Garbage concentrate


The city of Montreal has plans to bring composting services to all of its boroughs by 2016. This seems, at least to a layman environmentalist type, to be a good policy that should help to reduce waste.

However, I also like the decision as a professional scavenger. A great example why can be seen in the borough of Villeray.

Villeray is a historically working class (but now increasingly gentrified) neighbourhood a few kilometers north of my place in the Plateau. Like a lot of the city it was built up in the early 1900s (especially 1915-1930), and was further developed after WWII. One of my favourite found photos, featuring a family posing in front of their house with their cow was shot there. (In case you missed it, a local journalist wrote an article about the photo which you can see here – it’s in French, but Google Translate can help you get the gist of it).

While not particularly wealthy Villeray has lots of history, making it a potentially interesting destination for picking. However, with two trash days a week the good finds were spread pretty thin, making the borough not worth going out of my way to visit.

Until recently, that is. I discovered the change by chance, when I went to Villeray on a Thursday night and noticed a distinct lack of garbage. I saw lots of compost bins though. Apparently the borough recently transformed one of their weekly garbage days into a compost day.

I want happy to hear the news. With only one trash day a week the neighbourhood is suddenly worth visiting. It means twice as much garbage for the same amount of effort. I compare the difference to a juice concentrate – all the flavor (theoretically anyways) in a package a fraction of the size. A garbage concentrate if you will, though I imagine that would taste pretty bad in real life…

It’s nice to have another good Monday night picking option. I’ve been going to NDG / Hampstead for much of the year, but the finds have been pretty dry of late. It’s good to switch things up sometimes.

I came across these boxes of books on last week’s trip to Villeray. A woman was bringing out a bunch of stuff that looked to be the remains of an estate sale (I found a “vente de succession” sign in some nearby recycling bags).


I took a selection of the books I found most interesting. There were a fair amount of classics that should sell fairly easily.


There were also plenty of Ukrainian books, and lots of evidence that whoever owned them had no love for the Soviet Union. Most notable is a book simply titled “How to Defeat Russia.” I also found a sweet 1950s book of Ukrainian patterns, but I lost that to another scavenger when I neglected to protect my pile. I guess I could have made my claim to the book, but it wasn’t really worth the effort.


I saved a whole bunch of records too. I was mostly lucky to find these before another else did. There’s some decent stuff in here, including some old breakable “gypsy music,” some classical and a bunch of twist. The woman who was doing the tossing actually handed me the shoe box of 45s while I was looking through the books. I went back to the same spot this week and found a few more records, this time mostly Ukrainian music.


Just up the road was this massive pile that extended over quite a length of the curb. I couldn’t figure out why things were being tossed. I rarely feel weird about trash picking these days, but this spot had an odd air to it that made my slightly uncomfortable. In one of the bags was a recent passport belonging to someone younger than me. I gave a cursory look around just in case any jewelry or other valuables were tossed, but I wasn’t as thorough usual.


The only thing I saved was this USB microphone. I haven’t tested it but it’s in good cosmetic condition. They sell for around 30$ on eBay, so if it works it’s a decent get.


I went on a bike ride in the Plateau and came across a pleasant surprise out front of some relatively new condos.


The boxes looked like they had potential, and I indeed came across some nice items in my rummaging.


Hanging around at the bottom of that box were two silver commemorative coins from the popular 1976 Montreal Olympics set. They’re not super valuable or anything – they’re worth about 15$ each for their silver content – but it amazes me how willing some people are to casually toss out precious metals. More on that later!



The box produced a bunch of other miscellaneous junk, including some electronics, a loonie; …


… a neat medal from the 1982 Montreal Marathon (I like how it’s actually a cool piece of art);


… and a couple watches. I don’t think the Citizen is anything special, but the Mondaine (billed as the “Official Swiss Railways Watch”) is quite nice and should fetch a decent sum if it works.


I also came across some decent stuff in Mount Royal.


Most of my finds came from this bag. Inside were a bunch of glasses cases and jewelry boxes. Given my recent issues in the neighbourhood I just threw the whole bag in the car and sorted through it when I got home. It wasn’t stuffed with gold and silver as I had hoped, but I still salvaged some nice stuff.


This cool coin was inside one of the boxes. It’s 80% silver (you can see the mark just below the seal) and was made for the 1000th anniversary of the founding of the Italian city of Udine. It’s a very beautifully designed coin – click on the close-ups below for a closer look.

