Fast nickel

I’ve been pretty busy of late. I’ve been going on more & longer garbage runs because the weather’s been so nice, and I’ve also spent a lot of time organizing the garage and moving my junk to one half the size.

Over the past few weeks I’ve brought a tonne (maybe literally) of stuff to the local auction house that I mentioned in a recent post. I think that this development might be a game-changer in regards to how I run my little trash enterprise. I don’t have enough time in the world to do the work necessary to list and store and ship all the quality things I find on eBay, and some items are annoying or too niche to sell quickly at a yard sale. Plus, like I mentioned in my last post I find it stressful when things start piling up!

eBay is still best for maximizing my profits from certain (especially niche) doodads, trinkets, and etc. Yard sales are a great way to sell cheaper items and whatever else happens to be in storage. However, the auction house allows me to unload quality junk quickly for a reasonable amount of money, and once I drop it off I never have to think about it again!

As for results they’ve been good so far. A few things have sold for less than I had hoped, but others have sold for a fair bit more. Overall it’s been well worth it. I’m most happy with the sales of items that I considered putting back on the curb. For instance, I brought them a large collection of slides that I found last year in St Michel. I sold the ones that were of greater interest (Expo 67, African missionary photos) on eBay but most featured flora & fauna and didn’t sell even at yard sales. I considered putting them back on the curb on several occasions but I decided every time to keep them for one more go. Then, I found out that people are making lampshades from old slides and that they do well at auction. The lot ended up selling for 20$, a total I’m very satisfied with.

Another example is a collection of paper bags (mostly from Steinberg’s) I found relatively recently in Rosemont. They took up a fair bit of room and received limited interest (beyond nostalgia) at my yard sales. I brought them to auction and they sold for 14$. I have no idea what the bidders intend to do with them, but I’m just happy to have the money.

Perhaps the best part about the auction avenue is that it encourages me to take things that I might not otherwise. I remember a few years ago finding about five or six boxes full of separatist notepads, probably from the time of the second referendum. The cover said something like “all the things Canada knows about Quebec” (in French of course) and the insides were blank. Anyways, I thought they were cool but I couldn’t imagine what I’d do with five boxes, so I only took one. Now, I’d take all five and bring them to auction.

Basically I now have a third major option when it comes to selling things (the other two being online and at yard sales). Having this outlet has already changed my decision-making when it comes to dealing with my finds. I found those two cool red lights in the Plateau last Friday. Also in the bags were a plain white globe lampshade, an exacto knife with some life left in it, and this Home Depot bucket. I grouped them all together, with the red lights being the star of the show, and dropped them off at the auction house. I’ll probably get more for the lights than I would have at a yard sale (with much less effort / bartering involved), and I took a few things I might not have bothered with otherwise.

Anyways, I’ll share more auction results when I post my sales summary sometime in the next few weeks. Today I’ll share some finds from a couple of spots that were great for about two or three weeks earlier this summer.

The first spot was the one that provided these old silver pieces. I haven’t done anything with them yet, but I’ll likely list them on eBay when things pick up there again (summer tends to be slow for online sales so I focus on other work).

This lamp was slightly busted when I pulled it out of the bag, but fortunately it was easy enough to glue the broken bits back on. I was also able to recover most of the crystals, though those are fairly easy to come by. I’ve never seen a lamp quite like it, have you? It’s looks pretty old, I’d guess it was made in the 30s or 40s based on the plug and push button switch.

I saved a pretty cool flask, which if I remember right comes from somewhere in Eastern Europe.

These Cazal sunglasses were a great find. I had never heard of the brand before but apparently they’re pretty sought after. I expect these West German frames to sell for three figures.

