The best of 2019

The end of the year is a great time for lists. In 2017 and 2018 I posted my “best of” long after the year was over, in large part because I wanted to share all my best finds in regular posts before putting them in the “best of.” This year I’d prefer to get the post done on time, but keep in mind there’s some worthy candidates I haven’t had time to post about yet!

2019 was a very good year by most standards. I continued to benefit from having more storage space (ie: my garage) and having the auction house available as a regular outlet for my junk. Both of these relatively new circumstances have radically changed how I do business, and 2019 was my most profitable year to date (though I haven’t done the math yet to see exactly how profitable it was). I did meet a record number of unpleasant people, but maybe that’s just a mark of success.

Without further ado, here’s my selection of my top ten finds of 2019!

10 – 280$ cash. I wasn’t as lucky finding cash as I was last year, but I can’t complain about finding 280$ in twenties at this bountiful spot.

9 – Diamond earrings in 18k gold. I still have to figure out the precise value of these, but the big stones are diamonds and look to be about .25 carats each. I’ve lost track of the solo middle earring, but I’m sure it’s kicking around somewhere. If I were to guess, I’d say that altogether they’re worth between 300-450$.

8 – Isamu Noguchi Akari washi paper lamp. This mid century Japanese designer lamp was in remarkably good condition, probably because it was stored in its original box. Maybe it was never even used. Either way, it sold pretty quickly for 325$.

7 – Paul Kepenyes ying/yang necklace. This came from the same spot as the Noguchi lamp. Works by Kepenyes, a Hungarian-Mexican artist, are fairly sought after. This necklace ended up selling for 375$.

6 – Portrait miniatures. Particularly the two on the left, which apparently date to the early 1800s and are likely painted on ivory. It’s not every day I find something over 200 years old! I think they’re worth around 200$ each.

5 – Gord Smith sculpture. Smith “is considered one of Canada‚Äôs greatest post-war sculptors,” at least according to Montreal’s museum of contemporary art. I’d say this bronzed steel piece is worth around 500$ based on the auction results I’ve seen. If anything that estimate might be a little conservative. FYI, the wingspan (if that’s the right word) is about 50cm.

4. Inuit soapstone carving. This large, 8.33 pound sculpture made it to the curb unscathed, thanks in large part to the fact that the previous owners wrapped it in sheets before throwing it out. You have to wonder why someone would toss something with such care; my guess is that they just didn’t want this heavy thing ripping through the trash bag once lifted. Anyways, the piece was carved by a guy named Joe Emiqutailaq of the Belcher Islands, and it’s going to be my first item to sell at a high-end auction (Waddington’s in this case). The auction is in February, and the sculpture has a pre-auction estimate of 4-500$.

3 –14k gold Masonic pocket watch fob. That enamel eye really brings the piece together. It’s worth about 330$ for the gold, but I expect it to sell for between 500-650$.

2 – 18k gold brooch. I tried to figure out who might have designed this to no avail. The price of gold is pretty high right now, and I decided I was best off selling this for weight. At about 18 grams, this brooch earned me a little over 700$.

1 – 18k bloodstone ring. This is one the most beautiful rings I’ve ever found. Marked 750 (18k gold), it was likely made somewhere in Europe. It’s a large (size 11) men’s ring, and at 14.2 grams it’s worth several hundred just for scrap. It’s much nicer than that, though, and I expect it to sell for around 1000$.

Bonus: potentially valuable mystery items.

I’ve learned a lot over the years, but there’s still a lot I don’t know. I don’t want to undersell anything, so these mystery items often languish on shelves until the day an expert comes along, or I realize that I finally feel qualified to make a judgment myself.

Notable 2019 candidates include: the ancient-looking coins I found (I don’t have confidence in my ability to tell a real from a fake); …

… this old folk art box (European folk art is not my specialty);

this Kiddush cup (I still have to figure out if it’s solid silver or just plated);

… and this dog figurine. I think it’s porcelain, and it looks a little different from all the other figurines I’ve seen over the years. I can’t really put into words why that is the case, though it does appear to have a higher level of detail than most (particularly the face, and the bottoms of the paws are modeled as well). I forgot to post this on the blog, but I did post it to Instagram where someone noted that it looked like a very old Meissen piece. There’s no visible signature so it’s hard to confirm that, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this ended up being somewhat valuable, even though the tail is a bit busted up. FYI, the piece measures about 8.5″ wide and 8″ tall.

There’s definitely more intriguing mystery items in that huge haul I have yet to sort through, but that’ll just have to wait!

Well that’s all for 2019, for now at least. Hopefully 2020 is a good one, for me and all you readers! And a shout out to the rest of the world of course, as it could certainly use some help these days.


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The curmudgeon

Let’s go back to the early summer, when it seemed like there was a new crank or curmudgeon around every corner. This particular model sounded British, wore a bathrobe, and asked rhetorically if he had to call the police. If I remember right I used some of these nice rocks to try to persuade him to let me do my thing. To clarify, it was more along the lines of telling him “I just want nice things, for example these rocks” and not “I will hit you with these rocks if you don’t let me pick your trash.” Regardless, he was not convinced. The rocks ended up making a decent auction lot, selling for somewhere in the 20-30$ range.

