Balloon Man


Last week was pretty average. That’s a good thing considering how slow my finds have been of late! Hopefully it’s a sign that business is starting to pick up.

This place in Hampstead provided some neat finds. It’s unusual to see such big piles in that neighbourhood.


A lot of this stuff came from that house. If anyone knows the name for that (probably medical) tool to the right of the shoe tree let me know! It looks well-made and might be worth listing on eBay, but I won’t be able to look up a price until I know what it’s called.

The long thing at the bottom is a bit odd.


On the base is written “Dr Oberbach Biotensor.” While I had no luck researching this Dr Oberbach guy, I did learn that a biotensor is used to clear energies and is like a mix between a pendulum and a dowsing rod. I don’t have faith in any of those things but the device fun to toy around with regardless. The base has a dark patina – I’d guess that it’s silver plated.


I came across a tin full of buttons in one of the bags. I love sifting through this stuff.


As usual there were some non-button things inside, including two vintage Gravol bottles, a button from one of the world wars, some coins dating back to WWII, and two cute glass animal charms.


I also found one of those plastic containers that holds nails, screws, and other hardware. None of that stuff was very exciting, but I did find a vintage vial of Valium in one of the drawers. The expiration date is listed as October 1982. I’m not even sure how you would open such a thing – you’d have to break the glass somehow.


I had a decent run on Tuesday night as well, again coming across a large pile that looked to originate from someone’s basement. I returned with a haul of great kitschy embroideries and sold one (the girl at the piano) at my yard sale for 5$ – I would have asked for more but there was a noticeable break on the frame.


I also saved this large ceramic dog which I’m surprised no one asked about. My roommate likes it as a decoration, so I might just let him keep it.


I sold this collection of vintage glasses, two of which were vintage Star Wars (a promotion by Burger King) for 5$.


I found a small collection of books, and sold a few (including the Stephen King and Agatha Christie) at the yard sale.


This brass tray also made great yard sale material! I think I sold it at the end of the day for 3$. Maybe I should have asked for more, but my prices tend to go down as closing time approaches.


That night otherwise provided a vintage B&W TV (I’m a sucker for old TVs, and while I’m not sure it’ll ever sell at least it’s small and portable unlike some others I’ve dragged home in the past) …


… and a large (maybe 4″ wide) brass medallion. It appears to have been given to an engineer who worked on a four-star hotel in Portugal. I’ve never seen such a thing before, and I wonder if it’s common for engineers to receive them as gifts.


My bike rides were pretty productive as well. This find comes with a little backstory. I went to an estate sale in the Plateau a couple weekends ago. The house was very beautiful and was filled with antiques, many of which were from the Arts & Crafts era of design (late 1800s and early 1900s). I also noticed that there was soap. A lot of soap, most of which was a price point or two fancier than your usual Ivory or Irish Spring.

I passed by the house the next trash day and what do you know, all these bars had found their way to the curb. I’d guess that there’s at least 30$ of soap here, probably more! I think I have enough soap now to last me the next year. I might smell like patchouli for a lot of that time, but that’s not such a bad thing.

The spot also provided some yard sale stuff, including a basic but useful desk lamp that I sold quickly for 5$.


Otherwise, a Thursday evening trek through the Mile End and lower Plateau produced a few good finds. One was a fully functional iPod Touch, which I didn’t take a picture of because I flipped it quickly to a friend for 35$. Easy money! Elsewhere I found two nice ceramic pieces. The ashtray on the right was made by Moorcroft, which is apparently a pretty nice brand – the company was given Royal Warrant by Queen Mary in 1928. I’d never heard of them previously. The ashtray has a hairline crack and a couple tiny “flea bite” chips along the crack but might still be worth eBaying – similar ashtrays in perfect condition go for around 40$.

On the left is a 7″ tall Royal Doulton figurine called “The Balloon Man.” The piece is in excellent condition having somehow escaped damage through years of ownership, not to mention being put in a bag and placed on the curb. The design has been retired since the 90s and looks to be worth a bit of money. I listed mine for 85$, which from what I can garner through eBay’s completed listings is a realistic price.

At some point I hope to find something spectacular again, but in the meantime I’d be perfectly happy if the averageness continues! This week so far has been pretty good, and I have a chance of achieving above-averageness if I have any luck on Thursday and Friday.

Relevant links

1. Facebook page
2. My eBay listings
3. Etsy store
4. Kijiji listings
5. My donate page

Email: I often fall behind on emails, so I apologize in advance if it takes me a while to get back to you.

30 thoughts on “Balloon Man”

    1. I’m not too familiar with Varagesale. I have a sort of love/hate (mostly hate) thing with meeting people for sales (or trades) in real life, so I tend to avoid it except when it comes to heavy or large items. Those usually do well on Craiglist or Kijiji though, so I haven’t been motivated to explore other options.

      1. I think it works both ways. I’ll go to garage sales, but it’s less appealing to arrange a time and go to a stranger’s house.

