A well-timed trip to the Point

I had some luck picking in Pointe St-Charles recently. It’s not a neighbourhood where I expect to find good trash, given its working class roots and the number of pickers (whether for cans or whatever) who already operate there, but you never know with garbage.

The only reason I went to there in the first place is because I had an appointment nearby at 1pm, and after waking up I took the notion to kill some time by picking somewhere I hadn’t been in a while. That’s when I found this pile, which showed a bit of promise. You can see my first few picks, including a working fan, next to the bags.

It seemed like someone was cleaning out an apartment. A lot of the stuff was truly garbage, but I did save some miniature perfumes, a silver & marcasite cross pendant, a couple tins, and a Canadian Centennial pin. (There were other things, like the fan, that didn’t quite make the cut from a photography perspective).

I might not have gone back, as the Point is a little out of the way for just one spot, but I had another appointment so I figured I might as well check back on it. My previous spot was pretty junky that day, but I happened upon another intriguing pile a few blocks away.

There I found some Quality Vintage Junk (QVJ), including some old keys, a St John the Divine Cathedral souvenir token, an 800 (80%) silver St Christopher medallion, and a neat c.1940s Bakelite desk organizer, which was made to promote the Standard Photo Engraving Company of Montreal.

Here we have a Chase Federal notepad, a Jamaican souvenir leather coin purse, and a tin full of dressmakers pins.

I found only one negative there, but it was a good one.

It was a picture of the R-100 Rigid Airship, which apparently docked in St Hubert, Quebec (just outside of Montreal) in the summer of 1930 after crossing the Atlantic. Here’s a video of it happening! Unfortunately, the similar R-101 Airship crashed and burned in France later in 1930, which led to the R-100 being scrapped and sold for 600 British Pounds. Still, the airship was quite the local attraction at the time. According to Wikipedia, “The [R-100] stayed at Montreal for 12 days with over 100,000 people visiting the airship each day … and a song was composed by La Bolduc to make fun of the people’s fascination.”

I didn’t see anything else at that spot in subsequent weeks. Still, having two intriguing destinations made the trip to Pointe St-Charles more worthwhile, even when I didn’t have an appointment.

I remember the weather being pretty bad the week after the R-100 find, and I was really tempted to skip my run and hide out at home. After all, the chances were good that I wouldn’t find anything super valuable anyways. But I did end up going out, and that was the day I found some really great stuff. I likely wouldn’t have bothered if I only had the one spot to check.

Let’s start with more QVJ. We have two Montreal Gazette velcro wallets, a measuring tape, a bit of costume jewelry, a pair of Italian sunglasses, a nice old pair of rimless eyeglasses, some costume jewelry, and an exacto knife in a pen-like case. The exacto pen is emblazoned with the slogan “cut copy costs with Ditto,” referring to the old copying machine.

Here we have a nice metal container, and old toy savings bank, a Liberty magazine recipe box, and the cardboard box it was shipped in (apparently in 1955). Fortunately it wasn’t too hard to crack that safe – there’s only ten numbers, and it didn’t take me long to figure out that “6” was the one that opened it.

I’m a sucker for anything in its original packaging, so I enjoyed that never used kneeling pad, which I’d guess is from the late 60s or early 70s. That Edmonton Eskimos pennant noted that the team won three Grey Cups in a row, so I was able to date it to 1956. I listed it on eBay and it sold very quickly for 75$. I probably could have got a bit more for it, but I can’t complain too much.

I also found a 1950s “Potluck Cookery” cookbook, and an unopened package of vintage nylon hose.

My best finds though were hidden inside this funky eyeglass case.

I heard a jingle inside, and out came five gold rings (and a magnifying glass).

I would assume that whoever tossed the case didn’t bother to look inside. The 14k + 18k ring on the left has three diamonds, the biggest of which is about 1/4 carat according to my measuring doohickey. The ring second from the left features a star cabochon surrounded by a bunch of tiny ~1/32 carat diamonds. That one is unmarked, but I’m sure it’s gold. The one in the middle holds a big red “stone”, which is probably actually cut glass. Its hallmark is illegible, but it probably says 10k. The other two are simpler pieces, including a classic wedding band.

Overall this is a pretty easy several hundred dollars! The basic rings are worth about their weight in scrap, but the others should be worth a little more. How much more, I have yet to figure out.

I also found a simple pair of 14k earrings inside an old iron-on mending tape container.

There wasn’t anything good on the curb the week after this haul, and the week after that I saw the apartment being emptied into the trucks of some junk removal company. It looked like some nice antique furniture was going into those trucks, but at least most of it was being donated (as per a brief conversation I had with one of the workers).

And so marked the end of my brief but fortunate foray into the Pointe St-Charles trash scene. As you can see, a lot of things had to go right for it to work out, but by picking as often as I do I’m bound to be in the right place at the right time, at least some of the time.

