There’s snow outside, but let’s go back to the summer again. I don’t want to give too much away, but this intriguing pile sat out back from an antiques-related business. I’d guess that the things I found here were rejects, perhaps all from one specific estate.

I don’t think anything I found here was super valuable, but I saved enough quality junk to make my day. Those leather covered batons sold for a bit at auction, and that shoe pincushion came from Expo 67 (“Expo 1967” is written in sharpie on the bottom).


That clay pipe was an easy sell at the auction (28$). Other items sold at my yard sales or ended up in one of my free piles. A few are still sitting around my garage, waiting for me to research or test them further, like that Gruen mantle clock in the first picture.

I found a bit of watchmaking stuff. The collection didn’t sell for too much at auction (12$), but it was easy money regardless.

The dish (turned ashtray) on the left is sterling silver. It’s not an exceptional piece or anything, but I still don’t know why anything would throw away sterling! It’s about 26 grams, so it’s worth around 13$ for scrap. The Hensoldt-Wetzlar doohickey is a rangefinder of some kind, and should be worth a little bit on eBay.

My favourite find here might have been the figurines, many of which were inside this little case.

Surprisingly most survived the journey unscathed (if a bit dirty). The frogs might be my favourite here, it’s not too often you find them in this size.

I also liked this old ink bottles, which I’d guess are from the 20s or 30s. That little claw pendant might be unmarked silver, but I haven’t tested it yet. The canister thing on the right is also interesting.

This isn’t the best picture, but inside is some kind of creature that’s supposed to spring out at you (it’s springing days are over, however). I’m not sure what the material is, but overall it looks fairly vintage. I’d guess it was made in China.

I also liked this piece. It looks like jade, and has “New York World’s Fair 1939” etched on the base. It’s in pretty good condition outside of a large chip off the vase, which fortunately is on the back side and not too distracting. I don’t think it’s super valuable, but it’s neat and probably worth selling on eBay.

Now that the seasons have changed I feel a need to get these summer finds posted. I have lots of photos waiting to be shared, but I continue to struggle with writer’s block or maybe just distraction. I’ll try to overcome that and post again soon.


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24 thoughts on “Castaways”

  1. Wonderful powers of observation to have saved these items.Those figurines are beautiful.Sometimes good stuff gets thrown outside business buildings.I urge you to keep doing this.I found an autographed book by Jane Goodall in the trash in Shaughnessy village this week.So sad somebody would throw out an autographed book by her.I gladly took it home and added it to my collection.

  2. Nice! I love to read about your finds and your way of living. In the second photo in front of the clock the wooden object that looks like a mushroom is a darning egg. You put it inside the sock to give shape as you darn on the outside. (Or maybe it is the other way around.)

  3. Out of all your finds, here’s what I like best: that tiny china doll on the right hand side of the picture with the ink bottles. I would love to see her closer but I’m guessing she is just a head and shoulders with some clothing attached. Probably not worth much as she’s so small, but reminds me of a larger one I have that is just the head and shoulders with no clothing. I just find yours unique because of her tiny size.

  4. Thank you for another lovely post. I am always happy to see what you have found and hear how you have moved it along — yard sale, auction, sold as scrap, eBay, etc. The work you do may often seem thankless, but I — and all of your readers, I am guessing — THANK YOU!

  5. The little spring-y creature looks like a harp seal to me. I fantasize that it is a souvenir of long-ago Alaska. (There was a killer exhibit of vintage souvenirs at the State Museum in Juneau about 12 years ago…)

  6. Wow, I have a suitcase that looks identical to the one on the left in the first picture. My father’s crappy parents gave it to him as a “gift” when they kicked him out of the house the day he graduated from high school.
    I enjoy your posts.

  7. We have a Gruen clock exactly like the one in your first photo, still in use. It was a gift to us in the 80s or 90s.

    I agree with Ayun Halliday, above, that the little creature in the canister container looks like a seal.

    Lovely stuff. I’m so glad you share your finds here.

  8. My son and I always love your posts. So happy for you when you find the treasures and make the money. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Lots of variety there.
    I see skeleton keys!
    That seal in the canister is sooo cute. Love the clay pipe in its box too. Do you still have the goose with the clover on its back. I used to have a smaller bird (I think a chick) with the same clover pattern, but it’s gone missing.
    Whoever would use real silver dish as an ashtray!! Sheesh.
    Great job, Martin!

