Blue-collar junk


I’m picking regularly again after taking it easy for about a month. I haven’t been getting particularly lucky though, with no real “big ticket” or otherwise mind blowing finds.

Most of my interesting (if not especially valuable) finds have come from traditionally blue collar neighbourhoods. I came across this pile on Monday night in Villeray.


I stopped when I saw these two vintage drink crates. I’d never heard of Pisa before; apparently it was a soft drink manufactured in Montreal in the 1960s. Here’s a pic of some of the bottles that would have been in the crate. The brand seems to have been largely forgotten. Crates like these are always popular, and I think they’ll look great after a bit of a clean.


I rummaged through the nearby bags. Most of the contents were damp and musty. I’d guess that they’d been in a garage or basement. I was able to salvage a bit of neat stuff though. There were four large chalkware figurines that were probably made in the early 40s, two of which were these super kitschy poodle ashtrays. They’re actually pretty big (about a foot tall) and in surprisingly good condition – chalkware is pretty fragile and breaks easily.

They look similar to this one on Etsy that sold for 35 US$, though that one was in a bit better condition.


The matador and bull go together well! The bull is the most damaged of the bunch, but with a fresh coat of paint you wouldn’t really notice the imperfections.


This fish is also made of plaster. I can’t find a maker’s mark on any of them, though the bottoms of the last four are all covered in a green fabric that might be covering up the signatures.


Otherwise, I saved some vintage hockey cards.


They’re all from 1980 and made by O-Pee-Chee. They were a bit musty and damp, but I put them under a small but heavy box in hopes that they’ll stay flat as they dry. From my experience, damp papers will warp a bit as they dry unless you give them reason not to. They’re in pretty good condition otherwise, they just smell like basement. I’d appreciate any tips on getting rid of the smell!

As for value, I’m not expecting much. But from my limited knowledge 1980 is before (if only just) the point where sports cards became totally worthless. I’ll probably end up listing them as a lot, and we’ll see what happens.


Elsewhere in Villeray I came across a VHS tape box filled with old papers.


Most were Catholic prayer cards made between the 30s and 60s. There were a few miscellaneous booklets in there as well, one of which was an instruction guide on how best to communicate with your partner via telegraph.


The best piece though was this Expo 67 passport. I’ve saved several of these over the years but this one is particularly nice. There are lots of stamps (87!), and also a hand-typed itinerary that was tucked in the back. The guy had a strong attention to detail, that’s for sure. I sold one for 40$ in the past, and I expect this one could sell for around that amount.





This place in Rosemont provided some odd finds. The garbage truck started clearing the street not long after I got there, so I had to throw a few bags in the car for later sorting.


Inside those bags I found a sizeable collection of UFO-related documents. This included a 1967 National Enquirer, a copy of “Lumieres dans la nuit” (a French UFO journal) from February 1970, a copy of “Saucer News” published by the Saucer and Unexplained Celestial Events Research Society, and several book catalogs from Saucerian Books. That company was run by Gray Barker, a seminal ufologist who pretty much invented the concept of the “Men in Black.” I also found a small collection of UFO-related newspaper clippings.

I’m not a UFO guy but I do find these documents interesting from a sociological perspective. I’ve also never seen anything like them before!. I expect I’ll be able to make some money here selling the collection as a lot, as there’s certainly a passionate niche market for UFO-related items. A collection of 15 UFO publications recently sold on eBay for 1300$. My stuff isn’t nearly as desirable, but I bet some collector will have an interest in it regardless.


The guy seemed to have a general interest in space. He saved the front section of La Presse from January 28, 1967, the day after the fire that killed all three crew members of the Apollo 1.


Also of note was a 1973 Playboy calendar, a smutty magazine from 1964; …


… and a vintage poster making fun of Richard Nixon.


Let’s finish up in the Plateau! I came across this spot while biking around on a Friday.


I was able to salvage some old tools and miscellaneous, yard saleable bric-a-bric from the bags. Also some nunchuks, which are apparently illegal in Canada.