This cool art piece emerged from its bag unscathed. The artist is Gora Mbengue, a Senegalese reverse glass painter who died in 1988. His work seems to sell in the hundreds of dollars, but I accidentally priced it at 16$ when listing it on eBay. I’m not sure how that happened, except that 16$ is what I planned on charging for shipping within Canada. Anyways, after some deliberation I decided to cancel the order knowing full well that I might get negative feedback – I just couldn’t afford or justify selling it for that little (my intended price was 200$). I think the buyer realized that the price made no sense but left bad feedback anyways, I was hoping they’d have more sympathy since they sell art themselves. Oh well, I don’t think having a bit of bad feedback really matters anyways, as long as you respond to it maturely.

I also found a bag of old photos, a lot of which seemed to come from the Middle East. Most weren’t overly exciting, but I did enjoy this series of luxurious dog photos.

These drawings were more interesting. Most date from the 50s and I’d guess that they were drawn while the artist was in the Middle East.

I was hoping to find more at this spot, given the silver haul and other interesting throwaways, but the source dried up pretty quickly.

Around the same time I had brief success at another spot nearby. One day I found some nice old frames inside the bags.

The top piece is titled “Autumn Sunset” and is signed by a H Boyer. I forget who signed the bottom one but it’s cute. The middle piece is a paint by numbers.

I found this little hand painted photograph behind the image of Jesus on the top right. The caption is “Digby Gut [a channel near the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia] and the Princess Helene [the ship].” I can’t make out what the signature says, it looks like “Karl Yoker” to me but I couldn’t find any reference to that name online. Any help identifying it would be appreciated!

That top piece is an old Charles Sawyer colourized photo titled “Echo Lake.” It’s only worth 20$ or so but is very attractive. I took the ship painting out the frame and found that it was signed R,W. Glass (or something close to that). Again, I couldn’t find any reference to that name online, so maybe I read it wrong.

That top piece is titled “The Harbor – Provincetown.” No mention of an artist. The middle piece is titled “Lake George” (possibly New York) and is signed by S,W. Mann, or something close to it. At the bottom is a classic print of Madonna by Raphael.

Now to the non-art finds. This Smith Corona typewriter was pretty grimy when I found it, but looked way better after a go-over with a microfiber cloth. I brought it to the auction house as part of my garage clean-up, we’ll see how it goes.

I also found a Eumig projector inside a turntable box …

… two really old, really heavy mirrors (the smaller of the two is shown);

… a vintage waste basket;

… some miscellaneous junk, which I put into a box I found nearby;

… and a great old wooden clock box, which looks to date to the late 1800s. Thankfully, the glass was still intact as well!

I remember finding some cool beakers (I think for dark room solutions) and vintage new age magazines as well, but I don’t have any pictures of those.


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26 thoughts on “Fast nickel”

  1. well, I hvent had time to read much of your posts past while, so it was news to me that you now sell also with an auction house. Well done. I wonder if there are many auction houses that might specialize in “smalls” as you often have, and are some better than others? worth a thought…

    that reverse glass painting , I am glad you did not sell it for 16. have an idea it may be worth even more than 200, no idea though…but…worth more research maybe?

    you surely have been doing well. Glad to see your finds…

    1. They’ll take smalls if they’re worth 20$ or more (preferably more). For lower value items if you make an appealing lot / collection that can work as well. 200$ seems good based on what I’ve seen, but art appraisal isn’t my expertise.

  2. Very nice art finds! From what can be seen here the name on the little tinted photograph of the “Princess Helene” looks like Paul Yates.

  3. Sometime late winter/early spring a feature story on CBS Sunday morning show about the actor Tom Hanks aired. He has an extensive vintage typewriter collection. He named ‘the Clipper’ as his favorite and a great starter machine. That day I sold 2-3 typewriters from my Etsy shop.

    1. Funny how celebrities can influence markets like that. Smith Coronas are pretty good in general I think.

  4. You did mot show us the dragon pot or elephant covered pot’s markings, but I would have someone at the auction house, take a close look. Hopefully they have someone somewhat versed in the asian art market. It would be fun if you could put up the other prints signature line online and have a signature sleuth challenge. I enjoy it and it seems other readers do too. I deciphered your last unreadable signature art piece

    1. I should share the signatures more often, true. Next time I’ll try to do that. I don’t remember those items looking super special but if they’re still around I’ll look again.

