I'm a professional scavenger making a living selling curbside garbage. This blog details my finds and sales. It also acts as an archive for things beautiful and historic that would otherwise have been destroyed.
While organization my room / office space recently I laid my eyes on a couple old finds. And by old, I mean I found them a long time ago and they’ve been kicking around for way too long. I took this picture in August of 2019, to give you an idea, and haven’t gotten around to posting or doing anything at all with them since then, besides looking at them occasionally and thinking that I should do something with them of course.
They’re also old in the other sense of the word. They were fairly early finds from the “Part one of a million” spot, a multigenerational home that produced much antique junk from the spring of 2019 to the spring of this year. I often find vintage stuff, but rarely do I find so many century plus old items at one spot.
Anyways, this is a neat little piece.
Based on the sheet below, it kinda seems like a proto etch-a-sketch. You have a glass “board” with dimples on both sides (one side is a square, the other is shaped like a diamond), and little glass marbles of different colours to put in those dimples to create different patterns or designs.
Like a lot of nice glass stuff, it was made in “Czecho-Slovakia.” That spelling might give a hint as to when it was made, since the hyphenation was apparently only used just after the end of WWI and for a little bit right before WWII. Based on the design and materials used, I feel safe saying it likely dates to the late 1910s or early-mid 1920s. I’m not sure what it’s worth, but it’s a very cool thing that’s in very nice shape considering it’s about a century old and was left in a bag on the curb.
I found this puzzle the same day. Raphael “Father” Tuck & Sons operated in London between 1866-1959. They’re probably most known for their postcards but they also made paper dolls, pop-up kid’s books, and apparently the occasional “picture building puzzle”. It’s hard to find specific information about these, but I’d guess this was made around the same time as the proto etch-a-sketch or maybe a little earlier.
The subject is Alice in Wonderland, which is likely good for its value given Alice’s cult following. There’s three puzzles in total, only one of which is complete, but considering its age I’m probably lucky to have that.
I’ve never read Alice in Wonderland, but lots of people have recommended it!
It’s pretty hard to find other puzzles like this online, so maybe they’re pretty scarce. A museum in Vancouver seems to have some puzzles, but maybe not the box (FYI, on the back of the puzzles are written some verses I didn’t notice before, which you can kind of see via that link although the pictures are fuzzy). This Tuck devotee compiled a couple of pictures and some pages of similar Tuck products from old catalogues, but doesn’t seem to own a copy. The only sale I found is listed on Worthpoint, which I don’t have a subscription to (but if you do, I wouldn’t mind some info ;). That one looks like it was never used, though my box is probably in better condition.
Regardless, these are pretty neat and fairly uncommon finds. Whatever they’re worth I’m glad I saved them from the dump.
Garbage picking can run hot or cold, but I feel like I’ve been on a non-stop hot streak since early July. There’s so many great finds to show you, including at least two “find of the year” candidates.
For now let’s go back to mid-summer, when this recently sold house was a spot of interest. They threw out lots of great stuff that I didn’t get pictures of, like nice kitchenwares and a whole bunch of camping gear because I was so busy with junk from elsewhere On this day I picked up a couple of rugs, which I think sold for around 60-80$ each at the auction house if I remember right.
When you’re rich I guess you can afford to buy 40+ dollar wi-fi light bulbs and then throw them out when you move. These three were sealed in their original plastic, and sold for 20-some bucks at the auction. So the buyer got a pretty good deal, but I got them for free so I can’t complain (plus, there’s fancier models out these days – I think these were made “way back” in 2015). Those lightweight Silhouette rimless frames are always a good find, they’re generally easy to sell on eBay in the 60-100$ range. The Hugo Boss titanium frames should also be easy to sell. There were lots of other eyeglasses, but these were the ones that were most worth sharing.
Not super exciting, but I picked up a whole bunch of nice cleaning supplies as well. I basically don’t have to buy any cleaning products anymore, other than dish soap and laundry detergent. I find those sometimes too, but not often enough to never have to buy them again.
This bag held tourist tchotchkes (ranging in quality from nice to busted), brass doodads, miscellaneous electronics, and the art below, which was made in Greece. They didn’t sell for much at auction, but I thought they were kinda cool.