This made three commemorative silver coins found in one week! It’s a bit funny because I’ve never found one in all my previous years of picking. I’ve found other silver coins but they were always intended for circulation. These were made for collecting or investment, which in a way makes them especially odd to find. It’s worth about 15$ dollars for its weight in silver, though I may be able to get more due to the fact that it seems to be fairly uncommon.



Also inside the bag was a nice pipe collection.


One was made in the shape of some dude’s head. It was produced by FBC in Saint-Claude (France).


Otherwise, I saved a passably good Foosball table (TMR); …


… a heart shaped box full of American quarters (Rosemont);


… and a 12 pound bag of unopened, unexpired dog food (Westmount). The original price tag was 46.99$. I checked for recalls and found nothing. It’s going to one of my dog-owning friends, perhaps in exchange for some human food.

19 thoughts on “Garbage concentrate”

  1. Great haul, Martin! I checked Citizen watches on ebay (which I assume you did as well) and the lowest price for one was $50 US. The rest were in the several hundreds, so it may not be as great a find as the Mondaine, but you could probably eat for a week on what you get for it.
    Could the dude on the pipe be Charles deGaulle? I don’t know. Probably not. I’m not up on my French history, but I saw the cap on his head and wondered.

    1. I’ll check the prices again on eBay, but I suspect the Citizen isn’t worth that much mostly because it has a few cosmetic issues and a missing pin (or something) on the strap. Likely I’ll throw it in the yard sale bin and give someone a good deal on it.

      The Mondaine is a very attractive watch. I just ordered a battery for it on eBay – here’s hoping it works.

      It does appear to be Charles de Gaulle. Good eye!

  2. Yep, pretty sure the pipe is Charles deGaulle. I still can’t believe how much garbage there is along the curbside. So much to look through, so little time! Good luck with your sales xx

  3. I’m guessing the pipe ‘dude’ is Charles de Gaulle too. The Mondaine watch is lovely – it’s the large red second hand that ties it to Swiss Rail – the trains there always depart exactly as the red hand reaches the 12 on the clock face. And, yes, it is true – Swiss trains ALWAYS run on time.

  4. Great news about Villeray! Hope you come across some good finds there in the future. 🙂

    Yup, I agree. Can only be Charles de Gaulle. There’s no mistaking that nose.

    As always, some interesting finds.

  5. What’s your protocol with other scavengers? I’ve never had anyone else butt in while I was going through a pile, or seen anyone else do it. I have seen others at some good piles and if they are going through it, I’ll just give them a friendly nod and keep driving. I’ll make a mental note of the spot and either return in 10-ish minutes, or swing by again when I am on my way home. There’s probably not a picker’s etiquette, but considering there are so many other piles out there, I’d find it kind of rude to just jump in on one that someone else is already going through.

    1. If it’s a small pile I’ll often defer to the person who is already there and maybe come back later. However, if the pile is big enough I’ll join in on the other end.

      Some rural / urban differences may apply here. There’s a lot of scavengers here, at least in the dense urban neighbourhoods (like the Plateau, Rosemont, Villeray and so on), and all it takes is a few people to butt in to make it a hard to avoid doing it yourself. I’m personally fine with it either way though as it helps reduce waste, and oftentimes these large piles are minutes or hours away from being destroyed. These facts are a bit different though in the country.

      The key thing though is to protect your take, which I forgot to do here. It’d been so long since I had any competition at all that I left some of the things I wanted on the other side of the pile. Fortunately there was nothing too valuable there (I would never leave gold / silver anywhere, for example) but the other guy got a nice book I would have like to have shared.

  6. Dude! you may not have seen these,but if you check old montreal metro photos,you’ll see these cool,space age,flipping numbers clocks in Every metro station,they were the Original factory stock ’66 just opened the brand new metro clocks,the were All made in Ooo-dee-nay! udine! 😉 joe.

    1. I’ve heard about this guy but haven’t seen this article before. Pretty cool stuff! I’d love to check it out. I wonder how he’s able to save so much, given that he also has to, you know, do his job. Especially all the chairs and larger items. Where does he put them on the truck?

  7. I found some very good books among a huge pile of trash on Drolet street in Villeray last week just south of Cremazie.I rescued some good books on science fiction,history,etc but could not carry more home unfortunately.A lot of good stuff gets chucked on Drolet in the Villeray section.Please check Drolet whenever you can.

    1. That’s funny, I’ve been visiting Drolet in Villeray the past few weeks. I found some stuff near that location at that time, but it was boxes of dishes instead of books. Did you also see the boxes of dishes (I left most)? Were you there at night, or in the morning? I was there at night, so maybe you would have seen some different stuff if you went out in the morning.

Comments are closed.