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.
Some of you know the story with this spot by now, but here it is in condensed form if you’re new: very multigenerational house starts tossing stuff after a century plus of rarely doing so. This was definitely one of my favourite all-time spots, and I feel safe now saying that in the past tense because I haven’t seen any new trash there since the early summer. It was a great run – I found quality junk here nearly every week for like a year – so I can’t complain. Anyways, I need to post pics or get off the pot as they say. I have lots still to share, and a decent sized shelving unit full of stuff still to deal with.
Anyways, I won’t spend too much time on each picture. Here’s a load of wool blankets I found here, which did fairly well at auction. None were super fancy, but all were nice enough to sell.
These folks seemed to like celery a lot. I’ve never seen celery “flakes” before, and can’t imagine how they’d be used.
Most Canadians are probably familiar with Habitant pea soup, which is still one of the better canned soups out there (and pretty cheap as well). I sold this to a friend who plans on opening a restaurant one day, and who’ll probably use this as a display.
Metal scissors are always easy to sell, and there’s a couple of interesting ones here as well. The one on the left with the little wheelie thing in the middle are old buttonhole scissors. These ones are marked “H. Cromwell Criterion – Korn’s Patent” and I was only able to find two others on Google. The pair at the bottom with the stitching wheel were made by Pribyl Bros (if you can tell me what they sold for please do!).
I found lots of old books here.
A lot of what I have left to sort are really old photos and paper ephemera.
I’d never seen batteries like this before. I think they were probably used for photography sometime around 1950. They probably contain a lot of lead and other nasty stuff, so it’s good I saved them. I sold them to another junk oriented fellow who plans on turning them into some kind of industrial art.
These antique Persian tiles were pretty busted up, but fortunately I found all the pieces.
I saved a whole bunch of old films in varying condition.
I gave / sold (we have an informal arrangement) them to a local archivist who knows how to deal with film that’s in poor condition.
A lot of them were close to 100 years old, so it’s likely they contain footage that’s impossible to find elsewhere. There were a few mass produced cartoons in there as well, which aren’t so irreplaceable.
There’s a pretty good market for old flags from my experience. This Union Jack was marked “British Made” and in great condition for its age. I sold it on eBay, I think for 150-200$.
I found a lot of silver here, but the most valuable piece was probably this William Spratling Mexican silver & obsidian necklace which dates to the late 50s or early 60s. I remember it was missing two chunks at first, and then a week or two later I found one of them. Unfortunately, I never did find the other. Regardless, I listed it on eBay for 350$ and it sold very quickly. Spratling is a sought-after designer, and the missing chunk didn’t have obsidian so it might not be too hard for someone to reproduce.
Usually when I have an interesting “spot” I make a file folder on my computer devoted to the related photos. Right now I have 14 folders, several of which are getting pretty dated, so I want to clear out that old stock and stay more on top of the fresher junk. I’ve said that before, but now that people are selling stuff for me I feel like I have more time for blogging.
This spot was a consistent if not always particularly exciting producer this summer.
Over the course of around a month the recycling bin was often filled with tools. Those aren’t recyclable of course, but I’ve seen worse attempts at recycling over the years. On this day I saved a couple of saws, a 4-guage booster cable, and probably some more stuff from underneath all that. Nothing overly exciting, but most was still useful and made for a few easy lots at the auction house.
Also auction-worthy were these straight razors, which I think sold somewhere in the 30$ range (some had chipped blades). This person owned a number of sharp objects, as you’ll see.
I also found a number of pencil leads, including a little metal pencil lead holder which you can see on the bottom right. I made an auction lot of leads & pen ink, as well as a lot of pocket knives (I always have a few kicking around).
My goal was to bring as much to the auction as possible before Christmas so as to open up space in the garage. I keep wanting to reorganize it, but it’s been a challenge because I keep picking up new things! I’ve been working on some new strategies though, which I’ll discuss later.
A few bits and bobs. The brass Gillette razor blade holder went into a shaving accessory lot. Those seem to do well at the auction.
This guy didn’t look like much when I picked him up. He went into the yard sale bin, and I only got looking at it more when it was a little slow at the next sale. After inflating it I realized it was cool and worth trying to sell on eBay. It was made as a promotion for the Atlanta Flames, a hockey team I never even knew existed. They moved to Calgary in 1981. Anyways, it ended up selling for 100$ to someone very excited to have it. It’s always nice when the buyer is excited to find your wares.
There weren’t any photos here, but I did find an interesting collection of old negatives.
Several feature a well attended boxing match that I’m guessing took place in Montreal. I’m wondering if the fight was in the old Forum, which apparently used to host a lot of boxing events back in the day. The windows kind of look like the ones in the picture on the second link, but I can’t be sure. If you know anything about this, please let us know in the comments!
