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.
It’s getting cold out there, so let’s go back to the summer when this spot was occasionally productive. On this day in June I picked up a couple old trunks, both of which ended up selling for okay prices at auction.
The pickings were hit & miss. The bags were mostly junk on this day, but thankfully I spotted an old clear plastic bag full of lighters. None were super valuable on their own (even the one at bottom right, which seems to date to WWI) so I brought them to the auction, where they ended up selling as a lot for 55$.
The last day was one of the most productive. I picked up a bunch of quality junk, including an old bank, a depression glass dish, some vintage scissors…
… a fun & very old clover-like table mirror;
… a nice wooden box with a mirror inside, a fun Noritake nut bowl with some “3d” nuts inside;
… a great Sheaffer pen set, which includes a fountain pen with a 14k gold nib;
… and an old beaded cushion. Some seem to think it’s a pincushion, but I think it was made to hang from the wall. Either way, these were apparently made by the Iroquois in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It’s in fairly good condition all things considered, and it should sell for around my 85$ asking price on eBay.
One day I found a bunch of photos. Most weren’t too exciting, but this one of a cricket team is pretty cool. It was taken by Glasgow photographer J.B. Macnair probably in the 1880s. I don’t know much about cricket, but this photo is the kind of thing that might be worth more if I figure out who’s in it.
On my best day here I opened up a bag and found a box filled with jewelry.
There was a lot of quality costume jewelry inside. The green necklace is a Sherman piece, and those always go for good money. There’s another nice shiny necklace by Continental, and a gold-tone one by D’Orlan. There’s a bit of silver, like that Bond-Boyd brooch (with the blue stones, probably the nicest Bond-Boyd piece I’ve seen) and the bird brooch.
My favourite piece is probably this Italian micro-mosaic brooch, which was made by Fabbrica Angelo Pessar (FAP) in the late 1800s or early 1900s. Not only is it quite large (diameter: 5.1cm), it’s very detailed and uses negative space nicely. It’s the nicest example of a micro-mosaic brooch that I’ve seen to date, so I priced it at 200$, which I think is the high end for pieces from that era.
I’m also intrigued by this set. It looks to be made from silver, but there’s no hallmarks to be seen. Again, the details are pretty nice, with filigree petals and individual stamens (the long things in the middle of the flower, basically the pollen producing bits). A lot of those stamens are squished down, but I was able to bend them back into place pretty easily. If you happen to know anything about these, even the type of flower, please let us know in the comments! I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
Otherwise, yard sale season is officially over. It was a pretty good year of sales, but I’m also happy to take a break from it all. I did a big purge, and will come back next year with a whole new collection of quality junk. I might try selling some of my mid-range finds at a flea market sometime this winter but nothing’s official yet. If I do that I’ll post the details here, and I’ll send out an email on my new mailing list.
Recently I’ve been covering downtown, in particular the Golden Square Mile a little more often. I think I’ve been underestimating the potential of apartment buildings, especially those housing a wealthier demographic. Sure, most apartment trash goes down a chute and mixes together at the bottom, creating an extremely smelly and generally undesirable concoction that I’d prefer to avoid at all costs. However, I’m sure a lot of people, when moving or clearing out an apartment, figure that it’s easier to bring their bags of goodies to the curb rather than cram all their junk down a small hole. Or, so I can hope.
Regardless, I found these coins just off Doctor Penfield while out on a casual run with my mom. There’s more than 10 Euros there, as well as 6+ British pounds, which adds up to around 25 Canadian dollars.
People throw out their foreign coins on a pretty regular basis. This is my current stash of Euros and British Pounds, the currencies most worth holding onto (I also keep Australian & New Zealand dollars but those don’t turn up quite as often).
I forget what this all adds up to now, but it definitely translates to somewhere around 100 Canadian dollars. Most foreign exchange places have no interest in coins but I was able to sell my last collection to a couple of blog readers for somewhere between 1:1 and the actual exchange rate. If anyone else is traveling to Europe soon and doesn’t mind bringing a couple pounds of coins with them let me know!
This pile provided my best downtown apartment finds in recent memory.
Many of the bags held gross chute trash but others contained old china and other kitchenware. You’d think that this kind of stuff would break on its way to the curb but more often than not it survives the trip.
This place was perhaps most notable for its platters, a couple of which look to be quite old. The one at top left is a Paloma Picasso piece so that’s not quite vintage, but the ones below it are definitely dated.
I’d guess that this one is the oldest of the bunch – it has a sort of uneven glaze, especially on the bottom, and bears no signature. After a bit of google searching I found a platter that has a similar design, at least in terms of the octagonal shape and the way it was glazed. That one was made in the 1700s, and shows wear on the underside that you’d expect from a piece that age. Mine doesn’t show much sign of wear, save for a few chips around the edges, meaning that it’s either been extremely well preserved (aside from it’s trip to the curb) or is a relatively recent reproduction. I don’t know much about old dishes, so please let us know if you do!
