The owl collector

The weather was horrible last week, pretty chilly with lots of rain. It made me pretty lazy, but thankfully one of my best finds came about largely because I slept in. I did a late run and travelled down some roads I might not have explored otherwise, stopping at a duplex in Côte-des-Neiges with a sizeable amount of trash out front. I looked in this bin and discovered that the reusable shopping bag was full of figurines.

There was another bag full and several loose pieces awaiting their fate at the bottom of the bin. Luckily most had been wrapped in newspaper and survived their trip largely undamaged, though a few did break along the way. Who knows why they were thrown out, but I’d guess that they were inherited by someone who didn’t share the same passion for the collectibles.

The collection was definitely one of my biggest ever figurine hauls. However, it was most noteworthy for featuring one specific animal, that being the wise owl. There were 134 in total based on a count by my roommate. Most of the figurines are actually pretty nice so I thought it’d be fun to share them all here – only a couple of damaged styrofoam Dollarama owls didn’t make the photoshoot. Also, it’s a pretty diverse collection and I’m not familiar with all the different designs, so please let me know if you possess any information we might find interesting!

Anyways, let’s get to the owls!

Here’s the brass owls. Some are hollow and others are solid. Two were made in India, the one with the tuxedo was made in Korea, and the rest are unmarked. The one at front left is a Greek Owl of Athena.

Glass owls. The one in the back right is a Wedgwood piece worth between 10-20$. The dark ones in the front seem to be painted with a thin layer of silver. Unfortunately those are unmarked. The one at back left is signed by Mats Johansson of Sweden and seems to be worth about 20$. The one at back middle features a “Handmade Boda Sweden” sticker, and I’m pretty sure the one in front of it is a smaller version of the same design. Those might be worth decent money as a lot, Kosta Boda stuff does fairly well on eBay.

Here’s some ceramic owls. The one in the middle back is the tallest of the bunch at about 11″. It might also be the oldest, though it’s hard to say for sure. The one on the back right is easily the scariest of the collection. These are all unmarked or signed with first names.

White (ish) owls. The tallest one at middle back is about 7.5″. I’m not sure what it’s made from – it looks like plaster but is much heavier and denser than the chalkware pieces I’ve seen. At the front of the base is written ‘”Congrès Suprême” Montreal 1997.’ It’s signed on the back by Noel Guay, a sculptor in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region of Quebec. Back left is a Royal Dux piece, back right is marked as being made in Greece, and front middle is by Marbell Stone Art of Belgium. The other two are fairly contemporary resin pieces.

Wood owls. I think the ones at back left & right are silverware holders give that they have big holes in the middle. Back and second from the left is an older Asian import with blinking eyes. The two at middle front are among my favourites – the one on the right has a baby owl inside as well! Both of those are about 3.25″ tall. There’s a big hole (from top to bottom) in the owl at the front left, I’m not sure what it’s supposed to do. The big one at back middle is probably a Quebec folk art piece. It has a little indentation on the top (maybe for a candle?) and a pencil-sized hole closer to the base.

Flat owls. There are a few non-owls in the collection, at you see at top right. On the far right is an owl mirror. Next to it is a Taiwanese cast iron trivet (my grandpa collected trivets, so that might have been his favourite). The ceramic piece at top left is signed but very illegibly. Next to it is a neat old Japanese thermometer, which was probably a tourist piece from back in the day. At bottom left is a painted rock signed “K Dowker 99.”

A few larger owls. None are signed, but the middle one (the tallest at 8.5″) has the remnants of a made in China or Taiwan sticker on the back. The one on the left looks to be decorated with a lacquered cloth (the white spot is a reflection, not a defect!). The one on the right is kind of funny. The owl is wood and comes with a background of wild grasses. It was then encased in a thick 2.5″ slab of lucite (or another clear plastic) in the shape of a cookie with one bite out of it.

Mostly metal owls. The enamel ones aren’t fancy but are nice decorations. The tall flat one is from Torino in Italy. On the right is a Canadian pewter piece that got a little damaged somehow.