My best find here was probably this old knife. My research tells me that it’s a WWII sailor’s rigging knife. The pick tool is called a marlinspike, and is used for working with ropes and knots. The blade is of the “sheepsfoot” variety, which means that it’s blunt at the end to prevent injuries. The can opener was apparently a standard tool on any government issued knife.


Apparently the little broad arrow stamp means that the knife was issued by the British War Department. I think though that Canada, and other Commonwealth countries also used that mark. The knife is probably worth around 50$.


Last but not least is this old frame with a secret. I found it about a month ago in the Plateau and put it out at my most recent yard sale. The image is of Brother André, but it’s not a particularly fancy one – just something cut out from a magazine.

It went unsold. At the end of the day I took a closer look at the frame and checked the back. Sometimes, especially among poor folk frames would be re-used and the old contents left inside.


As it turned out there was something else inside – this old military group photo. I’m guessing it’s from WWII, but I can’t say for sure. If you know when and where it might have been taken let us know in the comments! The photo is fairly detailed, so click on it and zoom in if you want a better look.

It’s no Declaration of Independence, but it’s still pretty cool!

35 thoughts on “Blue-collar junk”

  1. Maybe not particularly valuable, but the things you found are definitely varied and interesting.

    Re: removing the smell from musty papers … try adding the cards to a plastic bag and pop in a couple of dryer sheets (scented or not).

    Nice knife … I’m fascinated by anything nautical. 🙂

    Re: that great photo. The tents are “bell tents” used during WWII (see They were also used during the Boer War and WWI, but all the hydro lines in the pic indicate WWII. I hope one of your readers will be able to identify the regiment from the uniforms.

    1. Interesting for sure!

      Someone below thinks those are actually telegraph lines. I also included some extra info about the photo which might date it to sometime before 1935, likely WWI.

  2. I’ve had luck getting the smoke smell out of books by putting them in a plastic bin with kitty litter – and putting the top on, leaving it for several weeks.

  3. re the photo – those are not hydro lines in the background – they are telegraph lines. And from the puttee wrapping on the legs I would think this dates from WWI or the Boer War. Of note – the black guy centre-left.

    1. Thanks for the info. I just looked at the the photo again and saw some something I hadn’t noticed previously which might date it to WWI or earlier. There’s a small stamp (the type you just press into the material) at the bottom right hand side. You can kind of see it in the photo, but you can’t really read it. Anyways, it reads “Wm Notman”, and there’s a bit missing that probably reads “and son”.

      Notman was apparently a notable photographer in the late 1800s and early 1900s. They have a lot of his stuff at the McCord Museum:

      He died in 1913, so before WWI. But the company looks to have existed until 1935 when his son sold the company. I assume they wouldn’t have stamped this on any photos past that point, which means WWII (which started in 1939) is out as an option.

      The cardboard backing could certainly date back to that era.

      I hadn’t noticed the black guy. From what I read there was a segregated black support battalion, but around 2000 managed (despite lots of racism) to join regular units and the front lines.

  4. I wonder if a pressure washer would really clean up those crates? The Coca Cola one cleaned up should sell for at least $55 CDN. The photo is really interesting.

    1. It might clean them too well, haha. I think they’ll look good even just putting them in the shower and scrubbing them down a bit.

  5. A friend told me that she crumpled up newspapers and puts them in old suitcases for a week to get rid of musty smells. I bet that you can do the same thing with the cards in a container. Let us know what works!

  6. Center guy seated behind the drums in the picture has 3 stripes on his sleeve. Rank of Lieutenant Colonel I think…all the ones seated are of higher rank. Hopefully one will be well known. Good Luck!

  7. Hi! I continue to be a great fan of your posts! Just thought I’d share that Pisa was a soft drink company that, from my recollection, used to deliver door to door… Much like the milkman used to! They had a knock off version of Coca Cola, 7-Up and Brio (chinotto)…. They maybe had a knockoff version of orange Crush but I can’t be sure… They catered mostly to Italian families and I guess was a company started by Italian immigrants (ergo the Pisa name)… Funny thing is every Italian family had this in their home but as kids I recall we used to complain and beg our parents for “real” Coca Cola (which I guess must have been more expensive)… Would love to try it again today 😉
    As for musty smell, I’ve read on the use of charcoal recently to absorb smells… Just not sure how you would work it with large volume of cards!
    Keep up the great work!

