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 Canadaโ€™s 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.


1. Facebook page
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)
3. Help me pay off student loan debt / Contribute to the blog
4. Follow me on Instagram
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

16 thoughts on “The best of 2019”

  1. Great finds to round out the decade! Looking forward to seeing what’s waiting to be put in the yard sales this summer and to making some good sales!

  2. A feast of good stuff there, Martin. I know how much effort you put into finding, processing, reporting on and re-homing your found “junk” … so you deserve every penny, and more, that you reap from your finds. Kudos to you and all that you do.
    Can’t wait to read your book, once all its many parts coalesce and emerge into the light of day.
    I wish you a memorable 2020, a year replete with fulfilled goals and personal contentment.

  3. Martin, thanks for a hugely satisfying recap of 2019!! I hope 2020 is even better for you. Will you be posting an update after the high-end auction? I would love to hear how that carving did. Those gold pieces are amazing. I wonder if the Masonic temple at Sherbrooke and St-Marc might be able to shed some light as to the backstory on that watch fob (age, who may have owned it, etc.).

  4. Happy new year martin ! ๐Ÿ˜‰ & many unusual, weird & interesting finds in the new year !

  5. Congrats on a successful year. May those special finds bring additional rewards. So many beautiful items saved from oblivion. I enjoy tremendously reading the blog (and have enjoyed some of the finds personally) and I look forward to seeing what treasures the new year brings. Happy New Year, Martin and all!

  6. Great post Martin! I join your fans (I am one of thousands now!) to thank you for sharing your most amazing world with us and to wish you all the best of health, happiness and prosperity in 2020 ๐ŸŽ‰๐Ÿ’–โœจ

  7. My best wishes for a happy and healthy 2020 Martin. I read in the newspaper that as the population ages, there is a glut of possessions the next generation does not want and that is so massive that thrift stores cannot take all the items. We need to find a way to repurpose and reuse these items. This should be a business opportunity as new furniture and other big ticket items are so expensive and poorly made

  8. It is heartwarming to know that these beautiful, unique items have been saved from oblivion by you, and I am glad you have been able to benefit financially at the same time. All the best in 2020!

  9. Happy New Year, Martin!
    Congratulations on breaking into the high end auctions. May you find many more such worthy items in the coming year.

    I still say the box is a ballot box.

  10. Thanks for continuing to document your fascinating finds โ€“ and your adventures along the way.

    Sending you best wishes for 2020!

  11. What you do is TERRIFIC! It makes my jaw drop that folks would throw out cash or gold jewelry or precious works of art. Hurrah that you continue to improve your work flow/cash flow by adding garage space and auction house into your life. Maybe your first book could simply be essays featuring 10-20 objects that you have re-claimed over the past few years along with a description of how/where you found them, what you learned about them, and how you sold them. Your blog posts represent a great investment of time and energy โ€” and would provide a great starting point to work with an editor… May you continue to thrive, and learn, and innovate in the new decade!

Comments are closed.