Owls of Central (and maybe South) America. Four are from Mexico (Puerto Vallerta at front left; an Onyx piece from Tecali, Peubla second from left in the back; a piece signed El Palomar second from the front right; and an owl signed JC Mexico at back right). At front right is a small piece made from mother of pearl that’s probably Mexican as well. I’m not sure about the other three. The one on the far back left has a little rattle inside.

Miscellaneous owls. The one on the far right has a big crack in it but managed to survive. It has a kind of sandy surface texture. In front of it is a tiny stone owl of unknown origins. The one with the cactus is fairly modern but pretty well done.

Canadian owls, or ones that look like they might be Canadian. Several of these are done by a fellow named Al Wolf. They’re nice but don’t seem to sell for a lot on eBay. The brown ones in front are signed with something that looks like “SUA”, though that doesn’t bring up anything when I search for it on Google. The baby owl at front left is signed what looks to be “VA” (with a copyright symbol) while the one second from the front right looks to be signed “WA” with the symbol of a waning crescent moon (or maybe it’s just another copyright). At back left is a small planter signed Elsia (?) Canada.

Smaller owls. My favourite of the bunch is the nearly round ceramic piece at front right. The one next to it is made from some kind of stone. The long owl is ceramic and smells like crayons (must be hand-painted).

The educated owls. These guys are all reading books or otherwise looking very smart. The teapot at back left is from Hong Kong – a note on the bottom says it is only for decoration and should not be actually be used. My roommate took a liking to the small owls who appear to be reading some highly scientific materials! Those ones are pretty well done but are unfortunately unmarked.

Non-owls. Most of the items were owls, but a few were not – including the two large pieces of iron pyrite in the middle.

There’s a few more non-owls in this bunch. The piece at far back left looks a bit like bone or tusk but is probably made from resin. The pieces second from back right and front right are interesting, I have no idea what they’re made from. The lighter parts are carved and feel like little ridges. They’re lightweight and yet seem to be very durable. Let me know if you have any ideas!

Some of these owls are made with natural materials, including fur, feathers, and plants. There’s a pretty crude stone owl in there as well!

Sick of owls yet? Don’t worry, we’re almost done! That poor owl on the far left is pretty bunged up, I’ll put it in one of my free boxes.

The little green owl is one of my favourites. It’s made of stone, if you know what kind please let me know! At right is a classic Wade Red Rose tea figurine, and next to it is a little brass guy in need of a polishing. The black one is marked “Christmas 89” on the bottom – I’m not sure if this was done after it was bought, or whether the owl itself was made as a gift.

While researching another owl I accidentally happened upon some information about the lucite piece at back left. It was made in Brazil and was designed by the artist Abraham Palatnik. His work seems to do pretty well on eBay – a similar but much larger owl sold for 150$, while one about 2″ taller (mine is 3.25″) sold for 63$. It’s not a stretch to think that I could sell this one for 40$, or maybe even a bit more.

That’s it for owls, though I’ll keep an eye on this spot to see if anything else pops up! I plan on selling most of them. The more valuable / easy to ship owls will go on eBay, some similar lots might go to auction, and the rest will go to the yard sale bin. I’ll probably keep a couple and give a few as gifts.

Otherwise I’ve been busy dealing with my old junk and getting ready for winter. I purged questionable yard sale items from all my various storages, brought all my clothes to places that buy or give store credit for them, and delivered many loads of stuff to the auction house. I thought I was nearly done with my restructuring efforts but it seems that the deeper I dig the more I find! I must be getting close to the end now though…

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58 thoughts on “The owl collector”

  1. Wow! That’s quite the parliament of owls you found there! (Owls are generally solitary, but when seen together the group is called a “parliament” as they have long been considered to be of a wise disposition. In Greek mythology, the owl is the symbol for Athena, the goddess of wisdom.)
    I think my personal favourite is in the Owls of Central America pic, the guy in the front row, second from the right, with the blue accents.
    (FYI – Jim has stopped collecting owls. For the past three Christmases, he’s been giving his away, two at a time, to his young grandsons in Vancouver.)

  2. Hoot hoot , what a find , I have one ceramic owl I found on the cleanup . You will make quite a bit on these if sold to a collector.

