Finder’s fee


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!

38 thoughts on “Finder’s fee”

  1. What a wonderful story!I am great the guy gave you $100 in finder’s fee.Hopefully,you saved everything that was worth saving.Very happy that you saved the photo album.In our family no one throws out old photos that go back to 1900.We also digitize our family photos for backup.You are a very honorable guy.(The guy was right in claiming those rings,but you got something in return).

  2. Interesting story ! I believe you indeed got the best possible deal in that situation

    As for the use of the term ”cochonnerie” in french, it generally has two potential meaning : 1. Garbage, like you said and 2. Sex things, as in ”faire des cochonneries”. You probably heard people refering to someone (sadly it’s usually a girl) as a ”cochon/ne” to imply they like sex.
    The place where pigs live would have been ”porcherie” – ”cet endroit est une porcherie”

  3. What an interesting story! I love when you come out with these interactions in your blog. Methinks it’s another wonderful nugget for that future book you’ll be writing. πŸ™‚

  4. Which neighborhood did you find this pile in and got the $100 finder’s fee?I live in Pointe Claire.Just want to know.

  5. That is a nice story, you were nice and got rewarded for it. The necklaces are definitly amber. My mom had a lot in the 80’s but unfortunately I don’t know what makes it valuable or not.

  6. I have no idea about the amber and bakelite market. We’ve sold a bakelite necklace for $1300. And we’ve sold amber for $900. But we’ve also sold pieces for $50. We usually price high, add “make offer”, and wait for the right buyer. Often it’s people in China who seem to really love the stuff.

    1. Yeah, I figure I’ll try that route. I’d rather price something too high and have it sit for a long time and price it too low and wonder what might have been. Thanks for the input.

  7. if those are amber, and you seem familiar with this, I do know some older amber is very very pricey…thousands..litteraly. Hope you are able to get them assessed by someone reputable.

    it is very nice you got the 100, for sure.

    having said that, if you believed the guy, and it seems like you did, you did the “right” thing (in my mind).

    having been on the crappy end of relatives basically stealing from deceased loved ones (or dementia loved ones), and I can assure you it was heartbreaking. If it was his mother, and he had been the bad side of a crooked brother, good on you

  8. Interesting story. Trash is a super funny thing..all seems worthless and unwanted until you find something of value and everyone wants it!! It makes you wonder how many things of great value have gone to the dump! It says a lot about our society! Happy Trashing!!

  9. I love the dark one looks like one mom was going to leave me but somehow it was never found…hmmm how much do u want for the dark one? I’m getting a small check by Halloween maybe I can ‘treat’ myself[ you know [[trick or treat”. please lmk
    nancy kc jan

    ps so glad you got ‘finders fee” !

    1. My plan right now is to list them at a very high price to see what happens. I don’t really know what they’re worth, but it doesn’t hurt to do that. In the meantime maybe I can find someone to help me with the actual pricing. If you email me at I can let you know when I figure it all out.

  10. Another great story. I agree with a comment above regarding a book you might find yourself writing. Actually, you are already writing it. Your posts could provide worthy raw material to structure with an editor into longer work… Thank you, as always, for writing about your worthy work and sharing these stories with us.

  11. You have been doing this a long time and probably have a finely tune baloney meter. Obviously you believed him. you trusted your gut, go with that. Take your hundy and your excellent karmic moment and have a beer on the good deed.

    But yes it would haunt me too.

  12. Hi, if the clearer one of the amber necklaces is not taken or sold or too $$$ i would love to purchase it from you…contact me please martyn..

    1. My plan right now is to list it at a very high price to see what happens. I have a hard time pricing this, but it never hurts to put it on eBay to test the market. Email me at if you’re interested, and I can email you once I know more about what it’s worth. I just don’t like to sell anything until I know for sure I’m not letting it go for too little.

  13. I can imagine how hard it was to give up your find, but it was a good thing to do. Whether or not he was telling the truth, your good intentions are what matter-plus you reaped an easy reward.

  14. Montreal island has more than 5,000 streets.On any given week,you probably check no more than 1 or 2% of the streets for the curbside trash.Yet you are very afraid of mentioning street names in your blog posts for fear that other scavengers might find out your spots.I think your competitors have enough streets to search where you do not even venture.You should mention street names where the streets are very long.I am curious if you find good trash on Outremont streets like Wiseman,Stuart,Querbes,Epee,Champagneur,Bloomfield,Outremont,as well as tiny two-house streets like Marsolais,Duverger,St.Just and the beautiful Elmwood?

