There’s a lot of luck involved in trash picking. I often wonder (especially on slow weeks) if one turn in a different direction would have brought me treasures beyond my wildest dreams, or even just some of the usual cool and valuable stuff.
I went to Hampstead last Monday night, hoping to hit up a couple of good spots there. Both were both totally barren, though, so I was going to need some luck if I was going to have a successful night. I explored nearby NDG for a bit, but after a while I got tired and decided to head home more or less empty-handed. However, on a whim I took a right turn onto one of the last roads of the route, thinking it would be my final road of the night.
Not long later I came across this big pile of trash, and instantly knew I was going to be there a while. I didn’t find too much this time around, but I had a feeling it would be more productive in the future. It looked to be a house clearing situation.
I saved mostly kitchenwares on my Monday night haul. There were three vintage flame-coloured cast iron pots. The ones at front center and back right are by Le Creuset, while the other was made by some company out of Belgium. The rest of the bags were largely full of clothes, old spices, and stale food from the pantry.
The pans were fairly dirty, but I know that cast iron is easy and satisfying to fix up. The little one cleaned up quite nice, and I sold it to my room-mates mom for 5$. The big Belgian one wasn’t super dirty to start, and I gave it to a friend who does woodworking because it needed a new handle.
I still have the little dutch oven (top right), which was the dirtiest of the bunch. Somebody definitely burned some food in it at some point. It’s improved quite quickly with some scrubbing but still needs a lot of work. If you have some tips on how to clean it, let me know!
Tuesday’s night run in Mount Royal wasn’t too productive, but I did find some neat stuff in Cote St-Luc on Wednesday.
I picked up a few bags from this place and put them in the trunk. I could tell there was some decent items inside, and I figured I’d sort through it elsewhere, leaving the junk in someone else’s half-full bin (it can be easier to sort this way, particularly when you’re dealing with very small things that fall to the bottom of a bag). I found a few cool things and figured it was worth checking out more of the stuff.
When I came back I was surprised to see a guy, who was probably over 80 years old, bringing more trash to the curb. I decided to explore some other streets before returning to look again. I prefer to work undetected, especially in neighbourhoods with the local security officers. I sometimes wonder though if I miss out on interesting interactions by doing so.
Regardless, I went back later when the only light in the house was a flicker of a television. I picked up a couple more bags, and put them in the trunk.
This jewelry box was inside one of the bags. It looks like it would have been made in the 1950s. Inside the bag (and thankfully underneath the jewelry box) was a bunch of food waste, including some scraps of cooked chicken. A few pieces of jewelry had fallen out of the box and into the food waste, so I had to fish my way through it to make sure I didn’t miss anything great. It was gross, but being thorough (and having a strong stomach) is one the most profitable characteristics of a trash picker. One little piece can sometimes make you a great deal of cash.
However, the good stuff was still in the box, and I got my hands covered in chicken grease mostly for nothing. Thankfully, I had some wet wipe things that I keep in the car for this exact situation.
Many of the pieces were broken or not particularly exciting. This is a picture of what I kept – the rest (including the jewelry box itself, which was mostly in good condition but needed some work) I left in an open box on the curb.
A couple pieces stood out from the rest.
This modernist sterling brooch was made by Reuven of Israel. A similar pin was listed for around 60$, though it didn’t sell.
These vintage cufflinks are likely the most valuable pieces of the box.
They’re made of 14k gold, and weigh about 5.09 grams. For weigh alone, they’re worth around 140$. They’re in good condition though and should fetch a fair bit more. Similar cufflinks on Etsy (example one, example two) are selling for 320$ and 450$. I think these are a bit cooler, but I plan on pricing mine slightly lower so as to increase the chance of a quick sale.
Otherwise, I saved a few more vintage sunglasses, a small collection of scents (one of which, the Guy Laroche “Fidji,” is up on eBay for a good sum), a pin that states “I am proud to be a Zionist,” and a Hebrew hat pin of some kind. Let us know if you can translate it!
I returned to NDG on Thursday night for the second of their bi-weekly garbage collections. I went back the spot that provided the cast iron pans on Monday and came across another massive pile. The stuff was a lot more interesting this time around.
There was a bunch of luggage at the back right of the pile. One had this cool old hotel sticker on it, but it was quite worn and not worth taking.
These old patches came from a bag otherwise filled with old letters, some of which date back to the 1940s. They’re likely from WWII.
There was a cool vintage 1940s life insurance policy …
a sterling silver candle snuffer, probably of Scandinavian origin …
a gold tooth (which weighs around 5 grams, making it fairly valuable) …
a little bag full of eight loonies (1$ coins) …
… and some other random stuff. I love finding cash in the trash!
However, the jewelry is what really made this a good haul. This is just the stuff that’s likely destined for the yard sale box!
I had some good luck finding jewelry early on in my career as a full time trash picker (which I began in March of 2013). To be honest, my big jewelry scores were likely the only thing that allowed me to survive financially in the early days. I found a great haul of gold in Rosemont not long before I started (as an aside, I’ve come a long way as a photographer since then!), a pillowcase full in the Plateau just a month or so later, and a couple shoe-boxes full of jewelry and curios later that summer. I also found probably another thousand dollars worth of gold at another place in the Plateau, that I never mentioned because the person yelled at me for taking it (I would totally mention it if writing about it today, but I was nervous about it at the time). Oh, and there was also the bag of costume jewelry the police took from me, which I never had a chance to really look at.
(Edit: I forgot about a nice bunch of sterling I found here… what a summer! Unfortunately I never got around to posting pictures of this stuff).
