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.
This spot provided some great finds over a couple of months in the late spring / early summer.
As I was picking one night an older guy knocked loudly on his window, presumably to get my attention. I looked up but he didn’t give further direction. Windowknocking is a passive aggressive way of telling me to get out of the garbage – It happens semi-regularly, usually in the evening, and it’s always a little awkward. Fortunately I was just about done with the pile by the time this happened so I took my finds and left.
These folks had tossed some great stuff though, so I wasn’t going to be deterred that easily. I just made a point to go to that spot nearer to the end of my trash run, instead of close to the beginning. That seemed to work, and I was able to avoid further contact with the windowknocker.
I take photos of most of the trash piles I frequent to prove that I was there and that there were things on the curb. When I find something really cool, I might try to get a shot of the object inside the bag as proof that it was indeed in the trash. I do get paranoid that someone will accuse me of stealing, particularly when people throw out literal gold. It seems like an unlikely scenario, but if I’ve learned anything in life it’s that people can be quite stupid! Anyways, because of all that I’m actually happy that Apple tracks all my movements, and that all my photos have the specific locations attached to them.
Those iPhone photos aren’t always that great, especially at night with the flash on. But above you can maybe make out an intriguing blob wrapped up in old sheets.
It was a heavy soapstone carving in pretty much impeccable condition. It’s funny when people throw things out with care (I guess they thought it might have torn through the bag otherwise?). It weighs about 3.77kg (or 8.3lbs) and measures about 10″ tall.
A tag was taped to the back, which noted that it was made in the Belcher Islands (in Hudson’s Bay off Quebec) by a J. Emiko Loar. I had no luck finding any reference to this person, but if you have any ideas please let me know!
A number and a couple of letters that are probably Inuktitut are etched on the bottom. I haven’t looked too much into those yet, but if you know anything about them please save me the effort! It’s a very nice piece, and should be worth somewhere in the three figures regardless.
I found another soapstone figure here. This one’s much smaller, maybe 5″ tall, and doesn’t seem to be signed (the bottom is rough / not polished). Still, it’s pretty well done.
These guys must have had quite the art collection if this is what they were throwing away. This bronzed steel sculpture fit pretty awkwardly into the trash bag as you can probably imagine. The “wingspan,” or whatever you want to call it is about 15″ in length.
The piece is signed “Gord.” It’s a simple signature reminiscent of what you’d see on amateur art, but I figured out that it was by Gord Smith, a noted Canadian sculptor who created the “Canada Screen” at Expo 67. It’s a pretty cool object, and it seems like it should sell easily for hundreds of dollars, maybe a thousand if I’m lucky.
I’ve never seen anything quite like this vase, which is aluminum (I think) and covered in bits of curved coloured glass. It’s very nicely done, but I don’t see any signatures or other identifiers. If you’ve seen something like it, please let me know!
This spot wasn’t big on jewelry, but I did save an Italian silver bracelet and an old silver band. I doubt the stones are diamonds, but I should get them tested.
This prayer necklace is probably more valuable than either of those. The beads smell like Bakelite, and I’ve had great success selling the reddish stuff before. I still don’t know much about the market (ie: what qualifies as “faturan“), so maybe I’ll let an eBay auction figure out what it’s worth.
On the last day I met a younger guy, who told me in a sort of whiny voice that he didn’t care if I took anything as long as I didn’t make a mess. Fine by me. I saved a lot of small stuff that night, including a coin collection (nothing super exciting, but still), several bills including a ripped 5$ (I think it’s still worth 5$ but I have yet to bring it in), some patches, a Nintendo Game & Watch (ie: an easy 50$+), and a collection of Bruce Springsteen tour pins. The house looked empty the week after, and there was no more garbage to be found.
Over the weeks I also saved some old photos, clothes, canned food, and other useful if unexciting stuff.
The weather’s looking pretty good this weekend so I’m planning on doing two garage sales. It’s also that time of year when university kids make their way here for the fall semester, and I figure it’s a good time to unload some quality junk. Sorry for the late notice, but at least they start a little late as well!
Total: 30 sales for 2878.50$. With fees at around 10%, my profit on that is roughly 2590$.
Macbook Pro: 175$. I found this while biking in Outremont back in the spring. It worked but slowly, making me think that the hard drive was an issue. Still, a MacBook Pro in nearly any condition is worth selling on eBay.
Pal Kepenyes yin-yang necklace: 375$. As seen in the last post!
Isamu Nogachi vintage paper lamp: 325$. Ditto!
