Questionable judgment pt.1

My success as a trash picker depends largely on the questionable judgment of others. Sometimes I can totally understand how someone can misvalue their belongings – there’s a prevalent assumption that old things are worthless, for example. Other times it blows my mind what people abandon on the curb.

This spot fit the latter description and was one of my favourite providers for a couple months in the fall. Every week I was saving something vintage or novel, and a few of those finds are candidates for my upcoming “Best of 2017” post. Some of you might recall the heavy silver dish I found way back and sold to my jeweler for an easy 425$ – I found that the first night I stopped here. The art dump above came sometime later on.

That painting with the horses is pretty cool (if a little damaged). I don’t have a good photo of it right now, so it’ll have to wait for another post. This still life drawing of some flowers ended up being a nice find, however. It languished in my garage for a couple months before I gave it a closer look.

Only then did I notice the “Muhlstock” signature below one of the leaves. It looks like the signature of Louis Muhlstock, a noted Montreal-based Jewish painter. His most valuable works are his street scenes and sketches of the working class, but his other works have value as well. I wonder if selling this through an art auctioneer like Heffel might be my best choice – if you have any advice, let me know in the comments! The frame is a little busted, but the work itself is in fine shape.

That first night I saved a bunch of old framed photos from the bin. A lot of the frames were moisture damaged, but most of the actual photos were in decent condition. Some were taken by the Notman & Sons studio, which was a big deal in Montreal back in the day. These will be available at one of my yard sales if you’re interested!

This 1932 McGill yearbook was probably the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. It features a lot of great photos and art, including several pages of silkscreen prints – take a closer look below. I sold it to a reader for 20$, which I think is a good deal for a book like this.

I also found a framed magazine article featuring the signature of Artur Rubinstein, the famed Polish pianist. This recently sold on eBay for a good price and I got positive feedback to boot. It’ll be featured in my next sales post, but if you want to guess its value feel free to do so in the poll below.

There’s a lot more to share, but I’m having some writer’s block so I’ll leave it at that. My luck has been okay lately, some quality finds but nothing incredible.


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11 thoughts on “Questionable judgment pt.1”

  1. Great finds as always and a treat to see what you end up selling your treasures for. When I pick here in NJ I occasionally find old photos and they always leave me very sad – I assume someone has died and the survivors aren’t interested in saving any of these (to me) priceless memories. I’ve only once actually picked up an album of old photos and by sheer coincidence was able to reunite it with a family member who lived in a completely different town from where I found the photos in a recycling pile. I still wonder how the album was separated from the family but it sure made my day to return it to them.

  2. That Rubenstein signature is very cool! Nice painting, too. Yeah, you really have to wonder why people throw things like this out. I’m a big fan of thrift shops and have gotten most of my frames there. I can understand why people get rid of frames, but the pictures in the frames, too? I don’t get that.

    1. It’s because you get to a certain age and you try to get your grandchildren, if you have any, interested in photos of people they have never even met, let alone had a relationship with. Understandably, they don’t really care. I don’t mean to sound gender-biased here, but it seems females are slightly more likely to be interested in pictures/memorabilia of their ancestors. But honestly, most young people, not all, just can’t make a connection with an old picture.

      1. After my mother died, we opened up a chest that hadn’t been opened since the forties. Lots of old photographs, except they weren’t relatives. My grandfather had worked at a photo studio at some point. So the photos were of real people, but no names. It was an odd selection of items, probably important enough to keep at the time they were locked away , but never gotten back to, their value expired at some point. So ledgers and some walking sticks, and umbrellas with the material in bad shape (my grandfather worked in umbrellas at one point), the maybe most interesting part was old newspapers some things were wrapped in.

        A consideration is that before a certain time, photography was limited to portraits in studios. People posed like they’d posed for paintings, dressed up and still. It was a big event, maybe the one time in their life that they’d had a photo taken. I imagine in Red River a photographer had to visit, so not much opportunity. So a family had a few photographs, much easier to keep than a large photo album of endless photos but not necessarily all worth keeping. It’s easy to see what people in Red River looked like in the later 1800s, the photos were kept and often landed in archives. And they get lots of travel because they were preserved, and perhaps because of the history of Red River. It helps that the population was small, so lots of families are represented. But I never saw them until I found them in books, and on the internet.


  3. It is insane to junk such valuable photographs.I am 37,a male and have kept all photos of my grandparents who died in their nineties and eighties.My parents also have copies of their photos. You did a great job in saving them.
    The woman who said men are less likely to care about old photos than women may be partially true.But I must remind you that a lot of young men and male artists care about old photos.

  4. It might be worthwhile to list the photos as a lot online for someone looking to furnish a business in a kitsch way? I can’t tell you how many expensive, hip bars decorate their bathrooms with similar old photographs. Or set designers looking to furnish a room for a particular era? That might be worthwhile…

  5. carrie’s right ! to boot, my partner being a painter,& a few friends photogs, i grab any frame i find whatsoever, the frames can often be worth more than the paintings if old enough, the metal ones (with the L & screw corners in the back) retail for way too much,& for a painter or photog any workable frame is a find ! maybe you could put the word out or advertise in uni visual arts faculties ? being big consumers of ramen & second hand stuff, i’m sure they’d appreciate your sales, blogs.

  6. I always await your great posts,this year is turning to be a good one for you.May you continue to keep rescuing things for a better appreciation to someone else.

  7. One of my friends on Facebook was raving about Marie Kondo,the Japanese nut who advises people to throw away everything that does not give us instant pleasure.That woman is positively evil with her influence and her best-selling books.We already throw out too much.U simply do not have the time to rescue everything of value that is junked.Loud boos to Marie Kondo.Shame on Marie Kondo.

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