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.
In the past I never gave sinks a second glance, but this year I’ve picked up a bunch. I have more storage space than I used to, making them less of a burden in that way, and I’m also a sucker for vintage architectural elements. But the main reason for the change was that I thought they could make me some money.
The first one I saved was this pink one from the early 60s. I brought it to the auction house, and ended up buying it back for 12$. Not a great result, but sometimes you need to put the extra work in if you want to make the extra money. I ended up listing it on Kijiji, and eventually the sink sold for 50$.
I found this late 50s green / jadeite sink outside an apartment building off Cote-des-Neiges.
This one cleaned up pretty well, and also sold for 50$, though it did take maybe a month and a half to find a buyer.
My biggest haul of sinks came from an apartment building near downtown. I picked up five yellow ones, which I think date to the late 60s. They were pretty dirty, but I cleaned them up pretty good with a hose and some elbow grease. I haven’t had much luck selling them so far though. It’s pretty clear that sinks are pretty slow movers, but I’d like to open up that space in my garage eventually!
My most recent addition is this cast iron pedestal sink, which I found on Monday night in Cote-des-Neiges.
This beast was near the upper limit of what I can reasonably carry & lift, which I’d guess is about 75 pounds.
It was made in Port Hope, Ontario. I thought it was older, but I think it was actually made in 1953.
The main issue: it was dirty. The grunge on the bottom looked like damp, caked-on cardboard, which isn’t the worst thing to clean off, but it still looked pretty gross.
Here’s how it looks after about 15 minutes of effort. Already the sides are looking pretty clean, and a fair bit of the grunge has been removed. I’m going to use a plastic scraper tool to get rid of the rest of the cardboard, and then hopefully I can get the white of the enamel back without much effort.
We’ll see how it goes. Perhaps I’ll come to regret lugging this thing to my garage, but for now I’m optimistic that it’ll sell for something. If you have any experience in the sink market, please share your thoughts in the comments! Also, sink cleaning advice would be much appreciated.
Last week I went on my first ever scrap metal run. The auction house has really helped take the pressure off my storage spaces, so I’ve been more willing to devote a bit of room to found metal.
Here’s a small sample of what I brought. Most of this stuff turned out to be junk because they pay for steel and other ferrous metals (ie: those with iron in them) by the tonne. This particular junkyard says they’ll only take steel, for example if you have at least 300 pounds. So, I ended up giving mine to some other scrappers sorting metal in their truck just down the street. That cymbal was good though (brass I think), and the grungy espresso pot was probably aluminum.
Copper is where the money’s at, at least for me. Insulated copper wire (ICW) is pretty decent…
… but copper tubing and pipe is the best. I found that big roll of copper in Nouveau Bordeaux months ago – I think it ended up being worth about 40$ on its own. I also picked up a couple long copper pipes a couple weeks back in Westmount, which you can see in the trunk of my car.
Going to the scrapyard was definitely a learning experience. We didn’t sort our things beforehand (I heard they did it for you) but apparently we should have. Fortunately my roommates were there to help, and the guy dealing with us was pretty helpful as well. I told him I was a “virgin” to the scrap scene which he seemed to find funny. Anyways, in this picture we can see the scale on the left, and a magnet (the round orange thing) on the beam in the middle.
I quickly realized that the magnet is an important part of the scrap industry. Ferrous metals, which are magnetic, tend to be less valuable than the non-ferrous, non-magnetic metals like copper and brass, and sometimes the easiest way to differentiate them is to see how they react (or don’t react) to the magnet. Thankfully we were each given free key chain magnets on the way out, which should make future sorting easier!
Even though about half of what I brought was junk I still earned a decent chunk of change – 111.45$ in all. It was definitely worth the effort! I now know better what to look for too. Copper and brass are good, aluminum is decent (old pots can be a good source), and batteries & motors are good as well. The ferrous metals definitely aren’t for me, as there’s no way I can fit a metric tonne of it in my little hatchback. I don’t intend on getting super into scrap, but if it’s just sitting around waiting for the garbage truck I might as well take it!
I recently read a book called “Junkyard Planet” by Adam Minter that provides an interesting look at the global scrap metal industry. I’d recommend it if you’re interested in knowing what happens to all this junk! In short, most of it goes to China because they’re one of the fastest developing economies and societies in the world – they need all this scrap metal to build new infrastructure. The different recycling practices used can be both brilliant and problematic, but overall it’s probably still better than mining new materials. The author concludes that recycling isn’t perfect, and that the best way to do good to the environment is for people to buy less to begin with. There’s lots of other interesting info in there, however. I linked to the eBay listings (I get a small cut if you buy via that link), but you can also try Amazon and maybe get a better deal.
I still like ferrous metal though, especially when they’re in the form of a bike. I’ve had good luck lately finding old bikes on the curb. This one was put out after that snowstorm a couple weeks back.
