Jack of all trades pt.1

This spot first caught my eye in early May. After a couple of months of regular production and intriguing finds, there was a period of maybe five weeks where nothing was put on the curb. That led me to take a break from that route, but when I returned maybe six weeks later I found that the trash flow had returned.

I call this post “jack of all trades” because it’s been hard to tell what these folks did for a living. I’ve found such a wide range of things here, many of which could indicate a profession, but nothing that conclusively says, for example “ah, this person was a doctor.”

For instance, one day I found around half a recycling bin full of old Montreal bus/metro transfer tickets.

This seems like the kind of thing that only someone working for the STM (or past versions of it) would own. However, I’ve found nothing else which would indicate that. The collection was pretty well organized, and tickets were often bound together with elastics or paper sleeves indicating a route and date. I brought about 20lbs of these to the auction house, and they sold for 55$. I have no idea what the purchaser plans to do with them.

One thing’s for sure, someone who lived here was a tinkerer. The bins never contain bags, which is unusual, but instead are stuffed, often to the brim with loose junk. So far, most of it has been stuff you’d find in a basement or garage. My guess is that the tossers wheel the bin inside the house and then just go around dumping things inside. I always make sure to dig all the way to the bottom so I don’t miss a thing. The only item of any value in this pic is that brass vase, but there was lots of hardware bric-a-brac underneath.

I’ve picked lots of metal out of those bins, including bits and section of scrap copper, brass fittings, copper wire, motors, aluminum, and so on. My run on this day wasn’t too exciting, but the scrap helped make it a little bit profitable.

I’ve saved some cool toolsy things, like this old hanging brass scale made by Fairbanks Morse…

… and this cast iron doohickey made by the Victory Tool & Machine Company right here in Montreal. Looking it up now, it appears to be a can sealer missing the bits that would attach to that screw end near the centre-right. Either way, it’s gone to the auction and hopefully a collector will appreciate it.

I also saved this neat cubby hole / printer tray thing. People love these, and this one was particularly old & nice. It sold for 120$ at auction, which was more than I expected.

There’s lots more cool stuff from this spot to come, but I’ll leave it at that for now. I’ve been pretty distracted lately, there’s so much going on in the world and I have a hard time not reading about it! Also, since business has been going well I’ve had a bit of money to invest in stocks for the first time and I’m reading and learning a lot about that. Anyways, for today I’m happy I managed to focus on writing for a few hours, which is long enough to get a blog post out there.

 

Part one of a million pt.8

This spot was legendary for tossing many little boxes full of junk. It also produced the most silver coins of any house ever (at least for me). The coins in this beat-up old jewelry box were mostly American mercury dimes, with a few other mostly American coins from that era mixed in.

The box also held a tiny surprise that I didn’t notice until after taking this photo. You can see it wedged in between the bits of wood on the left.

It’s a little gold padlock pendant. I’d guess that it’s Victorian and 15k gold (the hallmarks are indecipherable). Regardless, very cute.

Other notable items from that haul included a real old Oris watch, a souvenir key from the 1933 World’s Fair, and a bracelet made from late 1800s Guatemalan silver coins. I also like that old medicine box, which I’d guess dates to the 30s based on the font.

Another little box held a mix of actual junk and fun bits & pieces, including some old charms (I think), some dip pen nibs, a hunk of Victoria-era seal wax, and a few bullets.

Here’s some more stuff that was loose in a bag. I really like vintage electronics, so that funky handheld calculator clock radio was a fun find. Collectors like these as well – I think it’s worth around 50-60$.

Here’s some more interesting bits, including an old silver ring.

This thing looks pretty old. I’m guessing it’s a pocket watch fob, and made with vermeil (gold plated silver) in Victorian times. There was a lot of Victorian era stuff in this house…

Many parts of this story remain. In the meantime, I’m doing another sale at the 4096 Coloniale space tomorrow starting around noon. I’d like to unload as much stuff as possible before the real cold gets here. There will be a carload of new stuff that wasn’t at the last sale, and a bit of fresh junk that hasn’t seen a single sale.

 

Counting coins

I’ve been accumulating found change for about two years now, and a few weeks back I figured it was time to liquidate it.

I hate rolling coins, in large part because I don’t think it’s worth the effort most of the time but also because it’s boring. So, I did the math to help me justify dumping them in a change machine.

I googled how long it took to roll coins, and the most common answer seemed to be two minutes.

I feel like it’s closer to three, especially when you’re like me and you have to sort through a lot of foreign coins / “imposters” that get mixed in, but let’s go with two. So, if a roll takes two minutes that means you can complete thirty in one hour. From that, you can calculate how much you make per hour via rolling:

Pennies – 15$ an hour (30 x .50 – 50 pennies per roll)

Nickels – 60$ an hour (30 x 2 – 40 nickels per roll)

Dimes – 150$ an hour (30 x 5 – 50 dimes per roll)

Quarters – 300$ an hour (30 x 10 – 40 quarters per roll).

That sounds pretty great. You could get paid like a lawyer if only you had an unlimited number of quarters. However, I don’t, those hours are grueling and the coins are all mixed up. More importantly, there’s an option that requires very little effort at all – the change machine. It takes 11.9 cents per dollar, which seems a little hefty, but it’s justifiable when you see the figures below.

Pennies – 15$ an hour x 12% (rounded up) = 1.80$ extra earned per hour via rolling

Nickles – 60$ an hour x 12% = 7.20$ extra earned per hour via rolling

Dimes – 150$ an hour x 12% = 18$ extra earned per hour via rolling.

Quarters – 300$ an hour x 12% = 36$ extra earned per hour via rolling.

Based on these numbers rolling pennies & nickels earns you below minimum wage. Dimes aren’t too bad, and quarters are pretty good.

But even so, if instead of rolling quarters I spent that hour looking for trash, or listing things on eBay I might make more than 36$. I guess a part of it is figuring out how much an hour of my work is worth, which is hard to calculate because all the different tasks (both profitable and not) blend into each other, as does the work / life balance at times.

Anywho, all in all I had just over 18kg in coins. My strategy was to dump them into the tray of the Coinstar and try to take out the quarters, loonies, and toonies before they went into the machine. I wanted to keep the quarters, but not try too hard doing so.

The strategy was fairly successful. All in all I made about 142$ and paid about 20$ in fees. Rolling those pennies alone would have taken about three hours according to my calculations, so assuming it would have taken four overall I saved myself four hours of work at about 5$ an hour. Plus, the machine sorted out the foreign coins for me which is a service in itself.

Anyways, the coin collection is slowly growing again. I found a ziplock bag with maybe 100 pennies in it last week, and there’s always a few kicking around at the bottom of those junk drawers.