Garbage of the Mile End pt.2

I’ve been having good luck in my own neighbourhood lately despite covering it much less than in years past. I spotted this pile a couple weeks back. Not long after I starting picking a lady came out and told me to be careful as her sixplex had recently been sprayed for bedbugs. I was thankful for the warning but continued with a highly conservative approach – sometimes people get overzealous when dealing with bugs and toss things they shouldn’t.

Indeed, I kicked one bag and heard the sweet sound of coins. Inside was a small collection stored in a ceramic dish.

A few coins might not be worth much otherwise, but two were pre-1968 Canadian dollars. Those are composed of 80% silver and are worth around 15-20$ a piece. I washed them of course, but realistically the coins weren’t likely to harbour any bugs.

I talked to the same woman again a little later and apparently she was familiar with the blog. However, she told me she had mixed feelings about what I do, citing “papers” as the reason why. I assumed she meant old, possibly intimate papers such as family photos, and explained that while I think garbage picking can be intrusive I believe the good greatly offsets the bad when you consider the environmental and historical benefits. Plus, I’m not particularly interested in getting to know the people I pick from.

Later I realized that she could have meant sensitive documents such as tax returns that could be used to steal someone’s identity. I have no interest in such things, and wish that people would go ahead and shred it (as they should). We didn’t talk for long so unfortunately I can’t be sure what she meant.

Most people I talk to are supportive, so it was interesting to hear a different point of view that didn’t involve being yelled at. If you have any thoughts about the pros & cons of ethics of garbage picking please share them in the comments!

Later on my walk I happened a mess of bags that had been ripped apart, presumably by other pickers. Most of the best stuff was probably long gone, but I did salvage a set of Pyrex “Vision” cookware that had been otherwise forgotten. I brought these to auction but they haven’t been listed yet.

A house not far away was emptied out over a period of a few months. I saved a lot of great stuff there, but unfortunately I was very busy at the time and wasn’t able to take many pictures.

On a couple of recycling days I filled the car with lab glass, a lot of which was still in its original packaging.

I saved so many beakers of different sizes. They aren’t really worth that much individually but I sold a bunch at one of my recent yard sales. These 30ml beakers might go on eBay since they’re in their original box and should be easy enough to ship.

This 5000ml pyrex boiling flask was another good find. It would have been expensive to ship so I dropped it off at the auction house instead. I think it sold for 20-some dollars, which is decent. New they cost a lot of money (there’s a pretty big markup on anything medical) but I would have had a hard time getting more than 40$ on eBay.

My favourite pieces were the red graduated cylinders, many of which were new in box. Despite their coolness they only sell for around 20$ + shipping on eBay. I sold a couple at a yard sale, brought a few to the auction house, and still have several, mostly in the 250ml format.

This really just scratches the surface of my lab equipment haul! It was actually overwhelming how much I found but thankfully I’ve pared it down to a reasonable amount. I still have some research to do, however. For example, there’s a bit of equipment including several pipet devices that might be worth decent money but I haven’t had time to figure out how much exactly. If anything ends up selling for a nice sum I’ll be sure to mention it on a future sales post.

That spot provided some other quality junk as well, including this vintage Radio Shack hockey game (which seems to sell for around 50$) …

… and these unusual ecclesiastical pieces. I had a hard time researching them but it seems that they’re vessels for holy oils. One is marked OS (oleum catechumenorum/oil of catechumens) and the other OI (oleum infirmorum/oil of the sick). Originally there would probably have been a third marked SC (sacrum chrisma/sacred chrism). They appear to be very old and silver plated (no hallmarks, some wear to the plate visible on the crosses). They’re about 3,25″ tall and have screw-on tops. That’s all I can say for sure, but please let us know if you have any relevant information to share! Regardless they’re pretty neat and likely worth between 50-100$ for the pair.

Elsewhere, another house was slowly emptied over a period of many months. Previously my best finds were a vintage butterfly tray (which sold quickly for 70$), a bag of clarinet reeds, and a silver class ring from the 70s. Last garbage day was better, however as these trinket boxes (and at least some of their contents) got chucked.

Here’s the costume stuff / random bric-a-brac, most of which will go into the yard sale pile …

… and here’s the stuff I can make good money on. The medical ID bracelet is 10k gold and worth about 100$ in scrap. The enameled Azores pin (featuring a pair of clogs), Catholic medallion, bouquet pendant, and each of the four bracelets are silver. Most of those have Portuguese hallmarks which I’ve never seen previously. The rhinestone bow-tie brooch probably isn’t solid silver but it’s definitely vintage. The same applies to the rosary. Unfortunately these folks seem to be done tossing, but these small finds definitely made my night!

As you can probably tell I’m pretty far behind on my posts, and as a result there’s a whole bunch of high quality finds I have yet to show you. I’ll try to get them posted relatively soon…

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19 thoughts on “Garbage of the Mile End pt.2”

  1. Hello there.
    Your blog always has such interesting items in it.

    I was wondering if you might be willing to sell the silver bracelet, third from the bottom in your photo of all the silver bracelets? My husband bought me a gold one just like it, but I lost it somewhere and have never been able to find one that even looked similar.
    Would you let me know if you’re willing to sell it and price please?
    Thanks.
    🙂

  2. Hi Martin,

    Love your blog. Interesting discussion about the ethics of picking. I can see how someone might be concerned, as she doesn’t know you and how thoughtful you are. But I guess I’m amused that people in general would worry about privacy issues here, as no one is forced to throw out papers, and if they are concerned, they can shred or recycle. If they don’t take these steps, and just put papers out as garbage for pickers to go through, they’ve already lost control of their privacy.