    1. That a great story! Thanks for sharing it.

      I found some more musty stuff recently so I’ll be trying at least one of these solutions soon enough.

  8. You can try coffee grounds to remove odors. Once the cards are dry spread them out in a bin and put a bowl of ground coffee in the middle. Although I like the kitty litter idea too, and it would be cheaper. Cheap unscented clay litter would probably be the best at absorbing odors.

    1. I think coffee would be too expensive. I do like the kitty litter idea, and I might try that first since there’s already some in the house anyways.

      1. Used coffee grounds,just let ’em dry first,also great for clearing out car smells.(for the car,you can leave them wet in the bowl*container).

  9. It is “university student clean out” week in my town this week. i am inspired by you! love the interesting things you find, great post as usual. sent you a message about that bull and matador.

  10. ‘Marlinspike’ was the name of the mansion/estate of the Captain (can’t remember his name) from the comic TinTin!

  11. Musty smells? You might try bicarbinate of soda, which you can sprinkle into a plastic bag to which you then add the cards (or whatever). Leave for a few days. I notice you have several tips for this, so you can try them all and see which works best!
    Following from the UK – love your blog!!

    1. Baking soda is cheap and a classic smell remover. I’m not sure which one I’ll try first yet. Thanks for the info.

  12. William Notman ??? One of montreal’s best & most well known photographers,given the size of the photo you might consult your friend at the montreal history center**those are “ww1 doughboys” worth it to any history,military buff.Pisa was actually a decent-sized company,italians & frugal quebecois & anglos loved ’em,they also had chips & such.

  13. Re the military photograph, recommend trying the Canadian War Museum’s Military History Research Centre by sending your photo or link to They should be able to definitively state era and may be interested. Great finds!

  14. During the late ’70s, the PISA trucks would drive through our east-end neighborhoods as we all came running out of our homes to place our orders for pop (clear, orange, cola, brio). Never far behind was the retired man riding his bike equipped to sharpen scissors and knives on the spot…

    1. I totally remember the scissors knife guy. Us kids would run inside and get knives from our parents and then run outside to get the sharpened. Of course our parents didn’t warn us about running with sharp things. How would we learn to NOT run with sharp things?

  15. Dr.Joe Schwarcz of McGill ,University,an author and chemist by trade is a very big fan of old Bakelite radios.Old Bakelite radios have a lot of value,and can you can sell them for a lot.Do you ever find old Bakelite radios in the trash?Did you ever rescue one?If so ,please let Dr.Joe know.I am a chemistry student at McGill.

    1. I never have but would not be surprised to find one someday. I’ll try to keep him in mind, though I might forget by the time I find one.

  16. Great photograph! My husband mentioned the puttees would have been worn in WW1 and not WW2, but then I noticed that someone else had all ready noticed this point. It’s so interesting to look at the men and wonder what their lives were like and what hardships they had to endure. My Great Grandfather fought in WW1 as a miner tunnelling under the German lines. He is the only person I know where smoking actually saved his life! He lit a cigarette and as he lifted his arm up, a bullet from the enemy went under his arm missing him but sadly it killed his friend standing next to him. Grandad had a photograph of my Great Grandmother and my Granny as a baby in his pocket at the time and the bullet took the corner away. My Mum still has the photo.

  17. Most of the cards from then are worth about 20 cents. However, that Gretzky books at $50. If you have a Ray Bourque or Mark Messier, both rookies, they each book at $100.
    Hope I helped,

    1. Thanks, I checked for a Messier but didn’t see one. Didn’t think of Ray Bourque though. The Gretzky then is still a nice find. I just put them all in some kitty litter (unused of course) in hopes that it will remove the musty smell.

      Too bad the Gretzky one wasn’t just one year older!

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