14k necklace clasp: 150$. I would have scrapped this in the past, but I found out that there’s a good market for jewelry findings on their own, especially a fancier looking piece like this. It ended up selling for over twice its value in scrap.
Gulden prism set: 100$. An optometry doohickey, part of a larger optometry haul that I didn’t get around to mentioning here. However, one piece in particular is very cool, and I’ll show you a picture eventually.
Speakman Anystream No.1: 210$. I’ve found two of these now, and both sold fairly quickly for 210$. They date back to the 50s (you can see some of the patent info in the middle) and are very heavy, made with chrome plated brass. It needed a good cleaning with CLR but was definitely worth the effort.
Silver George Jensen bracelet, No. 142B: 350$. Georg Jensen is one of the finest names in silver, and I made sure to get top dollar for this piece.
Dualit toaster: 65$. Found at the bottom of a recycling bin in Cote St-Luc.
10k gold heart pendant: 40$. A piece from that Rosemont gold haul. I’m happy with this price. After fees I’m still getting around 1.5x the scrap value, and I doubt putting the work into listing it on eBay would have provided enough extra value to make the process worthwhile.
19.2k Portuguese gold ring: 95$. Another piece from that Rosemont haul. Again, I’m happy to have gotten above scrap here. It had diamonds and a pearl, but none were exceptional enough to be worth much on their own. I included a nice Birks box, I find them fairly regularly and they’re great for displaying the item.
90.70 in Euro coins: 130$. My collection of Euros got too big so I dumped them off on the auction house. It’s largely a symbolic victory but I was happy to get a little above a 1:1 exchange rate after fees. 1 Euro is worth 1.50 CAD right now, but finding someone to pay the exchange rate for coins is pretty difficult. I had similar results with a smaller lot of British pound coins.
Antique English semi-porcelain serving dish: 38$. Old china is a tough sell in general right now but this piece did pretty well. It made it to the curb unscathed! Found while walking around the Mile End.
Vintage exit lamps: 140$. I found this box full of them outside of a big apartment building near downtown when I was driving around with my mom. We didn’t go on a long trash run, but this find made it a profitable one!
Pineapple light: 36$. These spent a lot of time in my garage before I brought them to auction. I figured I should pair them with some other vintage light fixture, but all along they were cool enough for a lot of their own. Pineapples are in right now.
Peanuts garbage can: 20$. This isn’t a terrible price, but I’m kinda wishing I had just kept it!
Pokemon cards: 46$. With the help of family I was able to process a bunch of cards from that massive haul in the winter (I still have that horseshoe in my car by the way, it seems to be working!). This is just one of several lots, but they all sold for between 32-46$ (other than the Cardfight!! Vanguard ones, which were closer to 20$). There’s definitely money to be made but I decided it’s not worth driving myself crazy trying to find a valuable Charizard or whatever. These cards aren’t that old anyways, so it’s less likely that any particular one will be super valuable (most of the ultra expensive cards are from the early editions). Even after selling about 12 thousand cards, I still have huge boxes full of unsorted ones under my bed. That might end being a good winter project.
Vintage Fisher Price hospital: 42$. Found in Cote-des-Neiges.
Jacques Cartier bridge plans: 55$. I think this one had something to do with drainage. I had some others, but most were more technical. Still, the drawings were pretty cool!
Untested console lot: 65$. I hate testing electronics. Fortunately, they do pretty well at auction even when I don’t.
Copper fish cooking pot: 140/2$. I split the profit with a friend because we found it together and he helped clean it up. It was a real pain making this thing look shiny, but I guess it was worth it – it sold at the high end of what I was expecting.
Silver necklace: 40$. I found this several years back and wasn’t able to sell it on eBay or Etsy. I’m happy with the price I got here. The stones were probably rough rubies, and the necklace was probably Indian.
Lot of gaming controllers: 38$. Untested, but probably fine.
Big lot of glass chandelier dangles: 34$.
Glass case with old junk: 48$. I’m pretty happy with this price! Oh, and I didn’t include the coins with the lot. I have more research to do before I feel comfortable selling those.
5193.75$, 18263.95$ halfway through 2019. At this pace I will easily beat my previous records!
I know, I haven’t posted in about a month. There wasn’t any particular reason for that, I just didn’t feel inspired to write for a while. I guess that’s what they call writer’s block. Sometimes I wonder if I should move the blog in a new direction & focus more on certain aspects of trash picking, post more, post less, keep things more or less the same, or quit altogether (I mostly feel that last one when I burn out). As you can tell I have a tendency to overthink, and sometimes that leads to inaction.
