out your closet, garage, or basement you’re unlikely to go out of your way to put some vegetable scraps in there.

Still, it’s inevitable that you’re going to get your hands a bit grimy at some point. Monday night’s run was a good example of that; it seemed like I was getting my dirtier at every stop. The interior of this NDG garbage bag was coated with what smelled like stale Kraft Dinner powder. I had saved a few decent interesting things from nearby bags though, and that mild success gave me the will to overcome the unpleasant smell and texture.

(For the record: I love KD. I just don’t like coating my hands and finds with the powder).


Inside was a little (maybe 6″ long) drawing by a local artist by the name of Louise Lachance Legault. It’s not super valuable but it’s very nice. I left the Kraft Dinner powder on for this “real” shot, but it was pretty easy to clean off.


Also inside the bag was a Roots watch (curiously, the hands don’t seem to move but the display lights up fine; maybe there are two separate batteries) …


… and a “designer toothbrush” made by a guy named Alan Stuart. It’s still in its original packaging. Inside the handle are two small rubber duckies floating in some sparkly yellowish fluid.


I found this British Trampoline Association patch in a different bag at the same pile. There was no KD powder to be seen this time around. The patch is likely fairly old – it’s made the same way as some WWII patches I’ve found. The guy on the patch looks like he’s going to do a face plant.

Three other bags were full of old VHS tapes. I’ll likely check this place again next time garbage day rolls around.


This isn’t particularly nasty, but I did find another laptop inside a recycling bin in Hampstead. It doesn’t seem to work, but it might still be good for parts and definitely should not be in with the recycling.


My spot in Cote-des-Neiges produced the night’s best finds. I think they were cleaning out the basement this time around because most everything here was mildewy. My hands felt powdery and gross after sorting through it all. Still, it was worth a detailed look because the people doing the tossing clearly aren’t paying much attention to what they’re getting rid of.


I actually met the people as they left the house. I was looking at these two old figures (which were in the box with the cloth on top at the far left of the picture) when they came out the door. They asked me if I wanted them (which I did), after which they left and drove off.

These are pretty cool but I’m not sure exactly what they’re meant to be. At 2′ tall they’re a bit too big to be bookends. They seem to be chalkware, which would probably make them quite old. You can see that they’ve been attacked by mildew but I think it should be pretty easy to clean off.


This canvas bag was underneath a couple of mildewy boxes. The bag was quite mildewy as well. It contained several very light wooden pieces.


When added together they formed this little table (roughly 3′ tall). It has an Art Nouveau look to it, which would make it around 100 years old, give or take. There are a few pieces broken off – most notably one of the child’s arms – but it seems that I have most or all of them.


A tag on the bottom indicates that it was made in Italy. By who, I have no idea.


This piece was also inside the bag but I’m not sure where it fits.

I think the table could be easily restored to look pretty nice. If it’s worth my time I might try to do it myself. Does anyone know what this piece of furniture might be worth in good condition?


One box held a bunch of books. The ones at the top were mostly ruined, while the ones at the bottom were in decent condition. I snapped this photo after looking through them a bit, they were more organized beforehand.


I saved only one book. It’s a translated version of one of HG Wells‘ history books. The plastic cover protected it from most dampness-related damage.


An old pair of Majestic binoculars rested at the very bottom of the box. They seem to have escaped the mildew entirely. They look to be new, and came in their original cardboard box and leather case. They’re not worth much but make for good yard sale material.


Another box contained some records. These were slightly mildewy, but were largely protected by the original shrink wrap that their previous owner left on. Most of the records were oldies, Pat Boone and Doris Day being two artists that come to mind.


There were a few 45 records in the collection, including a version of the Expo 67 theme song by Michele Richard and a 1980s promo song made for the Montreal Canadiens. The latter was sponsored by Coca-Cola and Provigo, a local grocery chain. They’re worth around 10$ each.


I found this tiny (maybe 3″ wide) brass frame amongst the records. It’s marked Majestic on the bottom. Maybe it was made by the same company that made the binoculars?


My best find though likely came from this moldy old trunk. Inside was a bunch of old clothes and some Christmas decorations, none of which were in good enough condition to be worth bothering with. However, because of the pedigree of the spot I decided to do a thorough investigation of the contents. I spotted something unusual while sifting through the damaged contents (and trying not to breath in the stale air).