This one looks quite old as well. The pattern slows slight inconsistencies, making me think it was painted by hand. It does have a mark of some kind on the underside, though I have no idea what it says. It’s possible that they’re letters or numbers in a language other than English – the first two symbols look a lot like Arabic.
I also found this little guy. It measures about 15×6″ and looks pretty “mid-century.” Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be signed, but let me know if you’ve seen something similar.
This large 17″ decorative dish was also an interesting find. There’s a Star of David in the middle so I’d assume it’s of Jewish origin but I know nothing of the design otherwise. There are wires on the back for wall hanging, but I suppose those could have been put on after the fact. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, so let me know if you have! Regardless, I feel lucky to have found it in such good condition.
Unfortunately that was all I found here. Maybe I missed out on even more great stuff on the previous garbage days…
I found a bunch of intriguing stuff at a spot in TMR this summer, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to catalogue most of it. I still have one unusual object I found there, that being this ceramic vase (about 5″ in diameter) that looks like stone or petrified wood.
It’s signed on the bottom but I can’t make out what it says. If you know anything about it please let us know in the comments!
I found this necklace in with some other less notable pieces. There aren’t any hallmarks but I’m guessing it’s made from a low grade silver (like 80%). I should test it. Anyways, it’s a neat design and I’m hoping someone here will recognize it. It looks a bit “tribal” to me.
The dryer at my house broke, so when I happened upon this one on the curb in a rich part of town I decided to give it a shot. I didn’t know if it would fit in the car, but it slipped into my hatchback with an inch or two to spare. I wish I had a video of me wrestling this into the car by myself – it was quite the feat! It did end up working, so I’m glad I made the effort.
Let’s finish with this old c. 1930s “Magicoal” faux fireplace that I spotted one night on my way back from the grocery store. I met the guy who brought it to the curb, he was clearing out his apartment because the triplex he was living in had recently sold. He encouraged me to take it, and mentioned that it had been in the house since he moved in – and presumably for a long time before that.
I was going to take it either way. These things make fun mood lights (as seen above), and if I decided not to keep it I knew it’d sell for a bit of money at the auction house. As I went to pick it up I also thought about how it’d be a great place to stash something.
Indeed, I looked in the back and spotted a dusty bank envelope. I excitedly carried the beast (the thing is cast iron and must weigh about 50 pounds) back to the car for further inspection.
Inside the envelope was 262$! I doubt it belonged to the guy who tossed it, as he was younger and didn’t seem like the type to forget their stash (especially after going out of his way to bring this thing to the curb). I’m guessing it was left by a previous tenant – the bills were all from 2004 and the toonie, which looked lightly circulated was made in 2012.
I never had much luck finding actual cash in the trash before 2018, but then I found three figure stashes on three separate occasions. I’d be happy if this trend continues in 2019, but it’s more likely that the garbage gods will choose to reward me in some other totally unpredictable way.
I’ve been pretty busy of late. I’ve been going on more & longer garbage runs because the weather’s been so nice, and I’ve also spent a lot of time organizing the garage and moving my junk to one half the size.
Over the past few weeks I’ve brought a tonne (maybe literally) of stuff to the local auction house that I mentioned in a recent post. I think that this development might be a game-changer in regards to how I run my little trash enterprise. I don’t have enough time in the world to do the work necessary to list and store and ship all the quality things I find on eBay, and some items are annoying or too niche to sell quickly at a yard sale. Plus, like I mentioned in my last post I find it stressful when things start piling up!
eBay is still best for maximizing my profits from certain (especially niche) doodads, trinkets, and etc. Yard sales are a great way to sell cheaper items and whatever else happens to be in storage. However, the auction house allows me to unload quality junk quickly for a reasonable amount of money, and once I drop it off I never have to think about it again!
As for results they’ve been good so far. A few things have sold for less than I had hoped, but others have sold for a fair bit more. Overall it’s been well worth it. I’m most happy with the sales of items that I considered putting back on the curb. For instance, I brought them a large collection of slides that I found last year in St Michel. I sold the ones that were of greater interest (Expo 67, African missionary photos) on eBay but most featured flora & fauna and didn’t sell even at yard sales. I considered putting them back on the curb on several occasions but I decided every time to keep them for one more go. Then, I found out that people are making lampshades from old slides and that they do well at auction. The lot ended up selling for 20$, a total I’m very satisfied with.
Another example is a collection of paper bags (mostly from Steinberg’s) I found relatively recently in Rosemont. They took up a fair bit of room and received limited interest (beyond nostalgia) at my yard sales. I brought them to auction and they sold for 14$. I have no idea what the bidders intend to do with them, but I’m just happy to have the money.