But as is somewhat common with my summer hauls, the highlight for me was a bunch of jewelry. This collection came in a white shopping bag, which was then placed in a black garbage bag.
As you can see it was tangled up pretty good when I found it. As usual, a good portion wasn’t too exciting, but I was able to pick some pretty nice pieces out of the mess.
In the silver department we have three hefty bangles with black stones (onyx?). Together they weigh around 115 grams, making them worth about an easy 75$ at current scrap prices, though in my opinion they’re too nice to scrap. I’m guessing they were made in Central America, along with that pretty necklace with the green stones which is hallmarked “0925.” The necklace made from many little rings is also silver. For gold, we have a hefty 14k ring missing its stones (but still worth 3-400$ for scrap given its bulk), one section of a gold clasp, a single 14k earrings with diamonds and a green stone (jade?), and a nice 14k ring with some kind of green stones and a larger one with green and pink speckles.
As for costume stuff, we have a cool rhinestone cat brooch, a brooch that looks to a be a section broken off a larger piece of antique jewelry, a Ben Amun signed necklace, and a Sheffield pendant watch. The latter is a little more fun than the usual pendant watch because it actually has a working pendulum on the bottom. Zoom in for a closer look!
(Not the best pics but still a little better look at a couple of pieces that were less visible in the group shot)
Anyways, this was just one of a few to several rich people moving piles that produced quality finds and jewelry in the past six months or so. I’ll try to share more soon.
Otherwise, I find myself overwhelmed with the amount of stuff to deal with, and it no longer seems feasible to sell it all myself. Even with the help of the auction house, there’s a lot of stuff that will only sell well if the effort is put in. For example, I’m not even sure they’d accept a single pair of Silhouette eyeglasses as a lot, and even if they did I doubt they’d go for more than, say 20$, and then the fees are higher as well. Like I said earlier, they’re pretty easy to sell on eBay, but when you have hundreds if not thousands of items packed away that would be easy to sell on eBay, the prospect of doing getting started is less enticing and the end goal feels a little murky. I want my life to be about more than work, and as things are I probably work harder than I should already.
Thankfully the business has continued to evolve. My picking skills continue to improve, and my eye for quality junk has become more refined in the “auction-house era.” My finances are now pretty stable, in large part thanks to the auction house, and it seems like I might actually be able to pay off my student loans one day. Also, my recent forays into the stock market have been reasonably successful thus far. My lack of emotional attachment to money serves me well there, and not being greedy helps too. (It seems to be that those are the pitfalls of a lot of “retail” investors).
(On a side note, for an intriguing Canadian garbage-related company you can check out Cielo Waste Solutions [CMC.V], a business based in Alberta that has developed a way to turn garbage & junk (anything not metal, apparently) into renewable diesel. It seems like a few other companies are working on similar technology, but there should be room for all of them in the end as the supply for garbage is basically limitless and the need for fuel isn’t going away anytime soon. Anyways, dyodd as they say (do your own due diligence), and don’t blame me if you lose money. However, feel free to praise me if you do).
Anyways, all that to say I’m not so reliant on maximizing the value of every single item anymore. So I’ve recently started outsourcing some of my selling duties to a few different people in exchange for a good cut of the profit. It’s working out pretty well so far – my finds get sold at good prices with little effort or thought on my part, and that is very refreshing. It almost feels too easy. Regardless, it’s a good way to keep things moving out the door, and reduce the mental burden associated with thinking about & looking at the masses of items I’d otherwise have to deal with.
On a related note, in the New Year I want to focus on decluttering my space a bit, better separate my work life from my home life, etc. As things stand, I find I’m pretty easily distracted and have a hard time relaxing, which I think is partly due to always having cool stuff around to look at, but also stress about what to do with. Don’t worry, I don’t plan on going full-on Marie Kondo or anything, but some rearranging couldn’t hurt.
Look at that, the day turned to Christmas while I was writing that screed, so I’ll end on that note. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and etc! Also. let’s hope 2021 is better than this one.
I wasn’t very lucky finding precious metals this summer, but since August (or so) I’ve been finding bits (and chunks, more on that later) of gold & silver pretty regularly. I doubt it has anything to do with the pandemic, it’s just another example of how random and unpredictable garbage can be.