The big topic of the day is the COVID-19 outbreak. In my next post I’ll take about how it could affect my trash picking business. In the meantime, stay safe out there!


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25 thoughts on “A well-timed trip to the Point”

  1. I imagine it will be great for your business as people will be staying in and finally cleaning up, as there is nothing else to do. Happy picking!

  2. In the picture with the paint brush the round thing with a cross on the lower left is a Boy Scout rosary.

    1. Interesting, thanks for sharing that. I’ve found a few of those now, but never really thought about what exactly they might be.

  3. “… you never know with garbage” could make a great motto! 😀

    Really nice finds,Martin, especially the gold jewelry and that fabulous zeppelin negative. As a regular follower of your blog, I’ve been thinking of how the covid-19 pandemic could impact your activities, with Montréal being effectively locked down. You stay safe too!

  4. Great post! I am VERY interested in your observations of human behaviour, as it relates to your garbage finds, with this Covid-19 pandemic.
    I also think “you never know with garbage” sounds like a good tag line!

  5. I’d be very interested in buying the Zeppelin negative!
    But please don’t put your finger on it: always touch by the edges!

  6. Good morning!

    Enjoying your most recent post. Might you be selling the plain gold wedding ring? I am interested in it, depending on price.

    Thankyou so much. Regards, Annette (Grasswood, SK)

    Sent from my iPad


  7. Quality Vintage Junk (QVJ) … I love it! 😀
    Great airship pic! Such a cool piece. Thanks for the interesting lesson in local history.
    The toy bank is pretty sweet.
    “You Never Know with Garbage” would make a great book title. Maybe with a subtitle something like – the ___adjective__ adventures of a professional scavenger. Yay! More gold!
    Love your posts. They’re always so well written, interesting and informative. Your relaxed writing style easily draws the reader into the fascinating world you inhabit.

  8. Thank you, Martin, for continuing to craft wonderful blog posts even as the COVID-19 situation gets more and more serious. I hope that it does NOT adversely affect your terrific and important work (meaning that even if everyone is advised to practice social distancing and stay home, you will still be able to go out for walks if you stay away from other human beings and cover your mouth when you cough/sneeze). This new public health challenge may, however, make people even more nervous to see someone going through their trash bags? And you might also become more hesitant to poke around in someone else’s trash bags? I look forward to reading about what you decide/learn in the days/weeks/months ahead. I am staying home with almost no cash flow since all of my gigs at retirement communities, synagogues and public libraries have been cancelled for the foreseeable future… Hurrah for rice and beans! And hurrah for the person who stored those rings in the funky green eyeglass case!

  9. I’m super curious to know if the R100 photo is worth much. I used to be totally obsessed with airships/zeppelins. Cool find either way!

    1. I’d guess that it’s worth maybe 10-20$. Given how many people were there to look at it, I doubt photos of it are super rare. But it’s pretty neat regardless

  10. The rings and the negative of the airship are my favorites of your finds in this post. Looking at your photos of the trash on the curb I tho’t of a question. How do you go about looking for treasures in the bags? Do you dump them out on the street and then re-fill them after looking through the contents or do you take them with you and look through them later? Seems like it would be really messy and time-consuming to dump them at the scene and then put all but the good stuff back in. Anyway, just curious. Oh, and remember to wash your hands after trash-picking!! We all want you to be safe and well.

    1. Usually I’ll dig around in the bag, leaving the junk inside and taking out the good stuff. Another good trick is to find a second, relatively empty bag and put the junk from the other bag in there, so it’s easier to see what all’s inside. If the bag is really intriguing (especially when there are small bits, like jewelry inside) I’ll just throw it in the car for later sorting. Either way, I always make sure not to make a mess, because it gives people a good reason to yell at me

  11. I’m glad you got rid of the Edmonton Eskimos pennant, hopefully out of Montreal altogether. I’m old enough to remember when the Alouettes lost those three games and I’ve hated Edmonton ever since. At least you made some money out of it. Cheers.

  12. I love seeing the jewellery you find. It blows my mind! You might be able to get more than scrap for the plainer rings. Was hard to see but one looked like a vintage signet and they are sort of on trend right now.

  13. Jogger’s Velcro Wallet made me seriously LOL. The rings in the green glasses case gave me a thrill. What a find! Love how people are using those clear-is blue bags. Well that sure makes it easier!

    1. The clear blue bags are usually for recycling. It is nice to be able to see through them, though the vast majority of my best finds come from the black, non see through bags. When people recycle they generally try to sort at least a little bit, but with garbage they just dump it all in there.

  14. That Northern Electric Ruler is a bit of Nortel Ephemera…. Northern Electric was one of the predecossors to Nortel.

  15. Some very interesting finds The old glasses caught my eye especially since I just paid $750 for a new pair that look exactly like the ones you found . Stay safe with all that is happening.

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