I had high hopes for post-Christmas trash. I fantasized about people with more money than brains throwing out their PS3 because they got a PS4, or maybe their iPhone 5 because they got an iPhone 6. However, I didn’t find much of that or anything else in the week after Christmas. A big snowstorm, one of Montreal’s largest in quite some time might have impacted things a bit but I still never felt as if a big find was at all imminent. My working theory now is that most of the “old” stuff ends up not trashed but stored in basements, closets and garages where it sits until the people eventually move, at which point the item is donated or tossed.

The first week of 2016 was much of the same. It was looking like a lost cause before I came across this spot. I remember there being a “sold” sign out front of this house not long ago, and I guess the people living there are getting ready to move.


I pulled this intriguing etched bird tray out of one of the bags. It definitely vintage and looks to be made of aluminum or pewter.


Does anyone have any ideas as to what kind of bird this is supposed to be?


It’s marked as being made in China, but not with a sticker as is now so ubiquitous today. I can’t find anything quite like it online, so it’s impossible to say if it’s junk, treasure, or something in between. If you know anything about it let me know in the comments!


My best finds though were quite small. At the bottom of this bag were a bunch of sewing needles and other small items. Knowing I needed to be thorough I removed most of the larger items so I could get a better view of what was underneath. I then sifted through the small items – at the bottom (and out of the picture) are the rejects and towards the top are the things yet to be sorted. Using this technique I found a couple of silver earrings that I might have otherwise missed.


My most valuable finds came from this bag. In with the good stuff (which looked to have come from a “junk drawer” of sorts) were a bunch of used makeup applicators and a tuft of hair probably pulled from a brush. Some might find this to be gross but it doesn’t bother me too much. I’ll take this over kitty litter or old cigarette ashes any day of the week.


Here’s the accumulation of the finest of my smaller finds. Let’s take a closer look…


At this point I feel only occasionally dumbfounded at what I see getting thrown away. However, it was still hard to believe that someone would toss this 1967 Canadian centennial coin set. The coins were designed by Alex Coville, a noted Canadian painter.


The top four (the dollar, 50 cent, 25 cent, and 10 cent) coins are all 80% silver. The set is only worth around 40$, but it still surprises me how people can so willingly throw out significant quantities of silver. Keep reading though, as the best is yet to come!


The watch on the left is an art deco era Henex. It doesn’t work, but because it’s cool and vintage it might fetch me around 5$. On the left is a John Hardy watch. I’ve never seen a sterling silver watch before but apparently that’s what it is. It also doesn’t work, but I expect I can get a good price for it on eBay regardless. There’s a decent market for John Hardy watches – this one of the same model sold on eBay for 1700$. That watch is obviously in nicer condition but it shows that I should be able to get a decent price selling the watch “as is”. I could also look into getting it repaired.



In the jewelry department we have two Hebrew pendants, a silver tie clip, and a couple of silver earrings.


The star earrings have some unusual marks. If anyone has any idea what they mean let me know. I suspect the stars are vermeil (ie: gold plated silver), and maybe these marks indicate that.


This old ring is pretty neat. It’s nicely enameled and looks to be Chinese in origin. I found a similar ring (described as “very old ring, probably before 1911”) that sold at auction on eBay for 28$. Mine’s in much nicer condition though. I listed it at 90$ – we’ll see if anyone bites.


Now for an unusual looking pin. It seems to belong to the Phi Delta Epsilon medical fraternity. Their motto is Esse Quam Videri, which translates as “to be, rather than to seem.”


The fact that it’s 10k gold makes it a fair bit more valuable. Despite some pretty uninspiring photography one just like it sold at auction for 115$. I set my price a bit higher because fixed price listings often do better than auctions, and I expect to ultimately get between 175-200$ for my pin.


This watch may be my best find though. On the back is engraved: “To (person’s name) from Mother & Dad on graduation 1958.”


The watch is made by Omega, a luxury watchmaker based out of Switzerland. It’s an automatic movement, meaning that the watch winds itself as you move. It seems to work just fine, though there are a few cosmetic issues including the missing “9” on the dial and the non-original crown.


The inside is marked 0.750, which is another way of saying 18k gold. That makes it fairly valuable even just for scrap!