For now, the plan is to keep the blog more or less the same, but if you have any blog-related ideas or suggestions please feel free to share them in the comment!
Last week was a good one for garbage, though moving day had little to do with it. I enjoyed cruising around looking at the massive piles of trash, but I don’t generally find anything too exciting because a) there’s lots of competition and b) most of the people moving don’t have enough money to toss out great stuff willy nilly. You never know with garbage, but from my experience moving day is mostly a fun phenomenon and not a boon to business.
The three weeks before last were pretty mediocre, but I can’t complain about the year overall. I still have lots of pictures to share here from my very productive spring…
I can complain though about the number of buttheads I’ve met lately, particularly in Westmount. One lady screamed at me for saving the vintage alarm clocks & other cool things she was throwing out (she might have set an all time decibel record actually). A guy just this past Friday – after saying, if somewhat belligerently that I could look through the bags as long as I tied them up right (I always do) – later asked if I had any “self-respect,” decided I had none, and threatened to call the police. Oh yeah, there was that older guy in a bathrobe asking if he “[had] to call the police” for the crime of saving quality junk.
After all my years of garbage picking I’m finding that threat to call the police less threatening. At night it’s a different story, because I can understand how someone might feel paranoid and the police are more suspicious as well. But at midday? Sure, call the cops, I’m sure they have nothing better to do than to ensure that your alarm clocks, old books and dusty dishes get sent to the dump. Even if they did show up, they’d probably just tell me to leave rather than arrest me (they second idiot, who I little patience for, asked “do you want to get arrested?” and seemed to take himself seriously).
Anyways, in the moment these people don’t bother me too much, but I’d be lying if a string of cases like this (there have been other, relatively minor incidents as well) didn’t affect my mindset and confidence somewhat. There’s definitely a segment of society that thinks of scavengers as sub-human, immoral, or simply undesirable, and there’s no real way to convince them otherwise in that moment. And who knows, maybe they’re right? While I’m now making a decent living from other people’s trash, perhaps I’m “lowering myself” somehow by doing so? Are the vague privacy concerns of people I don’t know and don’t care about more valuable than the economic, environmental, and historical benefits of saving their discards?
I don’t think so, but it’d be nice to hear otherwise. So, for my sake and the sake of trash pickers everywhere I’d appreciate if you shared in the comments some reasons why you think scavengers are a-ok in your books!
Regardless, garbage picking is unpredictable and it wasn’t that long ago where I felt like I was only meeting nice folks on the curb. I’ll post about one of those positive experiences soon enough, and in the meantime I’ll hope that my luck improves on that front.
Anyways, today I’ll share some garbage from rich people who, while wasteful, weren’t worthy of a dedicated post. I saved a bunch of stuff from this spot in Hampstead, including some lego, a fur coat, several lamps, and a Portuguese tureen that made it to the curb undamaged. It sold for 28$ at auction, and you can see better pictures of it here.
Here’s another quality tureen I found that same night. I forget what the brand is, but I remember that they were selling for around 400$ on eBay. Unfortunately, mine has a little chunk out of it around the top of the vessel. It’s not that noticeable and is likely easy to repair, but unfortunately that bit of damage kills the resale value.
One night I saved a whole bunch of food, much of which wasn’t expired or lightly expired, and much of which has since been eaten!
I also found some decent housewares, like this bag of utensils I saved and sold for 7$ at a recent sale…
… and this box of silver plate that sold for 18$ at auction. You’d think it’d be worth more, but today’s market is trending minimalist and many people don’t want more than one set of cutlery.
On another night I found this ice bucket, and then filled it with more quality junk including a few figurines. The Zebra is notable in that it’s an Abraham Palatnik piece – you might remember that I found a different one among that giant collection of owls some time ago. It’s got a couple of chips, but still looks cool and should sell for a bit of cash.
My favourite find was that cup, with turned out to be solid sterling silver. It weighs about 81g, making it worth about 40$ for scrap, but I might just keep it so that I can feel fancy.
I was hoping these clearly rich folks would toss some gold as well, but it was not to be.
Thankfully, some other rich people were more generous on that front. At first it was just cans of unexpired tuna, which my cat and I ate. There was also a treasure trove (maybe forty cans in total) of wet food for kitty, though she was too picky to eat most of it (she prefer the stuff with gravy). However, one night I was digging around the recycling bin and found a few foreign bills. Most of the time the bills I find are worth next to nothing, but as it turns out 620 Hong Kong dollars equals about 100$ Canadian, 6000 Yen equals about 68$, and 100,000 Vietnamese dong equals about 5$.