    1. For me those streets are not long enough to mention. For instance, if I say I’m in Outremont on Querbes that limits the possibilities to about a 1km stretch that many people could easily cover (and since I show the picture of the pile sometimes that makes it even easier).

      It may seem paranoid but I know for a fact that I lost out on some good finds because of how I mentioned the general location (in this case Outremont), and provided a picture that was somewhat identifiable. I don’t want anything like that to happen again, no matter how unlikely.

      What I’ve done recently is mention some the street names in the “sales” posts. I do this because usually by the time an item sells the place is came from is inactive anyways (ie: the people moved, or whatever) and there’s no chance at me losing out on any finds.

      I’ll also mention the street if it’s a super long one, like St-Denis or St-Urbain.

      But to answer your question: any street can be productive on any given night, but Querbes Wiseman and Champagneur have been the ones that have been productive relatively recently (but not currently).

  15. Do you still sell items via Craigslist or Kijiji?Are you able to sell much stuff this way?

    1. I’ll often sell things like iPods, TI calculators, and iPads on Kijiji. Things that have a solid general market. Either that or large items I don’t want to or can’t ship. It’s only a very small amount of my total sales though. I don’t use CL much anymore, as Kijiji is more popular here.

  16. I was born in Canada of refugees who came from Cambodia.My parents were very poor when I was born;they slowly worked their way into the lower middle class .Even today they are comfortable but not rich by any means.I was taught not to waste anything;many middle-class Canadians can end up poor but take everything for granted.I cannot simply believe people here throw out so much good stuff.I have rescued working Tvs from the street and some vintage tables,but never all the small treasures you find.You must tacitly teach people not to throw out good stuff:keep it or sell it.

    1. Hopefully that’s what this blog does! Though I expect more that it encourages people to garbage pick, which is also good. All the small treasures are in the bags, if you start looking there you’ll find some too. You might get your hands dirty but it’ll be worth it.

  17. I have lived both in Verdun and NDG.I find people more friendly to scavengers in Verdun than NDG.Your experience?

    1. I would also say Verdun as well. People there are more “blue-collar” and have often picked something off the curb before themselves.

      I remember two occasions where I met the trash throwers in Verdun. One time they were very generous, offering me more stuff and showing me around the house. The other time was a neutral but pleasant interactions where the guy just told me the story of the trash. Both nice experiences.

      In NDG I also met a nice guy who offered me things and showed me around the house (in the more blue-collar area, on Beaconsfield near CSL – the houses there actually look similar to those in the western part of Verdun).

      However, I also came across some people who called me something like a “voleur des ordures” and took some flash photos of me. So there’s that.

      While that’s not much data to base an opinion on, I would expect that Verdun is more friendly to trash pickers than NDG.

  18. Did you sell all those quaint perfume bottles that you found and mentioned in the last post?How much do you think you will make from all of them combined?Do you plan to keep some of them for your own use?

    1. I’ve sold some of those yes. I have a regular perfume buyer and they bought the Worth Je Reviens (circular bottle around the middle), the YSL Paris on the far left, and some miniatures for a total of around 50$. I also have a lot more perfumes to show you in an upcoming post that also sold.

      Some of the bottles will end up in my yard sale, while some I’ll list on eBay. I’ve listed some, but there are still a lot to deal with!

      The vintage YSL Opiums in their boxes are the most valuable of that bunch. I suspect they’re worth around 150$, perhaps up to 200$ each.

    2. I suspect the bottles from that post will end up making me around 400$, give or take. But like I said I have a lot more coming, and those will be worth a lot more.

      I won’t be keeping any myself. Most are ladies scents I think, and I don’t usually wear colognes. The only scent I’ve ever kept for myself is a little bottle of “Woods” by Abercrombie & Fitch. It smells pretty good, and is apparently desirable on the collector’s market – I think I could sell my bottle for 80$. However, it’s nice to have for special occasions.

  19. There’s a group on FB called “antique and vintage jewelry collectors” (or something close- also, you can message my aunt (girlzgonevintage) on etsy, and she’d be happy to help! She’s an expert πŸ™‚

  20. I suggest that you go to Nun’s Island every now and then.Nun’s Island is very wealthy,a lot of rich hockey players,lawyers and politicians have homes there.

  21. Hi there – Have been reading your blog for a few months now, including the archives -find it very interesting! Some day I will definitely make a purchase! Was wondering if you would consider doing a post some time on your ebay listing/posting philosophy – seems like you get some good prices for your items, and that you have a lot of experience. Thanks so much!

  22. Great story, and yes- you did the right thing! Not only were you “rewarded” with the money, but more importantly think of the good Karma you’re building.

    Keep up your great blog – good health and mountains of riches to you.

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