It was a tarnished silver compact. There is black enamel at the top and bottom.


The mirror is intact but very worn from age. It would probably be easy enough to replace.


I tore out the powder puff in an attempt to find some kind of marking.


It’s stamped “sterling” and “935”. The 935 mark means that it’s 93.5% silver, and likely from Austria, Germany or Switzerland – the only countries that have used that particular silver standard. It reminds me a lot of the locket I found this January in the Plateau, which was also enameled 935 silver (and later sold for 200$!).

I didn’t find any exactly the same on eBay, but I definitely think that I can make some decent money here. A similar compact, which has the same 935 silver case but a different design (and a missing mirror) sold for over 400$. If I can sell mine for a similar amount I’d be very happy!

Possessing a strong stomach for sorting through nastiness is definitely a necessary skill in this line of work. I don’t mind getting my hands dirty, but I still hope that the rest of week is a bit cleaner!

14 thoughts on “Grimes”

  1. Hi Martin,

    As always you are great at finding good stuff. I think the broken off gold wooden rope piece with tassels was originally strung across the cherub’s front and held on each hand. It’s too bad the right hand is broken off. Gorilla glue is strong enough to glue the wooden rope back into its original place. For your health and safety it would be best to wear a mask to prevent breathing in the moulds and mildew when you go through the mildewy bags.

  2. Martin, Old uniforms and vintage men’s work wear (pre-60s) are very collectible. Even sometimes with stains, holes, etc. Check them out on eBay. They can be hung outside, sprayed with vinegar/water to remove most smells. I usually wash them gentle cycle with vinegar and washing soda. Hang to dry. Work coats, fly fishing clothes, blue jeans, overalls.

    1. I definitely keep my eye out for uniforms, but work-wear is a new one to me. These were mostly suits, for the record.

  3. I imagine you smelled essence de KD for a while after. 🙂

    Ooo… here’s an Alan Stuart toothbrush priced at $61.

    The British Trampoline Association (BTA) was formed in 1963, but I guess the patch is still vintage (much like I am).

    That odd piece that looks like a rope was possibly something that hung from the hand of the table’s cherubic figure.

    Magestic seems to be an Eaton’s store brand, so the binoculars and the picture frame would have been bought at an Eaton’s store, or through the Eaton’s catalogue.

    That silver compact is a beauty! Are you going to try cleaning it up? Here’s a link on how to re-silver old mirrors

    1. The one that sold for 400$ was missing it’s mirror, so I’m not going to worry too much about that. I can’t decide whether to clean the tarnish off or not though. Some people like tarnish, including myself, particularly when it’s a homogenous tone. However, some people like the shine, which is fair.

      1. I would highly encourage you to not remove the tarnish; in truth, it is a valuable patina that took decades+ to create! All serious collectors will prefer it. Those that don’t want it can easily remove it, but it can never be put back on!

  4. I would like to add that, for your safety, you should probably wear some heavy leather gloves. Who knows what you could run into! We want you around a good long time! Take care!

    1. The problem with heavy leather gloves is that they get in the way when you’re looking through bags. A lot of the things I find are small, and heavy gloves makes seeing those things and grabbing them much harder. They make things more cumbersome basically. I’m open to wearing gloves (though I haven’t had a problem over my years of picking) but they’d have to be light and more form fitting.

  5. if you google “cherub table” on google images, get a lot of examples of this type of table, not exact but…

  6. I wonder how many folk you have inspired to take up this “hobby” ? Do you see it as a hobby ? or a job ? If I was there I would love to tag along for an evening’s hunt.

    1. Definitely a job at this point. I don’t make money any other way. It used to be a hobby, though, and maybe one day will be again. I hope one day to money some money from the blogging, likely by writing a book or two that people will enjoy.

      I like to think I’ve generally raised awareness about waste and that I’ve encouraged more people to keep their eye on the curb (and to do so in a responsible and educated way). I know for a fact that my “how to avoid bedbugs” section has saved at least one person from taking home infested furniture, which I’m quite happy with.

  7. Inhaling those mold spores can be very dangerous. It may be wise to start carrying a respirator, a dust mask or even a bandanna you could wear over your nose to protect your sinuses.

Comments are closed.