  5. So much cool stuff! Some real money-makers too. That old clock case would make a nice little cabinet, for someone who’s handy.
    I always have a soft spot for art, and you scavenged a few nice pieces there. (I’m drawn to boats, so I’m partial to the boat painting, signed by R.W. Glass, the Digby Gut colorized photograph, and the The Harbor – Provincetown.)
    I’m glad the auction house route is working for you. Less stress makes Martin a happy man. 🙂

  6. How much is the bohemian style lamp,dragon plant pot and the sailboat watercolor if they are still avalable.Thank-you

    1. Not sure yet and the pot might be gone but you can email me and maybe we can work something out eventually (I am very behind on requests and emails however)

  7. Hurrah that you continue to explore different ways to make money from the amazingly diverse objects you re-claim from the trash! I hope the auction house option proves to be both satisfying and lucrative. I also hope that you eventually have one — or more — experiences where something you collect proves to be wildly valuable…

  8. Martin, post a photo of the sailboat signature, everyone agrees it is exceptionally beautiful. I’m curious

  9. Just curious: what percentage, in general, do Canadian auction houses charge their consigners? In the area where I live (northern Illinois in the States), it runs from 18 to 30%, which, if the merchandise doesn’t bring much, makes for a poor payday.

    1. This one is 25% plus 1$ listing fee. It’s higher than eBay but they also do a lot more work for you. Overall I think it’s a good option, you won’t get top dollar for things but it saves you a lot of effort (and money, if you’re paying to store the stuff)

  10. I like your posts and appreciate your dedication to your cause.I’m from the US,an extremely throwaway society which urges people to junk as much as possible.In the US many people are accused of hoarding or being a hoarder even if they have are clean and organized but have a large amount of stuff.Some people who have their homes are accused of being hoarders if their garage is quite cluttered,even if they own the home.When will civil rights of individuals be respected?If one is not filthy,relatively organized and keeps the exits and entrances completely uncluttered,nobody should accuse others of hoarding and interfere with their rights.
    My aunt was accused of hoarding by her apartment manager.She has a clean apartment,a clean kitchen and a clean bathroom.The bedrooms and living rooms are lined with display cabinets full of knick-knacks,vinyl records and vintage toys.There is a lot of room to move around but the walls are full of decorative plates and paintings.That is not not hoarding,but for some it is subjective.I helped her fight her case against the manager in court and the court threw out her case.
    Not everyone is so lucky.I am tired of people being labeled as hoarders exaggeratedly.Even organized collectors are classified as hoarders by a number of folks.
    Help protect individual rights,Martin.

  11. Read this article against decluttering.I am tired of reading about the benefits of downsizing.

    In Defense of Having a (Slightly) Cluttered Home

    A messy environment is actually good for your psyche.

    Breaking news: Humans like stuff. Stuff they have. Stuff they like. Stuff they need.

    But stuff just gets everywhere. Hence the trendiness of uber-organized spaces, hyper-cleanliness, and Marie Kondo-like thank-your-stuff-for-its-service-then-toss-it attitudes. But living in that state of constant tidying is exhausting.


    It is not a moral failing to have a slightly cluttered home.

    And you know what? Life can be better with slightly more stuff. Here are seven reasons why:

    #1 A Messy Environment Is a More Creative One

    Being too tidy will stifle your imagination. Science says so.

    There’s a lot of research showing messy surroundings encourage you to break the rules of convention and think more freely, while a highly ordered house stifles you.

    We’re not talking rooms full of empty cat food cans and closets crammed with so much crap you can’t open the door. We’re talking about a comfortable amount of disorder.

    If you’re not convinced disarray fuels creativity, Google “Einstein’s office.” He dreamed up the theory of relativity in a room that would give Marie Kondo a heart attack.

    If you share your home, chat with your partner and agree on the line between creativity-inducing clutter and chaos. Are the piles of “Architectural Digest” genius fuel, or a sign you’re a hoarder? Discuss.