Here’s a couple of miscellaneous finds – a clay lamp and a Canuck pottery piggy bank.
The last pile here might have been the best of all (as it sometimes is). One bag held a collection of pennies worth around 35$. I also remember picking up some decent cleaning supplies, and miscellaneous yard saleable junk.
I didn’t notice these knives until later, again when I had a yard sale. I was setting up with my helper and he asked if I meant to sell them, and I hadn’t even seen them! My guess is that they were underneath in the bag with the pennies. Anyways, the ones on the ends went into my auction knife lot, and the second from the left seems like a nice tourist thing but nothing too special. The other two stand out, and you can see more details below. The knife second from the right seems to have a handle made from horn that features the Lebanese flag.
The middle knife is likely the fanciest. The handle looks to be a mix of horn, bone or ivory and silver, with two rough rubies and a pearl (as well as a fake pearl, which I think was glued in after the other fell out) as extra decoration. The sheath appears to be silver and my acid test agrees. I’d guess that’s it’s a little below sterling in terms of parts per thousand, maybe 875. The blade is pretty strong, and is signed and dated 1955 (?) near the base. This one’s a good size too, about 10.5″ long.
I guess “dagger” is a better term for these than “knife,” and I think they have a specific Arabic name though I haven’t been able to pin that down yet. As for value, I’ve barely researched them so I have no idea. Either way, I think they’ll end up being a nice get!
Otherwise, on January 2nd (after the only real snowstorm so far this year) I dug my car out of the snowbank, escaped to the road, and then stopped for a moment in the right lane while I put back the shovel and locked the door, as you often do after a storm. I figured it’d be safe for a minute in what was ideal driving weather on one of the lowest traffic days of the year during a pandemic, but apparently not. As I was walking back to the car, I heard a crash and knew it had something to do with Booger (I was walking around the snowbank at that moment, so I wasn’t facing towards the car – if I were 10 seconds further in time, I might have been where the car was hit).
The driver seems to have swerved into my back wheel, denting the heck out of it, bumped my fender a little, mostly avoided the rest of my driver’s side, and then hit my front wheel. That rim is also dented, but the tire stayed inflated at least, though the wheel looks a little too “forward.” The driver’s car looked a lot worse, his axle or whatever broke right off the wheel. I don’t think he was driving that fast, because I probably would have noticed if someone was speeding.
Anyways, someone called the cops to the scene, and they ended up arresting the guy for impaired driving. He did seem “out of it” to me, which at first I figured was shock but later thought it was something else given that the accident wasn’t “that” bad. Anyways, that’s good news for me at least, because it means that he’s considered 100% at fault and the damages are covered by his insurance despite the fact that I only have one-way. Right now Booger (the car’s name, because its shape and colour is reminiscent of one in the nicest way possible) is in insurance purgatory, but I’m hoping I can get it back soon enough.
I’ve been driving a rental, which should be covered by insurance as well. It’s new, and has some cool features like heated seats. It’s bigger, which can be nice, but it’s also a bit annoying because Booger is a lot more maneuverable & easy to park due to its small stature, which often comes in handy while trash picking. People often ask me if I’ve thought about buying a bigger car, and I’ve resisted in large part because I’ve had Booger for a really long time and I’m hopelessly nostalgic. But the small size does have some benefits, and rarely do I find myself desperately wishing I had a bigger car. After all, if something’s too big to fit into Booger, I probably shouldn’t lift it by myself anyways. So, all that to say we’ll see how it goes, and hopefully Booger survived the experience without much hidden damage.
Otherwise x2, I came up with another idea to get rid of more stuff: start an Instagram account for selling, and find someone to run it on commission. I needed to find someone who’d enjoy the work, was good at dealing with people, and liked junk. The first person who came to mind was someone who used to work with a friend of mine, helped out at a local vintage shop, and came to most of my yard sales. I contacted her and she was very much into the idea. She’s done an unbelievably good job thus far, helping me unload my “quality junk” at a pace I didn’t think was possible despite her having a full-time job. And she seems to be having fun, which I think is important.
Anyways, it seems to be a strategy that works and helps me avoid the stress associated with being responsible for too many items, which is probably my least favourite part of picking. You can follow the new Instagram account @garbagefindssells, and my normal Instagram account @garbagefinds if you aren’t already. The new Insta account also features stuff that likely wouldn’t make the blog otherwise, so if you’re jonesing for more trash it’s worth keeping an eye on just for the pictures. I have the feeling 2021 will be a marquee year from a business perspective, even with the car accident to start it.
I have lots more to show you. Hopefully I can get my brain in gear again sooner rather than later.
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.