Rich kids seem to be a good source of garbage gold. I imagine they often get jewelry as gifts, and since jewelry is a personal taste thing a lot of these gifts probably aren’t appreciated. Or, they just grow out of that style over time. Either way, these kids might not understand the value of the gifts they receive, and being rich they have no particular motivation to figure it out (unless it’s something really spectacular where the value is emphasized). So, when the kid, or the grown-up adult has to clean out their bedroom because their parents are moving, or turning it into a pool room, some of these gifts – which may also have achieved “old junk” status over time – end up on the curb. That’s my theory, but I think it’s a good one.
Anyways, I stopped at this spot because it was across the street from another house I was keeping an eye on. There were several bags on the curb – definitely some kid’s old stuff, most of which was actual junk. But at the bottom of one bag was a golden surprise.
I picked out a 14k bracelet feat. dog charms and a 10k locket feat. a small diamond. The bracelet had a bit of weight to it, I forget how much exactly but I remember the total scrap value being in the 350-400$ range. That kind of haul definitely makes my day, and helps offset any less lucky days I might have.
Rarely do I find my jewelry out in the open, but this small collection was in a box for anyone to find (though you’d have had to move some junk around to see it). If this was in the Plateau, someone else probably would have found it before me, but because it was a Westmount apartment I was probably the only one to take a peek.
Here’s the best of the bunch. The ring in the middle seems to be unmarked 14k gold based on my tests. The bar brooch is also 14k, if I remember right. I found one old silver napkin ring by Asprey, a luxury goods company based in London (England, not Ontario) whose Art Deco era catalogue I found and sold for 400$ back in 2015. Another notable silver piece was that bracelet on the left, which was French silver and maybe real tortoiseshell. Otherwise, the big dangle earrings are signed Chantal Thomass, and people seem to like her stuff – I listed them at 150$ on eBay (now reduced to 125$). The other bracelet at top left has a brutalist look to it, there’s a couple little makers marks on there but I can’t make them out.
Sometimes people pillage their old jewelry boxes and toss out the “dregs.” Fortunately, those dregs are sometimes pretty good.
In this box, I found a gold & pearl necklace, a gold Star of David, a silver Greek key bracelet, a Mickey Mouse watch, and an interesting (and probably antique) silver & Wedgwood jasperware brooch. There were a few other “junky” pieces, but most of these dregs were decent.
I passed by this house again last week, a few months after this little haul. There was a dumpster out front and it looked pretty empty, so I guess they moved (though I never saw a “for sale” sign).
Here’s a few things from a one-off in Cote St-Luc. There’s one 14k gold chain in there, and the rest is silver. If I remember right the little rock in the silver necklace on the bottom is a diamond.
More recently I scrounged together a whole bunch of jewelry – again, kid stuff – from some bags on the curb not too far from Vendome metro. All in all I saved nearly five pounds of jewelry. Probably 95% of this collection was unspectacular costume stuff or broken (which ends up going to crafty folks), but as is most often the case I was able to pick out a few treasures.
(Also, I rescued the electronic scale elsewhere around a month back. I found a bunch of old, never used makeup in the bags, as well as a laser printer, so I’m guessing someone just gave up on their side hustle makeup business. Either way, it’s pretty useful to have at my garage!).
Anyways, for gold we have a ring marked 750 (18k, though according to my acid test it’s probably closer to 14k), as well as some earrings with real dark stones. Otherwise, I saved a Birks pendant (the heart-shaped one), a set of silver & green enamel leaf earrings/pendant (hallmarked 950, which probably means they’re fairly vintage as 925 / sterling is now the ubiquitous silver standard), a silver cat brooch from Ecuador, a silver & amber pendant, a couple silver bracelets, and a sterling 1938 Stratford Music Festival pendant.
I found this collection after deciding to try one of my less regular routes. I haven’t seen anything else in front of this house in the weeks since, so I guess my timing was pretty good here! Also, the week after, when I did this route again to see if these guys would toss out more stuff, I ended up finding a bit of gold & silver in front of a different house. I think that adds to the theory that I’m just a bit lucky right now.
And this is just the beginning really. Lots more to come, hopefully soon. I’ve haven’t been able to get my head into blogging lately, though the words are coming out pretty quickly tonight.