Anyways, these finds are what got me through the “summer of garbage.” At the time I was still a true novice at online selling, and was very ignorant of its potential. I sold much of what I found at yard sales, and likely gave away some really nice pieces for very cheap, though I at least made sure to keep the silver and gold (I still have many of these pieces sitting around unlisted). I came to expect that I could expect to find a great jewelry hoard every two or three months. However, the luck dried out after that collection of curios in Rosemont, and I hadn’t found a big haul worth noting since.
This collection, while not as large as what was in that pillowcase, should make me some good money! Most was just sitting at the bottom of one trash bag. I spent probably a half-hour or more carefully exploring the bag, making sure I didn’t miss a thing.
Whoever lives or lived here had an interest in new age spirituality. Many of these pieces feature numbers and symbols that have a meaning that I don’t understand. I found some Buddhist booklets in a couple of the other bags, but I’m not sure all these items are related to Buddhism. Zoom in for a closer look, and let us know if you recognize anything!
I was able to identify this as some sort of Masonic pendant. I’m surprised I haven’t found more Mason-related stuff in the past. This piece seems to be fairly modern.
I also thought this ceramic pendant was particularly cool! It’s fairly large, measuring about 4″ tall.
This bunch is the cream of the crop, though. Most will end up on eBay or Etsy.
This pair of earrings and matching brooch are marked AJ 925 Denmark.
AJ stands for Arne Johansen, a Danish modernist designer. Her work sells for nice prices on eBay. The clip of one of the earrings isn’t on right, but it should be reparable.
I couldn’t find a mark on this pendant, but it did test positive for sterling silver. It’s about 1.5″ long.
These brooches are Mexican silver. On the front are inlaid pieces of what looks to be mother of pearl. The one on the right is quite large, measuring around 2″ in diameter. One of them is missing the pin locking mechanism, which might be tough to fix.
These old sterling Mexican cufflinks are unfortunately scrap metal at this point, as one of the clasps has broken off. It’s a shame, as they’d be pretty cool otherwise.
It’s also a shame that this bracelet is missing a stone. It might not be too noticeable if use a stone from near the clasp to replace the one that’s missing, which is closer to the middle. This piece is also Mexican silver.
The back of the pendant on this necklace is marked “Noras,” which doesn’t bring up much on Google. It’s not sterling, but might be silver plate or pewter. It’s definitely made for someone with a smaller neck. It’s quite beautiful, and definitely of the modernist style.
I thought this insect-like pendant was pretty cool.
It’s also marked sterling. In addition to a bird mark, it looks like there’s another faded mark above the “Sterl.” I’ll have to do some research on this one, as it could be quite valuable depending on who designed it.
Speaking of which, here’s a great example of a valuable designer piece.
I might not have known if not for a knowledgeable reader named Joann dropping by at just the right time. She came for a metal stamp box I found a few weeks back, and I offered to give it to her for free in exchange for helping me identify some pieces I thought might be bakelite (they were!).
She happened to come by the day after I found all this jewelry. I was photographing it all on a white table in the front hall (the backdrop for nearly all my photos) when she arrived. She’s had a lifelong interest in jewelry, so we ended up looking at it together for a bit. When she saw this bracelet, she instantly identified it as being made by one of Quebec’s most renown brutalist jewelry makers of the 60s and 70s.
We couldn’t find the signature at first, but it eventually did turn up. The artist is Guy Vidal, who was apparently a Montreal-based designer. According to this article by Roberta Peach, these Canadian brutalist jewelers, Vidal included, were not well recognized until fairly recently. Now, the market is eating them up. Check out these realized prices on eBay – some pieces are selling for 200$ or more!
These earrings are also signed by Vidal.
I can’t find a signature on these, but they definitely look like they match the bracelet.
Same goes for this little pin. It looks to be made of brass, and is also very artfully designed. The center is adorned with what looks to be tiny pearls.
I definitely learned a lot from this experience. For one, I realize that not all valuable jewelry is silver and gold. I also learned what bakelite smells like. I owe many thanks to Joann for her help!
I look forward to checking back on this place going forward. When someone throws out eight loonies and a treasure trove of jewelery you know they’re not paying much attention to what they’re tossing. That’s obviously good news for a scavenger like me.
Last week’s garbage sales (March 9 – March 15)
1. Vintage Snoopy poster: On eBay for 140$. It took a while, but this nice old poster finally found a buyer. Found last summer in TMR. (It’s the pink one in the picture above – the blue one is still listed).
2. Passover Haggadah book, 1956: On eBay for 8$. Found last summer in Snowdon.
3. Vintage Susy Goose barbie house: On eBay for 15$. Also found last summer in Snowdon. This piece sat around for a while, and I recently lowered the price a fair bit just to get it out the door.
4. 1952 Curling pin: to a reader for 4$. Found last week in Hampstead.
5. Small change: returned to the bank for 6$. Found in various places.
6. Fortune telling card deck: on eBay for 30$. Found last month in Verdun.
7. Cast iron pot: to my room-mates mom for 5$. Found this week.
8. Loonies: 8$ that went straight to my pocket. Found this week.
Total: 216$, 13121$ since May 18 2014 and 3438$ since the new year began. A decent week, if nothing special by recent standards.
Note: local buyers who can pick up are eligible for a discount on anything I have in store. Email me for details.
If you have a question, see anything that you’re interesting in buying, or to just want to say hello feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I also enjoy reading your comments! Keep in mind that I frequently get behind on emails, so I apologize in advance if I take a few days or weeks to get back to you.