I have a story from my Monday night run that I think you’ll like!
I stopped at a large pile that featured a busted dresser and lots of black garbage bags. Some guy was standing out front, and after I started poking around he called out to tell me that the trash was “cochonerie”.
The French here use that word for garbage a lot. I always find it funny, because in my mind it translates to “store for pigs,” with cochon meaning pig and the suffix “erie” usually meaning some kind of store. I don’t know if there’s a literal translation for that word, but I guess it’s similar to calling a place a pig sty.
Either way, he didn’t seem to mind me looking through the stuff as long as I tied the bags well afterwards. I think he was probably hired to clean the place out and maybe do some work on it. He mentioned that the person who last lived there owned a lot of cats.
After poking through these bags for a bit and finding little of value, another guy approached me from the street and asked me if I’d found anything good. Not really, I say. I never answer this question truthfully regardless, because it doesn’t benefit me whatsoever to brag about my finds. It just leads to more competition and potentially jealousy, which is an emotion that’s best avoided.
After looking around the pile a bit he starts telling me his story. Apparently his mom had lived in the house for thirty years until she passed a couple years ago, and his brother had lived there rent-free for the past five years. He didn’t seem to think much of his brother. Anyways, he had owned the house and recently sold it, forcing his brother to move. He thought his brother might have thrown out some of his mother’s old stuff when he moved, which is why he asked me if I had found anything good.
So he’s talking to me and I’m opening up bags, and then I spot this little change purse amongst some junk. Now, when I find something good, or even just potentially good I will try as hard as possible not to show it off. Again, it doesn’t bring me much benefit to do so. This time though, for whatever reason I opened the change purse right in front of the guy. Inside were five very nice looking rings.
I had a brief time where I was able to look at the rings. Most looked like gold, but I didn’t see any gold marks around the band which would be a little unusual for gold pieces. I also weighed a single ring in my hand and it didn’t feel that heavy. Though it was a thin ring, I find that gold usually has a weight to it that other metals don’t have.
The guy sees these rings and asks if he could have them. He said the family had been looking for them, and the assumption was that the brother had stolen the rings. Apparently that was not the case.
I think it over for a second, but what could I really do? I gave him the rings. I believed his story, at least in general, and he seemed to have a legit claim to them. Also, I’m not very good at playing hardball in these situations.
Fortunately, it all kind of worked out. I, with that sort of confused sinking feeling you get when you wonder if you just gave away thousands of dollars, said “Well, I’m doing you a big favor here!” Which was the truth after all. He responded by asking me if I wanted something, and I said I wouldn’t say no. He pulled this 100$ bill out of his wallet and gave it to me, saying that it was a “finder’s fee”.
I wonder if I should have grilled him for more. I could tell he had more cash in his wallet, and the house he sold probably would have went for at least 500k (and apparently he owned more that one building) so money wasn’t really a big problem for him. However, I was just happy to get anything at all, and it’s always exciting to see a 100$ bill.
I’ll probably always wonder though what those rings were worth. They looked quite nice, but I didn’t see any gold marks. Also, they were all inside a cheap looking bag that came from China – on it was written gold (perhaps just the color) and cubic zirconia. So who knows. While I might have missed out on thousands of dollars, it’s also conceivable that I got the best possible deal for these rings. I’ll probably never know.
He left not long after this transaction. I looked through the last of the bags, finding an old photo album in one of them. Inside were some photos of the family working on the house in what was probably the early 80s. Happier times perhaps. If he was still around I would have asked if he wanted it, though I’m not really sure he would have. It seemed like his relationship to his family was complex to say the least. I took the album and put it in my storage, just in case I ever run into that guy again.
As for what else I found, like I said it was nearly all junk. But I did find these two necklaces, which I’m quite sure are amber (I scratched a spot in the inside and they seem to give off that tree resin smell) in the bottom of one bag. If they’re indeed amber they’re probably the nicest such pieces I’ve come across – one has a butterscotch tone and weighs 100g while the other is the more classic glowing orange and weighs 80g. In the glowing orange one there appears to be a rock stuck inside the amber, which you can see in the pictures below.
I don’t really understand the amber market. Some amber is close to worthless while some is very valuable. Let me know if you have any information that might help me price them!