The prestige pt.1

I’ve been picking this past week, even as the pandemic intensifies. I keep some hand sanitizer in the car for my hands, and some disinfecting spray to wipe down surfaces with. I’ve also taken a different approach, more often taking full bags to sort through later rather than sorting on the spot, then letting those bags sit until any potential virus inside has died.

Maybe it’s unwise to do this. But to be honest, I’m not really sure what I’d do with myself otherwise. Garbage picking is a passion of mine, and it’s hard to stop knowing what treasures I’ll miss. Maybe that makes me a little crazy or obsessive. I do think that with the precautions I’m taking, the risks are pretty low. As bad as the pandemic is, it’s safe to say that only around .1% (or 1/1000) of the population is currently infected (current known cases are 4682, making the official count closer to .01%, but we can assume that the number is higher than that, so .1% seems like a liberal estimate).

Regardless of the risk, trash picking is definitely less fun right now. The need to compulsively clean is annoying, and I find myself feeling paranoid, mostly because other people feel so paranoid. It’s a bit sad that my enjoyment of my hobby / job has been tainted for the foreseeable future, but so it goes.

I have to say though that this week was pretty successful on the garbage finds front. In particular, I struck gold on Thursday, and had a very 2020 interaction while doing so. It’ll make for a good blog story, which I hope to share here relatively soon.

Anyways, let’s go back to before this all started, when it was cold out and there was still lots of snow on the ground. This spot looked good from the get go: sold sign out front, fancy house, hint of old junk (the suitcase) on the curb, and a bit more volume than your usual pile. I did indeed find some great stuff, and was hopeful that this spot would end up being a regular producer (at least for a while). However, later that day I got a message announcing an estate sale at the house, which usually means that the flow of trash is at its end.

I know the estate sale people didn’t throw this stuff out, so it must have been from the family sorting through personal affects. A large percentage of the trash was old photos & ephemera, but I also saved a bit of quality junk and silver. Also, it’s worth noting that a member of the estate came from a pretty prestigious Canadian business family, so my finds here are the remnants of some serious old money.

Let’s start with a couple of the best photos. These 10×8″ photographs featuring the Harrison Hot Springs & Lake were taken c. the 1930s by Leonard Frank, a noted photographer of British Columbia. The photos are both stuck to the same piece of fibrous backing, which is something I haven’t seen before.

His photos are apparently fairly sought after, and I think mine will sell in the 2-300$ range.

This photo is signed by Yousuf Karsh, the famed Canadian portrait photographer. He took portraits of lots of famous people, but also some less famous folks like Jimmy here. I found another Karsh photo around five years ago and sold it for 235$, though a friend of mine did me a favor and framed it professionally, thereby increasing its value. Still, I’m guessing this would sell for 50-75$.

I found lots of other great photos here, but I’ll save them for another post.

Here’s some “quality junk” displayed on a jewelry box tray I also found. The watch is a Hamilton, and probably worth around 30-40$. May Cutler was a writer and publisher of children’s books who was also mayor of Westmount from 1987-1991.

Here we have an old school Charga-Plate (precursor for the credit card) in its original leather sheath, a candy thermometer that may contain mercury, some vintage lipstick, and a souvenir key fob from the US Capitol.

Here we have some 20-30 year old rolling tobacco, an enameled copper dish, a magnifier, and some vintage products. The Christmas tree ornament hangers are my favourite – based on the font, I’d guess they’re from the 40s.

I saved several Cirque de Soleil DVDs, which should do well at a future yard sale.

Here we have a small collection of coins including a silver dime, a silver cat brooch, a tin filled with vintage keys, a shotgun shell, and a vial that I’d guess contains kidney stones. The 15″ ruler on the bottom is quite nice, it has a brass edge and was made by Eberhard Faber.

I also found two sterling silver picture frames, including one (on the right) made by Birks. It has it’s original glass, so it’s probably worth around 40-50$. The spoon is also sterling, but it was real dinged up and only good for scrap (around 5$ worth).

Let’s finish with this cool piece of art, which is painted on a round piece of wood around 11″ in diameter. It’s pretty well done, but unfortunately unsigned. If you know something about it, please let us know in the comments!

Given that we’re all (mostly) stuck inside I’ll try to post more than I usually do. Recently I’ve been addicted to the news and not really getting a heck of a lot done, but I’m trying to reduce my consumption. It’s good to be informed, but you have to draw a line at some point.


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

20 thoughts on “The prestige pt.1”

  1. Oh, I’ve been wanting a can opener just like the one you found! Do you plan on listing it somewhere?

  2. Thanks for taking the time to post!! Your posts are always such a delight to find in my Inbox. Cool finds. Can’t believe they tossed that stuff before the estate sale. Argh, but glad you saved it. You might post the Cirque DVDs now as people are buying stuff like that in their confinement at home. Glad you are staying busy and profitable.

  3. Well done! I admire that you have learned the approximate re-sale value of so many different things. Another terrific post. Thank you.

    1. Gold is doing fairly well right now, definitely better than the stock market. Silver, not so much, but who knows.

      Scrap metals like copper on the other hand aren’t doing too well. Fortunately my scrap metal stash isn’t so big that I’m desperate to unload it, so I can probably wait until prices bounce back.

  4. I’m really loving the round painting… and the Christmas tree hooks. I’m curious to see what you’d want for them…

    1. Thanks for that! Mine didn’t have a sticker on the bottom so I didn’t know why made it. I see it’s worth somewhere between 20-30$.

  5. -RE: the Peterson’s Food Market matchbook … you could consider expanding your Montreal business card Instagram site to include Montreal matchbooks?
    -That’s the most ornate set of non-skeleton keys I’ve seen, in that tin box. And in the same pic … a skeleton key! Wish I wore brooches; that cat one is so cute.
    -Hey … there’s a picture of a hand in that left silver frame. Hahaha. I see you!
    -I love, love, love that art in the last pic. The trompe-l’œil is wonderful!
    -Nice finds. May your good luck continue … and stay safe, please. *hugs*

    1. That’s actually part of the plan. Matchbooks are a good source, also flyers, old shopping bags, and so on. I like that art as well, maybe I’ll keep it for now as I’m not sure how I’d price it.

  6. The trompe l’œil may have a faint signature. Closely check the shadowed edge above the left side of the feather.

  7. I love your Karsh find. He is a famous Armenian Canadian photographer, I have a book about him and his work. I would guess that photo would sell for more !!

  8. Just a heads up that Cirque DVD’d can do fairly well on eBay, especially in a lot. I’ve done well in the past.

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