It was a cool vintage 70s Mercier with all original French parts, minus the seat. I loved the yellow color but this bike was made for someone much taller than me. I sold it pretty quickly for 90$. I don’t use Kijiji much these days, but I’ve been using it for bikes because I know there’s a lot of local people cruising those pages regularly (several of my friends are bike nerds).
Here’s an old Supercycle I found on the curb in Rosemont. This one was actually ready to go, other than the flat tires (which still held air when I pumped them up). It sold to someone on Instagram for 90$.
This Westmount pile contained three whole bikes. There was a decent Korean road bike that I’m trying to get 50$ for, an Italian Torpado that I sold for 50$, and a very unusual bike.
It’s a bicycle made for two, a folding one at that! It was made by Graziella in Italy sometime in the late 60s or early 70s and weighs an absolute tonne (getting it in the car was a challenge!). It needs some work, but I’d guess that I can get a couple hundred bucks for it. Montreal is a great place to sell bikes, and there’s always someone looking for an interesting project.
Still, my favourite metals are still silver and gold. This pile in Rosemont was an unlikely source. The garbage bags used were so cheap you could basically see through them.
In one of the bags I found a small three tiered Sterilite storage cabinet filled with jewelry. Most of it was actual garbage, but fortunately there were also precious metals to be saved.
On the left is the gold, and on the right is the silver (the thimble is probably just plated, but it’s a nice piece regardless). A lot of the gold is scrap, but there were a couple of quality pieces. For example, the ring on the far left in the middle is 800 (80%, or 19.2k) Portuguese gold and is adorned with a pearl and a few small diamonds. The hallmark looks like the one pictured here. The little heart shaped pendant, which was marked as 10k gold is also nice. I decided to give both a try at the auction house. I’ll be happy if I can get something above the scrap value for either piece.
This part of Rosemont isn’t particularly wealthy, but I guess I was just in the right place at the right time. I’ve generally had a lot of luck on the gold and silver front lately, and I’ll share more of those finds soon enough!
Spring cleaning season is finally here and I expect this coming week to be a good one. McGill move-out day is also quickly approaching… My first yard sale should happen sometime soon, perhaps next weekend if all goes well! I’ll let you know here if that’s a go.
Later that week I happened upon a small pile in Outremont which contained a bit of older tech stuff. I saved several PS2 controllers, an old Apple Airport Extreme, an Apple keyboard and four iPods.
The four iPods brought my total for the week to eight, which is definitely my all-time record. While I think the first ones were thrown out because of a move, I’m not really sure why these were tossed. Maybe Marie Kondo had something to do with it! As for value, these 4th & 5th generation iPod Classics still have some value despite being over a decade old. They all have 60gb of storage, a relatively high capacity, and should sell for between 40-60$ each.
That spot also provided a bunch of sports games for PS3 & XBox 360, a few of which were never even opened. Sports games depreciate a lot quicker than other games, but this collection still netted about 30$ after fees at the auction house. Easy money!
That week was also good for jewellery boxes. The first came from this pile in Nouveau Bordeaux.
It was a nice box in its own right, a Japanese import probably from the 60s. Inside was a music box and a magnetic ballerina that would rotate on the glass. It sold for 20-some dollars at auction.
The contents were clearly pillaged, but there were still a few bits left for me.
Most of my profit came from the three broken bits of 14k gold in the middle, which if I remember right earned me about 80$ (I recently did a scrap gold run). Otherwise, I saved a religious medallion, a miniature Cretan dagger that’s probably a hairpin, a pair of Japanese earrings, and a key fob from Thursday’s restaurant on Crescent.
Better yet was this busted box I found the next day in a richer part of town. The contents were much less picked through, and I salvaged a few great items.
There’s two gold pieces here, including a 10k gold and pearl ring by Birks and a 14k cameo brooch. To the left of that is a nice turquoise brooch – it looks like this one purportedly made by the Zuni of the southwestern United States. It’s probably unmarked silver, and I’d bet that the donkey pendant is unmarked silver as well. I think the pocket watch is 800 or 925 (sterling) silver, though I haven’t yet figured out its hallmarks.
Here’s some closeups of the finer pieces. Overall, they should earn me several hundred dollars. This was definitely one of my best jewelry hauls in some time, but hopefully there’s more coming in the near future!
Otherwise, I brought my first big collection of e-waste to the recycling box recently. I lost track of how much e-waste I salvaged last year, but this year I should be less busy and more able to keep a running tally. In this picture is 4.68kg of electronics, most of which were broken, missing pieces, or not worth selling. I also recycled about 1.1kg of batteries, with most of that weight coming a MacBook Pro battery.
I’m curious to see how much I can recycle over a full year! I can only do so much, so I prefer to focus on cell phones and other small electronics. Laptops too, when they turn up.
That one week was pretty good, but I haven’t had nearly as much luck recently. I did make a good sale though, which I’ll tell you about in an upcoming post.
I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty much done with winter at this point. Here’s hoping the warmer weather is coming soon! Garbage picking is a lot more fun in the spring and summer.