Site icon Things I find in the garbage

That ain’t garbage


I was having a grand old time digging through this trash when I heard the front door open. A man emerged and proceeded to tell me that everything he put on the curb was garbage (“not worth anything”) and that if I didn’t put it back he’d call local security.

His was clearly displeased. I asked if I could keep some sweaters and t-shirts I had taken from one of the bags, but he was firm in his conviction that nothing was to be taken. Fortunately by this point I had already put my best finds in the car.

I’ve heard this “my garbage is garbage” story many a time. However, the meaning can be different depending on the situation and the tone used to express it. Sometimes people will say it in a kind way, genuinely believing their trash is of no value. They don’t mind if I look through their trash just to make sure. Sometimes someone will say it confidently, and I’ll have already seen enough of their crap to think “yeah, you’re probably right!”. Others, like this guy speak it in telling me to leave their garbage alone.

When this happens I’ll try to make myself look as non-threatening as possible, usually by pointing out some useful if unexciting low-value item (like the sweaters in this case) that I’d like to take, hoping to appeal to the part of their brain that might have once considered donating the item or items in question. I’ve always avoided mentioning the best of what I’ve already found, or at least how much I think I could get for it. I guess part of me is worried that once they hear how much it’s worth they’ll change their minds about throwing it out, or that they’ll get “garbage remorse” and accuse me of stealing.

Sometimes though I wonder what would happen if I told these more aggressive people the truth. I could say that one of the items they tossed was worth 100$, for example, and that this fact disproves their notion that their garbage is indeed junk. I have no idea how they’d react. I kind of doubt they’d suddenly be enthused about my digging, however, and it’s likely best I stick to my current strategy.

One bag contained a whole bunch of vintage pennants. I mentioned these as being “pretty cool” in my brief attempt to reason with the guy.

Most are from towns in eastern Canada (Digby, Moncton, Sandy Cove, Truro, Summerside, and Sandy Cove) while a few are from elsewhere (Quebec, Lowell Pennsylvania, Bermuda, and Quebec City). The “WHS Highland” pennant likely came from the West Highlands Elementary school in Nova Scotia.

These two are among my personal favorites. I like the maple leaf and the date on the Fredericton pennant, and the image of the ship on the MV Bluenose.

These are the ones I knew I could make money off, however. The top pennant represents the 40th Battalion, a Nova Scotian infantry unit that existed only during World War I. The pennant below features Valcartier, a Canadian Forces Base near Quebec City that was founded at the beginning of WWI.

Both flags are around 100 years old and are fairly hard to come by, particularly in this condition. I found only one that was comparable on eBay – it sold for nearly 150$. I priced the 40th Battalion pennant at 180$ and the Valcartier at 200$. I might end up lowering those prices a tad, but I expect they’ll earn me enough to conclusively disprove the assertion that they’re garbage!

I saved a lot more from this spot though. I brought home some WWII era equipment, including a US Army belt; …

… a couple of lids in a ziplock bag, one of which is marked as sterling silver;

… a small collection of newspapers from the 70s and 80s, back when Billy Carter was politically relevant;

… a very nice pair scissors by Birks, which I think were made for hairdressing;

(I’m going to keep them for my own beard trimming needs)

… and a large collection of letters, many of which are from the war years. These were packed with care into ziplock bags.

My mom, who was in town for a few days volunteered to look through them. The letters seem to be authored by two different people, one of which is more eloquent and poetic than the other. She didn’t get too deep into the contents but did read aloud some interesting passages regarding travels in India and a symposium featuring Albert Einstein and Max Planck.

Mixed in with the letters were some miscellaneous pieces of ephemera. These little leaflets were stashed in an envelope on which was written: “Propaganda dropped by the British in Germany in World War II (Found in Denny’s file of war letters and mementoes [sic]”.

The leaflets are interesting if not particularly valuable. I haven’t translated much of it, partly because I have a hard time understanding the Gothic font. However, “luftpost” is “air mail,” “geiselmord” means “murder of hostages,” and “von der Royal Air Foce abgeworfen” translates to “dropped by the Royal Air Force.”

I can’t read the title here, but the image of the hanging swastika is quite striking.

Of all the ephemera I most enjoyed these old WWII identity cards. These kinds of things always tell a great story.

I don’t think they’re particularly valuable in the monetary sense, though I couldn’t find any other Air Forces in India identification cards on eBay. Regardless they are very cool.

It was a great haul overall. Still, I can’t help but wonder what was in the two bags I didn’t have time to look though. It could have been junk, but they might also have held treasures beyond my wildest imaginations. We’ll never know! Either way, I’m quite happy with my finds to start the year.

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