        Indeed, I could never see the point of “freecycle”, because that too seems to be about arranging a time. If you’re going to make that effort, might as well charge something.


        1. I used to put things on the Craigslist free section (pretty similar to freecycle) but don’t anymore. If I have anything to get rid of now I just put it on the curb on garbage day several hours before the truck comes. The Plateau / Mile End (and anywhere in the city proper really) is full of casual pickers, so if no one takes an interest in the thing before the truck passes it’s most likely pure junk anyways. I find arranging to meet up with people pretty stressful and time consuming.

  1. That valium is for intramuscular (im)/intravenous (IV) administration. Ideally, you break the glass after using a small saw (more like a file really) on the ‘neck’ to create a weak point and then pushing it with your thumb. You can pop it without much effort just using your thumb the same way but there’s an added risk of glass fragmentation. Then there were the glass syrings which were sterilized with rubbing alchool (by setting them on fire). I can still remember the numbness on the buttcheeks after a shot 😛

    Nice finds as usual!

    1. Your surgical instrument is a bit of a mystery. the handle looks like those on bone nibbler but the top doesn’t look right for that. Maybe its a dental one? Also moorcroft make beautful stuff and it can be worth a lot of money sometimes. Whoever had those before they went to the curb bought decent ceramics, although the balloon figurines arent to my personal taste!

    2. Interesting, thanks for the info! It was hard for me to understand how you’d open the vial without cutting yourself, so that makes sense.

  2. Balloon Man was very popular back then and Moorcraft is highly sought after, depending on the era. Good finds Martin!

  3. The glass vial is called an “ampule,” and it’s broken by hand by holding a packaged alcohol swab over the neck and breaking away from yourself. I’m an RN, and although this Valium is long expired, medication is still packaged this way. No equipment required.

    My scores for the week were a large glass vase filled with mostly vintage watches, (Goodwill, $19.99) which I listed on eBay, as well as a 9-foot tall artificial Xmas tree, which had been placed next to a real estate dumpster. I’ll assemble it and then ask $100 for it on Craigslist, as new ones sell for $250 – $350. I’ve sold a curb-picked Xmas tree before, and I remember that I had multiple buyers who wanted it.

    And let me go on the record that Pachouli soup is no bargain whatever the price. Blegh!

  4. The large ceramic dog looks just like my old english sheepdog that we got at a shelter earlier this year. I was reading your post, and Then I was like-why does he have a picture of my dog?!-Great finds as usual.

  5. I love your finds! I always enjoy looking over vintage buttons. I used to be able to find bags and bags of them at Goodwill, but since they’re becoming more fashionable it’s been harder to find them.

    1. Well they do still get thrown out on a pretty regular basis! You might find some if you check the trash out front of houses that are for sale.

  6. Maybe “pretty average” … but pretty interesting nonetheless. 🙂
    I never tire of looking at all your found doohickeys, whatnots and thingamabobs.

  7. Martin is always nice to read your blog…many of my friends always ask me about your latest finds….Thanks for all the info about the items you find! By the way Martin…how much do you want for the soaps..?? I live in NDG let me well

    1. Well it’s a small gamble for me to sell them but I’d trade it all for say… 15$? Keeping in mind I gave one of the blue soaps to my mom when she recently visited.

  8. Ha! Just noticed the medallion, it’s from an (otherwise) well known hotel just 15km from where I live. Oliveira de Azeméis seems to be a nice spot for d-diving, I must go there and try.

    And you’re right. These commemorative medals are somewhat common (and cliché) to be given to some workers and guests on inaugurations, some would have a personalized engraving on the back (like the name and position of the person, which I assume to be the case). I didn’t these were ‘a thing’, to be honest.

  9. Hi Martin, the funky looking medical instrument is a nasal speculum. The valium vial is easily broken by snapping the top off at the gold marker. The owner of the place was almost certainly an elderly doctor.

  10. Nasal Speculum is the correct name for the medical instrument, hope that helps, enjoy reading your posts.

    Sent from my iPad


  11. That goatsmilk soap is sold at Costco, lol, they often give free samples there and I really like it. You likely will be the nicest smelling garbage picker ever 🙂

  12. Many people do not like scavengers and do not appreciate others going through their trash.But you provide a great service for the environment and help save historical items as well.I believe people like you have a bright future because you are an independent worker.I am against governments regulating too much.I encourage more people to be part-time trash scavengers.I also believe in freedom of choice.I believe in the right of Uber to exist even though I sympathize with taxi drivers.Let the customer decide.

    1. I like to think I’m doing a service for the environment yes. And by writing the blog I hope to encourage other people to pick and also do their part for the environment.

      I’m not sure about Uber though. To me, they profit from not having to abide by the same regulations as the rest of the industry. Allowing them to operate seriously hurts people who’ve invested so much into the profession. It also seems to be exploitative of the actual Uber drivers. Regardless, I won’t get into it too much!

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