    #2 A Perfectly Tidy Home Isn’t a Sign of a Happy Home

    Your obituary won’t mention how tidy your house was (unless you’re Martha), so why dedicate your life to cleaning it?

    “Your home will never be 100% clean and organized and lived in at the same time,” says Becky Rapinchuk, author of “Simply Clean.”

    You want to focus on living in your home, keeping it functional and enjoyable — not perfect.

    She recommends doing one task each day: Clean bathrooms Monday, dust on Tuesdays — you get it.

    This allows you time to do the things that remind you why you bought your house, from porch swinging to reading-nook sitting. “Don’t spend more than 30 minutes a day on each task,” Rapinchuk says.

    “If you don’t get it done, save it until next week. It’s just dirt.”

    #3 A Little Dirt Is Good for You

    People with super-clean houses have bleached and scrubbed all the microbes out of their house. But some of those microbes sent to that petri dish in the sky are actually good for you.

    They strengthen your immune system and make your kids less likely to develop allergies.

    Studies show that kids exposed to fumes from cleaning products are more likely to develop asthma, and may cause adults to be 30% to 50% more likely to get asthma, too.

    The solution? Use natural cleaning products free of industrial chemicals.

    And don’t clean so much. And maybe add a bit more clutter (and dirt) with plants.

    #4 Plant-Cluttered Houses Are Healthier Houses

    Sure, houseplants drop leaves, look unruly at times, and their pots scatter dirt, but you’ll breathe easier around them, and possibly live longer, too.

    Many houseplants remove toxins from the air (devil’s ivy and peace lily are two examples).

    And studies have shown that having a bit of nature indoors reduces the type of stress that causes deadly cardiovascular problems.

    Plus, filling your home with houseplants is so trendy right now, a la #urbanjungle.

    #5 If You Do Declutter, You Will Toss Something You Need Later

    Disciples of extreme cleaning and organizing exclaim how happy they are to be free of their stuff. At first.

    “All kinds of wonderful, valuable, and useful things get thrown out in the name of organizing,” writes Columbia Business School professor Eric Abrahamson in his book (with David H. Freedman) “A Perfect Mess.”

    Instead of throwing out anything you haven’t used in a year, Abrahamson recommends evaluating an item’s value and ability to be replaced. Throw out that stack of Domino back issues. Think twice about tossing your first edition “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”

    #6 A Cluttered Home Can Be Stylish, Too

    The backlash to minimalism has begun. Thank goodness.

    Evidence? Jungalow style, a look that features rooms stuffed with artful clutter: houseplants everywhere, boho pillows, tribal rugs, mismatched furniture, tchotchkes on every flat surface, and walls full of macramé hangings and art. Your clutter is no longer clutter. It’s fashion.

    #7 The Stuff You Love Isn’t Clutter

    It’s your stuff. Don’t let the cleaning and decluttering tyrants tell you what’s clutter and what’s not. Make your house please you.

    Fill it with items that mean something to you and express your personality. Display your 25-year-old T-ball trophy, make a gallery wall of your child’s art, and stack your vintage vinyl collection on the mid-century mod end table you snagged at a garage sale.

    Throw away the copy of “The Art of Tidying Up” that you bought in a moment of guilt. Now that’s clutter.

    Related: 7 Sneaky Storage Ideas to Hide Your Clutter in Plain Sight

    TopicImprove, Organize & Maintain, Cleaning & Decluttering

    Leanne Potts

    is an Atlanta-based journalist and serial home remodeler. She’s tackled five fixer-uppers and is working on a sixth. She’s written about everything from forest fires to dog-friendly decor and spent a decade leading the digital staff of HGTV.

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  12. What great finds! I think that the Provincetown art could do well on Ebay if you put “gay interest” in the title. It looks like an older print or painting of the harbor there, and I could see someone really wanting that. I would have cancelled the mis-priced reverse glass art sale too. One negative won’t mess you up.

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