I also managed to scavenge these bits of gold. The bottom bits are marked 750 (18k gold), and though neither fit the actual earrings I’m confident that they’re about the same quality. I had the stones tested at my local auction house and they are indeed diamonds, perhaps the biggest I’ve found to date. The ones in the gold coloured earrings are about 3.5mm-4mm wide, making them somewhere between .21 and .25 karats (according to my amateur calculations). So, they aren’t monsters but they aren’t chips either.
Other things I found here include: an espresso machine I haven’t gotten around to testing, some video game stuff, a bunch of foreign coins, more food (including lightly expired Zebra pate), and some touristy jewellery & trinkets.
Elsewhere, I found a nice antique floor lamp (which despite ruined wiring sold for 70$ at auction – picture here) and this nice rug. After years of trash picking and researching random junk I still don’t know much about rugs, in large part because most of the ones I see are moth eaten, mildewy, or smell of “pet odors.” This one is in good shape, but I can’t tell if it’s basic or special. If you can help me figure that out, please share in the comments! I included a couple of close up shots below, which you can zoom in on. I know hand-woven rugs are generally more exciting than machine made, but I don’t know how to tell if that’s the case.
I found this with a small collection of keychains in Hampstead. It’s my first time finding a silver bar! Unfortunately silver is only worth 45 or 50 cents a gram, but this was still a fun find that earned me about 20$. One of my dream finds is to find a gold bar, but I’m still waiting on that one…
I was keeping an eye at the trash coming out of this apartment building for a while. Occasionally I’d find some neat old things worthy of the yard sale pile, and I had hopes of finding more.
The trash eventually stopped flowing, and my best finds were probable this cool Egyptian silver brooch/pendant and an old-looking coin.
You can see a couple of hallmarks on the brooch, one around the centre and one around the outer ring. There’s also one on the bail (had to look that word up). It’s a pretty striking piece, is fairly large measuring about 6cm tall, and should sell for a decent sum.
I don’t know much about the coin. The writing looks Iranian to me, but I don’t know for sure. It could be ancient, or it could be a reproduction. I think it might be silver, but haven’t gotten it tested. If you can tell us something about it, please share in the comments!
Let’s finish with some watches. This spot in Nouveau Bordeaux was productive for a brief time.
One day I opened up a bag and saw a whole bunch of watches and other jewellery bits. I brought the haul back to the car excitedly.
There was a lot of crap in that bag but also some goodies. Here’s what I kept (the rest went to a friend who enjoys & does better selling that junkier stuff than I do). There’s nothing mind blowing here, but a few of these guys should sell for ok money on eBay. One of the best might be the vintage Jungfrau on the left (unfortunately, it’s pretty out of focus in this picture). The crystal is cracked, but it’s a quality vintage piece that’s still ticking along nicely.
That bit of jewelry is a little different. It looks like silver, but I don’t see any hallmarks so it’s probably plated. I was hoping the red beads were bakelite, but they don’t smell like it.
Otherwise, here’s a little haul I saved in a wealthy part of town around a month ago. I was hoping for more, but the source dried up soon after. I noticed there was ad for an estate sale at the same house last week, which likely marks an official end to the quality finds.
I wonder why a few of these items didn’t make it to the sale. That ring below the box on the left is hallmarked “Spain Sterling.” The earring below is probably silver as well, and the little picture frame is hallmarked Webster Sterling. Otherwise, we have a cute “Buster Brown” Zippo lighter, a Raymond Weil watch box (which should be good for 30-40$), and a vintage pair of Silhouette glasses.
However, the stars of that night were these watches. All were made by Seiko, other than that BMW one on the right. The one on the left is the least valuable, with a missing piece on top and some bleeding on the screen, but it’s a good addition to a parts/repair lot. Second from the left is a bulky model 0634-5001 from the 70s which is very desirable to some watch collectors. Even if it doesn’t work it should sell for at least 70$.
In the center is an automatic Seiko model 6119-5000 that seems to date to the late 60s and early 70s. It looks great and is still working. Based on what I’m seeing on eBay it should sell for between 75-125$. This one might be my favourite!
Last but not least is a 7T32-6A5A, which I’d guess is from the 90s. It has three subdials, and seems to sell for around 60-100$ in working condition. Overall, that was a pretty good haul!
That’s it for now. I don’t think you’ll have to wait another month for my next post but who knows, maybe I’ll get arrested!