I found some decent stuff here in the weeks prior, and a week or two after our meeting, but this spot didn’t produce for long. That little dish in the middle is sterling and those viking ship salt cellars are pewter. The little coasters on the bottom were silver-plated brass – the engravings made them less marketable so I decided they were best sold as scrap brass.

This doohickey is pretty cool. It’s a KLM (Dutch airlines) bottle stopper that dates to sometime before 1961. It’s silver plated and should sell for around 50$.

One day I saved a whole bunch of tools, including a nice set of mostly vintage “Union Twist” drill bits that should fetch a bit of cash online.

My most valuable find ended up being old software, particularly this set of mid-1980s Ultima games on 5.25″ floppies. The disks came in big boxes with cool cloth maps and lots of game-related books. This all sat on a shelf in my garage for many months before I finally brought it home yesterday to list. Upon doing that, the lot sold for 180$ within about 10 minutes. I probably could have made a little more money here, but I can’t complain. I wonder if I missed out on more titles in the weeks before I first arrived.

I also found a load of old Apple programming books here. They weren’t worth too much individually but probably would have done well enough as a lot on eBay. I never got around to it though, and they ended up in one of my yard sale free boxes. There’s so much stuff that I could theoretically list online that I have to be a bit choosy sometimes, lest I become overwhelmed with junk.

Let’s finish with these old Mac Mags, which are from the mid-80s and are probably pretty uncommon at this point. I doubt they’re worth much, but they might be interesting to a local collector. I’m starting a collection of things that I think would be best sold at flea markets or vintage sales, and I think these mags will go in with that lot.

Speaking of that, it’s in my plans to try selling at some kind of vintage market this winter. I haven’t gotten around to actually taking steps to make that happen, but it’s a good idea in theory.

2019 is nearing an end. Despite the numerous grumps it was a great year financially and I found a lot of interesting trash. I’ll try to get a “best of” post up soon, ideally before the new year but we’ll see how it goes.


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2. My eBay listings, Sign up for eBay, Search for something you want / research something you have (I’m a member of the eBay Partner Network so I make a bit of money if you buy things [even if they’re not mine] or sign up for an account via these links)
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5. Email: – note that it might take me some time to reply, and that I am unlikely to be able to fulfill requests for items

Part one of a million pt.1

One of my spots has offered a nearly overwhelming amount of quality trash in recent weeks & months. I have several boxes of stuff from this house stashed away, and it’s hard to know where to start when it comes to sorting & documenting it all. A good number of my finds have been quite old, dating back to the late 1800s to early 1900s, and there’s a lot of things I’ve never really dealt with before. The superstitious part of me hesitates to say more than that right now – I’m still finding stuff here, and don’t want the trash supply to end – but needless to say I’ve found some interesting junk!

I love old jars, bottles, tins, containers and original packaging. That John Oakey’s Wellington Knife Polish seems to be just about full and probably dates to the late 1800s.

This plastic beverage set probably dates to the 1960s. I would never use it, but it could be a fun decor piece.

These products are a little more practical. I like the graphic design on that Dor-Tite weather strip, which I think dates to the 1930s (early 40s at the latest). The set of pot menders are also pretty cute.

I’ve found several of those vintage slap-chops before, but never one with its original label. The turkey baster and oven thermometer are still in their original boxes. It’s too bad that the box for that 1930s electric mixer isn’t in better shape, but the mixer itself looks pretty good for its age.

On the left is a cool egg beater cup that was patented way back in 1888. Unfortunately there’s a big chunk out of the back, but I still think it could make a cool decoration or vase. You can get a better look by checking out a similar model on Worthpoint (I realize now, after looking at this listing that I also have the top metal piece. Good to know!).

These musical items were all stored inside that envelope on the left. Apparently R.S. Williams & Sons was a Toronto-based manufacturer of musical instruments back in the day. They also seem to have had a store, which at this time was located at 143 Yonge St.

There’s still a few of those C.F. Albert Violin String Gauges kicking around, though I don’t know how many have their original paper sleeve. That “tonologue” seems to be a little harder to find though, probably because it’s made from paper instead of brass. I found reference to it in this 1886 dictionary of musical instruments, and a few newspaper references indicating that it was probably invented around 1875. I wasn’t able to find any pictures of one, or any for sale, so maybe it’s quite rare by this point.

I’ve found a lot of cool paper stuff here. It’s particularly challenging to deal with, given that old paper is often fragile and hard to display for sale. I think this c.1930s book store envelope would be fun decoration if framed.

I’ve also found a lot of very cool photos, like these shots of Llanfairfechan in Wales. The top two look to be the same shot, but the colors tones are a little different. They’re printed on very thin sheets of paper, and I don’t know if they’re originals or prints or original prints. The photo in the purple velvet frame is stuck to a piece of glass, and I’ve never seen anything quite like it before. Any help dating these photos would be appreciated!

Let’s finish with this thing. I have no idea what it is. It looks to be made from bone, and the top part screws off from the rest for whatever reason. It’s about the size of a pen, but I don’t think it’s a pen. Any ideas?

I named this post “Part one of a million” because it feels like it’s going to take a million posts to share all this stuff. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s true that this spot is already one of my best volume producers of all time.


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