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The magic of garbage


Last week a friend and I went for breakfast at a cute restaurant in the east Plateau. As we were walking back to the car I looked up the street and saw an intriguing (if only to me) pile of trash maybe 40 meters away.

Trash picking can feel magical sometimes. There’s something exhilarating about pulling treasures from garbage bags, especially considering they’re pretty much the symbol for valueless filth. It’s a lot like that old magic trick of pulling a rabbit from a hat, except better because everyone assumes the hat is full of kitchen scraps.

We walked over to the pile. I kicked a few bags, and one of them sounded great.

Inside I found three large ziplock bags filled with coins! As you can imagine it was pretty fun to pull these from the bags, particularly since I had company and was able to show off my unusual talent. As you can imagine she was impressed, and also a bit depressed that someone would throw these away.

There was about 16$ in Canadian and American coins, at least the types the coin machine would take. There were also a few silver dollars (but not the ones that were actually made of silver); six American half-dollars; several tokens, two of which are from the Quebec Carnaval; about 10$ worth of Euro coins; and three American Sacagawea dollars.

There were a few older coins as well. In this bunch, you can see a 1931 British half-penny and two 1940s French coins. The contrast between the two French coins is interesting. One was made in 1946 and features the longtime motto of the French Republic: “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” (liberty, equality, fraternity). The other was made in 1942 by the Vichy France regime that was subservient to the Nazis during WWII. Their motto was “Travail, famille, patrie” (Labor, family, fatherland). The other side of that coin features an image of an axe, which you can see in the link above.

A few of the best coins were silver, including a 1967 Canadian quarter, a Canadian dime from the same year, and a 1963 American half dollar. I also saved four American 1$ bills and an 1871 Prince Edward Island penny, which was by far the oldest coin of the bunch. It looks to be in pretty nice condition for its age.

On top of all this, I have about one bag’s worth of miscellaneous foreign coins. None of them are too exciting, but I’ve sold similar collections before on Kijiji for a modest profit.

Otherwise, I saved an iPhone 4S that appears to work fine. Unfortunately it’s permanently locked to its previous user, but I should still be able to sell it for about 40$ for it given its fine cosmetic condition. Someone will want it for parts.

Easy money, right? My eye for garbage ended up paying for breakfast, and several other future breakfasts!

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