    1. Seconding malachite on the green stone owl!

      A real bonanza for owl collectors who read this blog—it’s the motherlode!

  3. As a owl collector myself, this post has me extremely jealous! I love the large ceramic owl at the back of the 3rd collection pic with the scary guy right next to him. If you are ever in the west island during the week, let me know if I can get them from you 🙂

  4. Hi, I can’t seem to post on the blog. I just wanted to let you know that the two brown owls are by Marianne SUDA

    Marianne Suda was born in Vienna Austria in 1928 and immigrated to Canada in 1954. She created a series of animals in clay that were quite popular at the time,but only produced them for less than a decade. She was deeply inspired by 1960’s danish pottery so even her recent works are often mistaken for vintage pottery from Scandinavia.

    If you want to sell them let me know I know someone who likes them! Thanks Josee

    >

    1. Thanks for the info! I knew I was reading the signature wrong… I have two of them, so it might be worth it for me to list them as a lot on eBay. Perhaps keep an eye on my eBay listings?

  5. Amazing that someone would trash a collection like this! But, then, you never know, perhaps there was bad blood between someone and the owl owner! Anyway, congratulations on your “owl haul”. My favorites are the painted Mexican ones. I have a bird in that style from Mexico. I also know someone who likes owls so I will forward this post to him, just for fun. Thanks for the fun look at an awesome collection.

  6. Cool collection, and nicely curated here, Martin.

    It’s fascinatinv to me how humans are compelled to collect. As a collector of too many fountain pens, I can really relate to the numerous little owls here. I’m hoping other owl collectors fund your sales listings and are thrilled to find certain cool owls they’ve been searching for.

    1. Yes, collecting is a funny thing. I appreciate how people can “nerd out” on a specific subject and know a lot about it. I have a hard time focusing on anything in specific, but I do collect things that catch my eye or brain somehow. One day maybe I’ll do a post about the finds I decided to keep…

  7. Was this a particularly wealthy street?It is so stupid,wasteful and stunning that someome would throw out such a large collection of quality owl figurines.

    1. Basically I collect a lot of junk. Re: yard sales: I pick up a lot of good stuff that sells right away at yard sales, some niche stuff that may or may not sell quickly, and some stuff that is nearly garbage but kind of interesting to look at (ie: something that is unlikely to sell, but that makes a fun conversation piece).

      If something doesn’t sell after multiple yard sales I get sick of looking at it and put it in a “free box” for others to pick through. A lot of the free stuff ends up getting taken, but some doesn’t – that’s the way it goes. Fortunately I live in a dense neighbourhood and a lot of people end up passing by the boxes, so most usable stuff doesn’t go to waste. I also make sure to only do these purges when there’s no rain or snow in the forecast. Regardless, I think it’s good to purge regularly to make sure my yard sales stay “fresh” and to reduce the pressure on my limited storage space. Plus, one of my mantras is “There’s always more garbage”. Given that I trash pick as a full-time job, I can say with confidence that there’s no shortage of junk and keeping it under control is a must.

      At the end of the season I do an especially large purge because I know I’ll collect a bunch more stuff during the winter and won’t be able to unload it via the yard sale. My storage on Coloniale, for example is now about as clean as it’s even been.

      The most recent development is my discovery of this local auction house, which has really revolutionized my business. I only started going there in June, and I’m still restructuring (reorganizing isn’t a strong enough word) my old stock with them in mind! Lots of yard sale stuff has gone there, lots of forgotten basement stuff has gone there, and some eBayable things have gone as well. I was never going to have time to deal with all the quality junk I accumulated, and I’m happy I now have an outlet to get rid of it at little effort.

      At some point in the future this restructuring will be done, and I hope this business will run more smoothly than ever before. At that point, cleaning out will become less of an ordeal, though the yard sale purges will always be necessary.

      1. Thanks for the explanation. I’ve been excited to follow the auction developments and what “lots” they sell. Pity their site isn’t as easy eBay. Ah well.
        Good luck with the restructuring!

  8. The shiny flat owl from Torino is for holding earrings! Its from the 70s I think. I just recently found one myself at a thrift store, of a mouse holding Swiss cheese.