This watch (assuming it’s legit, and I’m 99% sure it is) should make me a nice chunk of cash. The most similar Omega I could find was this one, which is being sold for about 1200$ Canadian. That watch is in much nicer condition than mine. Still, I suspect that just by the virtue of having an 18k gold case and a working movement my watch should go for somewhere in the 300-500$ range. That’s a very nice payday for me, making this watch a likely addition to my eventual “best of 2016” post!

Looking back, I’ve now saved four solid gold watches in my trash picking career. I found my first in the Plateau way back in 2012 (when this blog was in its infancy), and the 2nd and 3rd from the same spot in Hampstead last year. I expect this one will end up being the most valuable of the bunch. Hopefully there are many yet to come!

A lesson in selling silver and gold


Last night I biked out to Ville St Laurent for their heavy garbage pickup. I don’t do late-night runs very often these days but heavy rain was forecasted for the morning and I felt motivated to see what I could find.


The giant pile above looked to be the result of an eviction. Most was pure junk but I noticed a few pieces of gold and silver jewellery at the bottom of two clear garbage bags. The top three pieces – two sterling silver earrings and a 10 karat gold ring – went into my pile of gold and silver scrap. The necklace, also 10k gold is actually very nice. It should go for around 80-100$ depending on the weight.


This is all the scrap that I saved since I last sold my collection in January. It’s composed mostly of single earrings, broken chains and jewellery too worn or ugly to bother trying to sell otherwise. I had been planning on selling it off regardless (I need the cash!) so finding a few extra pieces last night was a bit of a bonus.

I decided around noon to get on my bike and pay a visit to the coin and antique dealer I sold to last time around. However, the rain came pouring down as soon as I left and I ended up getting soaking wet. I went home to change and think things over. I had seen a posting by a generic pawn shop on Kijiji (basically Canadian Craigslist) offering “best prices” for silver and gold. While I knew I’d get a good deal at my usual place this other option was a lot closer, just a five minute walk as compared to a fifteen minute bike ride in the pouring rain. I chose to check out the new place and see if I could get myself a deal.

I walked in and asked what they were paying for gold. I usually ask for 85% of the melt value, a percentage I think is fair for both buyer and seller. The attendant mostly dismissed the question and instead offered to take closer look and weigh things out. I agreed and he spent the next 15 minutes acid testing my metals.

Here’s the thing: when you’re selling gold and silver you really have to shop around. Some places will pay more than others and some will outright rip you off. There’s no law that prohibits offering someone a bad deal – it’s up to the seller to know what their product is worth and ensure they receive a fair price.

I knew I wasn’t going to get a good deal when the attendant placed all the gold he tested into a single pile. My usual guy tests every piece and makes different piles for 9k, 10k, 14k, and 18k. 18k is worth a lot more than 10k, 34$ per gram vs 19$ per gram respectively, so you definitely want your 18k to be recognized as such. He was just mixing them all together.

The offer came in after a few phone calls to the boss in a language I couldn’t understand: 150$ for the gold, about 17 grams worth. I knew this was a pretty bad deal – about 50% of melt value assuming everything was only 10k. He also offered 30c a gram for my silver, a little less than 50% of its 62c melt value and about 70$ in total. I told him I was going to shop around and pretended I might return later in the day. It’s not worth negotiating when the starting point is so bad.

The rain had died down. I got on my bike and headed off to meet my regular gold guy. He recognized me and gave me the 85% that I asked for.


All in all I came away with 553$, more than twice as much as I would have made if I had sold it at the other place. It’s an awesome payday, basically next month’s rent and a little extra. It just goes the importance of shopping around and knowing the value of your product.

Last weeks sales (June 30 – July 6)
-Backgammon set: to a friend for 5$.
-Audio mixer: to a friend for 20$.
Total: 25$, 1315$ since May 18. If not for a couple of friends I would have totally struck out. I had no Ebay sales but apparently those tend to lag a bit in the summer months. Regardless, this week should be better: my scrap sale will be included and I should (knock on wood) finally be able to have a yard sale, this time with my sister in Verdun.

Another note: I did an interview with Jay and Ryanne at Scavenger Life, a really cool blog and community focused around making a living off Ebay. I haven’t listened to it yet but it was a lot of fun to do – check it out here.