Perhaps the best part about the auction avenue is that it encourages me to take things that I might not otherwise. I remember a few years ago finding about five or six boxes full of separatist notepads, probably from the time of the second referendum. The cover said something like “all the things Canada knows about Quebec” (in French of course) and the insides were blank. Anyways, I thought they were cool but I couldn’t imagine what I’d do with five boxes, so I only took one. Now, I’d take all five and bring them to auction.
Basically I now have a third major option when it comes to selling things (the other two being online and at yard sales). Having this outlet has already changed my decision-making when it comes to dealing with my finds. I found those two cool red lights in the Plateau last Friday. Also in the bags were a plain white globe lampshade, an exacto knife with some life left in it, and this Home Depot bucket. I grouped them all together, with the red lights being the star of the show, and dropped them off at the auction house. I’ll probably get more for the lights than I would have at a yard sale (with much less effort / bartering involved), and I took a few things I might not have bothered with otherwise.
Anyways, I’ll share more auction results when I post my sales summary sometime in the next few weeks. Today I’ll share some finds from a couple of spots that were great for about two or three weeks earlier this summer.
The first spot was the one that provided these old silver pieces. I haven’t done anything with them yet, but I’ll likely list them on eBay when things pick up there again (summer tends to be slow for online sales so I focus on other work).
This lamp was slightly busted when I pulled it out of the bag, but fortunately it was easy enough to glue the broken bits back on. I was also able to recover most of the crystals, though those are fairly easy to come by. I’ve never seen a lamp quite like it, have you? It’s looks pretty old, I’d guess it was made in the 30s or 40s based on the plug and push button switch.
I saved a pretty cool flask, which if I remember right comes from somewhere in Eastern Europe.
These Cazal sunglasses were a great find. I had never heard of the brand before but apparently they’re pretty sought after. I expect these West German frames to sell for three figures.
This cool art piece emerged from its bag unscathed. The artist is Gora Mbengue, a Senegalese reverse glass painter who died in 1988. His work seems to sell in the hundreds of dollars, but I accidentally priced it at 16$ when listing it on eBay. I’m not sure how that happened, except that 16$ is what I planned on charging for shipping within Canada. Anyways, after some deliberation I decided to cancel the order knowing full well that I might get negative feedback – I just couldn’t afford or justify selling it for that little (my intended price was 200$). I think the buyer realized that the price made no sense but left bad feedback anyways, I was hoping they’d have more sympathy since they sell art themselves. Oh well, I don’t think having a bit of bad feedback really matters anyways, as long as you respond to it maturely.
I also found a bag of old photos, a lot of which seemed to come from the Middle East. Most weren’t overly exciting, but I did enjoy this series of luxurious dog photos.
These drawings were more interesting. Most date from the 50s and I’d guess that they were drawn while the artist was in the Middle East.
I was hoping to find more at this spot, given the silver haul and other interesting throwaways, but the source dried up pretty quickly.
Around the same time I had brief success at another spot nearby. One day I found some nice old frames inside the bags.
The top piece is titled “Autumn Sunset” and is signed by a H Boyer. I forget who signed the bottom one but it’s cute. The middle piece is a paint by numbers.
I found this little hand painted photograph behind the image of Jesus on the top right. The caption is “Digby Gut [a channel near the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia] and the Princess Helene [the ship].” I can’t make out what the signature says, it looks like “Karl Yoker” to me but I couldn’t find any reference to that name online. Any help identifying it would be appreciated!
That top piece is an old Charles Sawyer colourized photo titled “Echo Lake.” It’s only worth 20$ or so but is very attractive. I took the ship painting out the frame and found that it was signed R,W. Glass (or something close to that). Again, I couldn’t find any reference to that name online, so maybe I read it wrong.
That top piece is titled “The Harbor – Provincetown.” No mention of an artist. The middle piece is titled “Lake George” (possibly New York) and is signed by S,W. Mann, or something close to it. At the bottom is a classic print of Madonna by Raphael.
Now to the non-art finds. This Smith Corona typewriter was pretty grimy when I found it, but looked way better after a go-over with a microfiber cloth. I brought it to the auction house as part of my garage clean-up, we’ll see how it goes.
I also found a Eumig projector inside a turntable box …
… two really old, really heavy mirrors (the smaller of the two is shown);
… a vintage waste basket;
… some miscellaneous junk, which I put into a box I found nearby;
… and a great old wooden clock box, which looks to date to the late 1800s. Thankfully, the glass was still intact as well!
I remember finding some cool beakers (I think for dark room solutions) and vintage new age magazines as well, but I don’t have any pictures of those.