    Of course my favorite one turned out to be worth the most $$! I guess I just have good taste. It is really beautiful.

  9. “The big one at back middle is probably a Quebec folk art piece.”
    The big owl with the green plastic eyes is actually from Japan. The wood is cryptomeria.

      1. I figured it was from Quebec because there’s a lot of bulky wooden folk art around these parts, and this fits that style somewhat but I think you’re right about the wood being Japanese. Those do look like Kilma pieces.

  10. As someone who collects owl figurines, I was sad to see such a wonderfully diverse collection thrown in the trash. Thank you for rescuing them. I found a total of 13 pieces in the photos identical to ones that I either own or own ones in the same style.

  11. The black owl with the gold flowers looks like the russian nesting doll painting style. I wonder if the head comes off.

  12. Martin,my head tells me that some people who threw out valuable stuff might know about your blog and that they might be surprised or shocked when they see that their discarded items are being showcased on your blog.
    Does anyone in this category ever contact you?Keep up your Genius.

    1. I’d be surprised if that were the case! I would like to think that people who read my blog take better care of their items, at least donating them or leaving them in open boxes on the curb. I’ve never received an email like that anyways.

  13. In some Québec municipalities,like Beaconsfield now,people are charged for their garbage depending on the weight of their garbage.Other municipalities in some cases are adopting similar policies.Pointe Claire only has garbage pick-up once every two weeks.Many boroughs now have compost pick-ups.And McGill now has collection points set up at the end of the semester to encourage students who are planning to move to donate their unwanted but reusable stuff.
    Also ads about Eco-Depot keep playing on radio and Tv.Do you notice a slight reduction in waste output in the last two years?Do you pick up even a small trend?

    1. Honestly I haven’t seen a noticeable difference. I’m sure with the compost days some food waste is being diverted from the trash, which is a good thing, but there’s still a lot of garbage out there.

      The composting thing is great for me though as many boroughs now have only one garbage day a week instead of two, which makes my runs much more efficient especially in places like NDG, CDN, the Plateau, Rosemont, Ahunstic, and Cartierville. Now the garbage is much more focused on that one day, and I can save a lot more in the course of one run. So, in a sense I am seeing a lot more waste / garbage even though in reality there’s roughly the same quantity as there was before.

  14. What a wonderful collection! As the owl is my spirit animal, I enjoyed these photos greatly. Thank you for sharing. The green stone owl looks to be malachite (as others have posted), and if so, could be worth a pretty penny.

  15. I am a night owl.I come home late at night from parties and night clubs two or three times per week in some months..I do see people pawing through the trash in the Plateau and Rosemont at night,maybe for cans,bottles and scrap metals.But I see people also taking away discarded bathroom sinks,furniture and other assorted stuff occasionally.
    When the weather gets very snowy and cold,I guess you will be scavenging more often by foot in the Plateau,Mile End or Rosemont.

    1. There are a lot of can pickers in these areas. The furniture is largely taken by young students and people on tight budgets (unfortunately this is a big reason behind the spread of bedbugs). I do the vast majority of my runs by car now – it is just so much more efficient. I do walk sometimes but only around my own neighbourhood, which is the Plateau / Mile End, and I do that more to get out of the house than to find trash.

  16. I care less for the glass owls because I find glass items break too easily,especially during moving.But I am fascinated with the educated owls,the wood owls,the metal owls and the ceramic owls that you found.You are one hard-working guy with a very sharp eye.I seriously want you to make a lot of money in November and December so that u can have a very joyous Xmas and new year.

  17. I really like the large brass owl in the first picture, and the green malachite one. I would like to buy them if possible. Would you please email me ? I have purchased an item from you in the past. Thanks,

  18. I’m not into owls, I collect bears myself, but I still think it’s cool you rescued all of these guys from the trash. And I have to admit I’m super jealous of all the cool stuff you find and post about here.
    The big white one that you said feels plastery may be alabaster.

  19. Greetings from Finland. One of the owls looks like it might be one of designer Oiva Toikka’s birds/owls. Please google pics of his older work (so you don’t sell birds for less than they are worth).

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