    Secondly, I’m always intrigued by the religious items people throw out. I always wonder if they had a change of heart or whatever. But why not donate these things to a thrift store?

    Keep up the good work!

    1. I assume that most religious objects are thrown away when people clear out the estates of their loved ones. Sad but true. I agree, papers should be in the recycle regardless!

  3. I’m surprised u were only able to get 70 for the butterfly tray….i have one as well….thought it was worth a lot more than that…..I’m not interested in selling it anyway…also…had a set of that Pyrex cookware….didn’t like it….tried to sell….no takers….ended up donating it…….lastly…cannot believe all the costume jewelry u find……i collect this myself….it saddens me to think how much has been thrown away…..

    1. It might depend on the design. Mine sold pretty quickly so maybe I underpriced it as well. Regardless, I was happy to get a relatively easy 70$. Personally I like the Pyrex stuff, especially the pots for making things like soups. I already have a couple though so I figured I’d get some money for them instead. They’re in the auction now, and there’s already a bid so they’re guaranteed to sell… I’m sure the dump is full of costume jewelry, as well as fine jewelry. I’ll show some nice examples of the latter in an upcoming post.

  4. I absolutely love your street-scene photos … they give me a real feel for what you do. I imagine myself there beside you, getting into it up to my elbows. 🙂
    As always, I see lots of variety in your finds. There’s certainly nothing predictable about the day-to-day of your job!
    Some of that lab glass is quite decorative … someone with imagination could re-purpose it for other “off-label” uses.
    Those silver bracelets are lovely, particularly the second from the bottom.

  5. Hurrah for your ongoing work!!! I am 100% a fan of what you do and agree with the comment above about folks who throw stuff out losing control of what happens to it as soon as it hits the curb. Scissors and/or shredders can take care of confidential papers. However, I am guessing that what you do for a living may also press a few people’s buttons because of our culture’s general uncomfortableness with poop (as well as decay and death as biological realities). I am sure many people feel that once they have put a bag of trash out on the street, it magically gets flushed away — out of sight, out of mind — like their poop. Unless we grew up on a farm, most of us are estranged from the cycles of ingestion, digestion, excretion (which can be used as nutrient-rich fertilizer to help grow more food!) You similarly find ways to keep stuff flowing back through the human ecosystem of possessions rather than having stuff end up in a dump or incinerator (or being carried out to sea and discarded into the ocean as some cities used to do…) Bravo!

    1. Lol, that’s a good analogy. People do seem to have this idea that what they put on the curb just magically disappears. There’s definitely a disconnect there, and I’d bet that it makes people more likely to throw away nice things as well. I’m sure subconsciously they’re aware that they’re damning these items to be buried in a dump until future archaeologists uncover it a thousand years from now, but it’s a fact that’s easily forgotten when you’re busy moving, overwhelmed from dealing with an estate, and so on.

    1. Unfortunately not, I don’t have the time. The watch on the left doesn’t seem to run anymore, the one on top I forget. It’s a “Circle”, some kind of nice mid-century men’s watch. I forget if it works, but if it does it might end up on eBay at some point.

  6. I continue to be amazed and intrigued by what you do! Do you know of anyone else that does this? Are there people in the US who do this? I can’t imagine going up and down the streets of my neighborhood looking in people’s trash. Maybe somewhere I’m not recognized. I agree with williedare concerning what you do. It is really an ecological service in terms of stuff making bigger refuse dumps all over he country. I think it is actually laudable. Keep on doing it and entertaining those of us who love reading your blog.

    1. We pick from the recycling depot next to our warehouse and sometimes from junk haulers here in Vancouver. We also buy storage lockers. We have two employees and ship over 250 packages a month, and growing. It can be super lucrative!

    2. Other people definitely do it, though I don’t think most have the same focus that I do. Around where I live there are lots of can pickers, but they don’t have the same eye for junk as I do (it also takes a lot of e-literacy and other knowledge to turn that junk into money, so you can understand why they focus on things that have a more widely known value). I see scrap metal pickers as well, they’re basically can pickers with trucks. I’ve met people who do what I do on an occasional or hobby basis, but I don’t know anyone else who has turned it into a full-time job.

  7. The laboratory items are popular in October for Halloween mad scientist’s lab vignettes. I am always happy to see a new post from you in my inbox. thanks

  8. I love your blog and what you do. I don’t know why people get mad at your or feel violated when they find you picking through their cast-offs. I wonder where people think their things go when they “throw them away”? To Mars, maybe? If you don’t pick through the trash someone else surely might along the way. I find it endlessly fascinating to see what people throw away. Things that have value and are interesting. It is so sad that these things are sent to a landfill so I am always so happy to see that you rescue them and pass them on to people who can use them or love them. Reduce, reuse, recycle! Thanks for all you do. Yours is my favorite blog to read, by far.

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