A very 2020 encounter

Here’s a story about something that happened early in the year, maybe late March or early April, around when the coronavirus officially became a big deal here in North America.

I spotted that large pile and decided to take a look. I found a bit of quality junk, including abaci (or abacuses if you prefer) and brass doodads.

I also found a couple of Sheaffers in a Parker box, an unexceptional change purse with a 20$ bill still tucked away inside, a much older looking change purse (which is unfortunately cracked on the other side), a nice but worn painting dated 1948, and a box full of Montreal Children’s Hospital crests, a few of which were made from silver.

Most interesting was my encounter with the lady bringing out the trash.

(I like the word “tosser,” but apparently it means something else in England – if you have any suggestions as to other words I can use to describe someone taking out trash, please share them in the comments!).

She was a bit surprised to see me and seemed a little iffy about the whole thing at first. She questioned whether I should be looking through trash during a pandemic, and I mentioned that I had wipes and hand sanitizer in the car. She mentioned how the stuff had been in the basement for 20 years, and that she’d been raring to throw it out for some time. She asked me what I was looking for, and on this day I went with “yard sale-y stuff, gold and silver…” or something along those lines – my answer changes depending on who asks the question. She laughed at that notion, but seemed to not mind me continuing to look through the bags. As she was inside finding more junk to bring to the curb, I opened a bag and found a bunch of jewelry, some loose in the bag and some in an old jewelry box. Of course, there was a decent amount of gold and silver in the mix.

I forget exactly what happened exactly, but I probably took the whole bag and brought it to the car, and then went back and proceeded as normal. In the end she expressed discomfort about my looking through the bags, in part because she didn’t want me taking old photos she had thrown out, but “helped” me find a bit of extra junk that she thought I might like. I remember indicating that a bag “sounded interesting” because it made a metallic noise when I kicked it, and that I was also interested in metals such as brass and copper.

In the end I got to look through enough of the stuff that I feel confident I came away with most of the best. There was more trash out in subsequent weeks, but none of it was particularly exciting.

Anyways, here’s the collection after I put it all back in what was presumably its original box.

Here’s a bit of the costume-y stuff. I remember that pewter pendant was marked “Ceard Arran” and was made in Scotland. It had a brutalist look to it, and it sold for somewhere around 35$.

Here’s the silver. The enameled bracelet on top was made in Denmark by a guy named Anton Michelsen. It comes with a matching brooch, though the enamel on that is pretty busted up. Regardless, together they’re worth around 150-200$. The ring to the right of it is Navajo if I remember correctly (I’m not sure where I stashed this stuff, so I’m going by memory here). That medal might be a WWI era sweetheart thing, though I couldn’t find another quite like it online. I forget what the hallmarks were, but it looks a lot like this brooch I found on British eBay. I suspect the orange bit is tortoiseshell, or at least something that imitates it nicely. That lobster brooch is pretty cool, too bad it’s missing a couple of stones.

And here’s the gold. The ring up top featured the emblem of the Toronto General Hospital, and I sold it a while back for 200$. The cameo brooch is marked 14k, and the maple leaf brooch is marked Birks 10k. The little watch is a Dubois that’s hallmarked 18k. All in all, this haul made for an easy low four-figure day.

The experience raises a lot of questions, and perhaps offers a window into the mind of the tosser. For one, did she know she was throwing out silver and gold? My guess is no, but it’s possible she did but undervalued it significantly. Or, when she was looking through this jewelry box, did she really look at the things she was throwing out, or was the tossing more of an absent-minded, knee jerk reaction to seeing “old junk?”.

Either way, I’m pretty happy with the results on my end.

After some decent jewelry hauls in the spring, I suffered a bit of a precious metal drought despite other good finds all this summer, at least until recently (silver especially…). I hope to share those stories with you relatively soon, as compared with the five or so months it took to crank out this post.

I plan on doing a yard sale on Saturday at my spot on Coloniale (4096) near Duluth. It’ll start around noon, and I’ll have hand sanitizer and all that. If something changes, ie: the weather, I’ll edit this post before it happens.

(Just a reminder, you can sign up to my newsletter, which should inform you of my future sales by clicking here))

10 thoughts on “A very 2020 encounter”

  1. Your lobster is actually a scorpion and I am pretty sure he is Navajo. If you want someone who can repair it correctly and at a reasonable price, contact me. He should sell for $85 to $100 if repaired.
    I can’t believe people throw valuables out so often.

  2. Below the enameled bracelet, that looks to be a brooch in amber & silver in the shape of a fish – very pretty

  3. Every post you show things that I can’t believe people just threw out, items that should never end up in landfill. The jewellery in this post maybe wasn’t to the tosser’s taste but wouldn’t it have been infinitely better to donate it somewhere. I know Covid-19 made things difficult but if it’s been in the basement 20 years, why not wait a few more months.

    BTW, I think you should continue to use tosser as I think both meanings of the word are appropriate in most cases here.

  4. Wow! I am glad that you were able to have a respectful conversation with this woman which led to some great finds. I am always amazed to see what people throw out. I know there are folks (not me — but I have seen friends in action…) who get very energized by the act of throwing things out. Thank goodness there are folks like you to re-claim some of what is valuable/special when someone throws out a bunch of “stuff.”

  5. I am in the US, but I think when people question you that you should stress you are trying to find things to keep them out of the landfill (which makes me feel better about something that might otherwise make me uncomfortable).

  6. Personally, I like “tosser” … but maybe “discarder” or “dumper” could work too.
    Lots of great stuff, as always. And another good tosser interaction story for that book you need to get working on during the cold months this winter. 🙂
    That little painting is nice.

  7. I like “tosser” too, double meaning and all. A big WOW for all that gold you recovered. It never ceases to amaze me that anyone would just throw that away. Looking forward to your book!!

  8. It is amazing to throw out good stuff like this, for sure. I wonder if people just get overwhelmed by dealing with stuff they no longer use, and maybe don’t have the patience, time or know-how to sort through it and find new homes for everything. I have had to sort through a few relatives’ homes either before they could move into smaller accommodations, or after their deaths. It can be a mind-boggling task, especially if people have basements and attics full of belongings.

    I love the pens and the enamel jewelry! Keep up the good work, Martin.

  9. In exchange for your post, here’s a rather apropos joke:

    A guy walks into a bar and orders a Corona and two hurricanes.

    The bartender says “that’ll be $20.20.”

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