Site icon Things I find in the garbage



I had high hopes for post-Christmas trash. I fantasized about people with more money than brains throwing out their PS3 because they got a PS4, or maybe their iPhone 5 because they got an iPhone 6. However, I didn’t find much of that or anything else in the week after Christmas. A big snowstorm, one of Montreal’s largest in quite some time might have impacted things a bit but I still never felt as if a big find was at all imminent. My working theory now is that most of the “old” stuff ends up not trashed but stored in basements, closets and garages where it sits until the people eventually move, at which point the item is donated or tossed.

The first week of 2016 was much of the same. It was looking like a lost cause before I came across this spot. I remember there being a “sold” sign out front of this house not long ago, and I guess the people living there are getting ready to move.

I pulled this intriguing etched bird tray out of one of the bags. It definitely vintage and looks to be made of aluminum or pewter.

Does anyone have any ideas as to what kind of bird this is supposed to be?

It’s marked as being made in China, but not with a sticker as is now so ubiquitous today. I can’t find anything quite like it online, so it’s impossible to say if it’s junk, treasure, or something in between. If you know anything about it let me know in the comments!

My best finds though were quite small. At the bottom of this bag were a bunch of sewing needles and other small items. Knowing I needed to be thorough I removed most of the larger items so I could get a better view of what was underneath. I then sifted through the small items – at the bottom (and out of the picture) are the rejects and towards the top are the things yet to be sorted. Using this technique I found a couple of silver earrings that I might have otherwise missed.

My most valuable finds came from this bag. In with the good stuff (which looked to have come from a “junk drawer” of sorts) were a bunch of used makeup applicators and a tuft of hair probably pulled from a brush. Some might find this to be gross but it doesn’t bother me too much. I’ll take this over kitty litter or old cigarette ashes any day of the week.

Here’s the accumulation of the finest of my smaller finds. Let’s take a closer look…

At this point I feel only occasionally dumbfounded at what I see getting thrown away. However, it was still hard to believe that someone would toss this 1967 Canadian centennial coin set. The coins were designed by Alex Coville, a noted Canadian painter.

The top four (the dollar, 50 cent, 25 cent, and 10 cent) coins are all 80% silver. The set is only worth around 40$, but it still surprises me how people can so willingly throw out significant quantities of silver. Keep reading though, as the best is yet to come!

The watch on the left is an art deco era Henex. It doesn’t work, but because it’s cool and vintage it might fetch me around 5$. On the left is a John Hardy watch. I’ve never seen a sterling silver watch before but apparently that’s what it is. It also doesn’t work, but I expect I can get a good price for it on eBay regardless. There’s a decent market for John Hardy watches – this one of the same model sold on eBay for 1700$. That watch is obviously in nicer condition but it shows that I should be able to get a decent price selling the watch “as is”. I could also look into getting it repaired.

In the jewelry department we have two Hebrew pendants, a silver tie clip, and a couple of silver earrings.

The star earrings have some unusual marks. If anyone has any idea what they mean let me know. I suspect the stars are vermeil (ie: gold plated silver), and maybe these marks indicate that.

This old ring is pretty neat. It’s nicely enameled and looks to be Chinese in origin. I found a similar ring (described as “very old ring, probably before 1911”) that sold at auction on eBay for 28$. Mine’s in much nicer condition though. I listed it at 90$ – we’ll see if anyone bites.

Now for an unusual looking pin. It seems to belong to the Phi Delta Epsilon medical fraternity. Their motto is Esse Quam Videri, which translates as “to be, rather than to seem.”

The fact that it’s 10k gold makes it a fair bit more valuable. Despite some pretty uninspiring photography one just like it sold at auction for 115$. I set my price a bit higher because fixed price listings often do better than auctions, and I expect to ultimately get between 175-200$ for my pin.

This watch may be my best find though. On the back is engraved: “To (person’s name) from Mother & Dad on graduation 1958.”

The watch is made by Omega, a luxury watchmaker based out of Switzerland. It’s an automatic movement, meaning that the watch winds itself as you move. It seems to work just fine, though there are a few cosmetic issues including the missing “9” on the dial and the non-original crown.

The inside is marked 0.750, which is another way of saying 18k gold. That makes it fairly valuable even just for scrap!

This watch (assuming it’s legit, and I’m 99% sure it is) should make me a nice chunk of cash. The most similar Omega I could find was this one, which is being sold for about 1200$ Canadian. That watch is in much nicer condition than mine. Still, I suspect that just by the virtue of having an 18k gold case and a working movement my watch should go for somewhere in the 300-500$ range. That’s a very nice payday for me, making this watch a likely addition to my eventual “best of 2016” post!

Looking back, I’ve now saved four solid gold watches in my trash picking career. I found my first in the Plateau way back in 2012 (when this blog was in its infancy), and the 2nd and 3rd from the same spot in Hampstead last year. I expect this one will end up being the most valuable of the bunch. Hopefully there are many yet to come!

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