    1. I think I still have most of the figurines, I was planning on giving them a closer look at some point (I still have a bit to learn about the various brands and styles). I’ll keep an eye out for the goose.

  10. What caught my eye was the third photo down, the painting of the man and woman that looks like it’s on wood. Seems very old based on the clothing and material it’s painted on. Did you find anything out about that? Love your posts, please keep them up!

    1. That did seem fairly old. I think it was painted on particle board of some kind (one of the older varieties I’d guess). It wasn’t signed, and I doubt it was worth much. I think it flew the coop at one of my yard sales.

  11. I do suitcases like these in the trash from time to time but do not pick them up usually.I have rescued figurines and porcelain pieces from the trash several times however.You have to keep trying new spots,new streets and new neighborhoods from time to time to come up with unexpected finds.

  12. The letter opener with the Indian is listed on ebay ANTIQUE SOUVENIR ST HYACINTHE CANADA CARVED INDIAN w PEACE PIPE LETTER OPENER. for $45

    1. It’s an interesting thing but that seems a bit expensive. Mine’s plastic and that one probably is too, meaning it wasn’t “carved”. Probably a 50-60s tourist thing

  13. There are about 50 VHS cassettes of movies like RETURN OF THE JEDI,A FISH CALLED WANDA,etc in the curbside trash in two plastic bags on Atwater Street near St.Jacques street opposite Lionel Groulx metro.Go get them before the garbage truck gets them tomorrow morning.I hope someone rescues them.I took out five titles I liked.

    1. I think I paid fifty cents for the last VHS tapes I bought two years agp at a book sale. Most book sales won’t accept VHS tapes now.

      Unless a movie is unavailable on DVD, a VHS movie has no value.

      I admit to buying my first VCR in 2004, used at a garage sale, after my first DVD player the year before. I’d never paid attention to movies at home before that, but getting the DVD player made me notice tyat VHS movies were being cleared out at good prices. So $20 for the VCR was a good price, since VHS movies at book sales were no more than $2. So I bought, and prices dropped. A lot of movies not worth spending more on, but occassionally movies that weren’t common as DVDs.

      But slowly it tipped. I bought “2001” on VHS and a few weeks later found it cheap enough on DVD. There’s no incentive to buy VHS tapes, unless it’s not on DVD.

      Meanwhike, DVDs have dropped in price at book sales. I’m paying $1 each, a few a bit higher, and they aren’t just the big sellers of today.

      I’ve even found DVDs in the garbage.

      I’ve also seen many DVD players waiting for the garbage trucks, the ones I’ve tried work. Even my blue-ray player was found on the sidewalk, it worked fine once I cleaned the lense over the laser. I bought a second one as backup for ten dollars at a garage sale. Both still work at least five years later. So not having a DVD player is no excuse fo sticking with VHS.

      Just because it’s garbage doesn’t mean it has value.

      1. Yes there’s not much value in VHS these days, unless you have something very unusual or niche (like rare, straight to VHS horror movies). I don’t take them because they take up a lot of space and don’t sell (I will save the original workout tape, those are good for a laugh at least). Even DVDs are tough to sell now. I might get an average of 50 cents per DVD as part of a lot at the auction house, and they won’t accept average VHS in any quantity.

        At some point in the future these things might have value again, but there’s still far too much supply and not enough demand to bother saving them (unless you want some personally of course).

  14. Your posts are the first ones I read. I hope you continue to write, even just a paragraph. what you are doing is amazing–for the environment, especially. thank you.

  15. My mouth opened wide to see this find. Congratulations on this save form the landfill. I just wonder is it only in Canada that so much could be found. There virtually nothing of value in my country. Most landfill sites are guarded and the large bins have crushing mechanisms.

    1. Which country is that? I’m sure people throw out great stuff all around the world, but garbage here might be more accessible than in other places. For example, when people are required to use a bin (which is the case in some boroughs, like Ville St Laurent, but also entire cities, like Vancouver from my memory) it makes my job a lot harder. I can kind of “read” a collection of bags at this point, ie: I can tell sometimes by the shape of the bags if they might be interesting, but it’s pretty difficult to read a bin (or even dig through it).

      So garbage accessibility definitely makes a difference. But people toss great items due to ignorance, naivete, disinterest, and privilege, and those traits are found all around the world.

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