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.
The spot that provided those nice late 50s/early 60s collectible cards didn’t offer me a Mickey Mantle rookie card as I’d hoped, or many other sports cards for that matter. Still, I collected some quality vintage junk, some of which was eBay worthy.
Most of this is fun yard sale stuff, the only thing that isn’t is the old earthenware pot in the back which I grouped with another old jug I found and brought to auction (the lot ends on Tuesday).
Here we have some old rulers, tins, and stencils. Those Normand Hudon playing cards would have been worth some money, but the cards inside didn’t match the ones on the cover.
More vintage junk for the sale. The letter is from former MP Charles Drury, who also held several cabinet positions over the years and served in WWII. The Holt Renfrew credit card dates to the 80s and is now part of my collection of old cards.
I like maps, and on the back of that letter was a nice one of the riding of Westmount (which includes some bits of NDG / CDN).
Here’s a fun sign that I’m sure someone at a yard sale will appreciate.
I did find a bit more old hockey stuff. This Jean Beliveau souvenir magazine went to the auction with some other Canadiens stuff.
I also picked up many pages of hockey calendars from the early 70s. I sold one batch for 60$, and I have another listed at 75$ (just discounted).
Most of this stuff has been processed now. I sold sets of cards for 85, 60, and just yesterday 135$ (the Civil War cards including the relatively rare checklist). Another lot sold at auction for around 40$, and I have a couple more eBay lots yet to sell priced at 40 and 65$. Overall, including a couple pieces of furniture & the yard sale stuff, I’ll end up netting around 400$ from this spot. Not omg, but a quality weekly destination regardless.
I did my first “real” yard sale of the year yesterday. I sent an email out to my mailing list subscribers (which I haven’t promoted as much as I should, sign up here) and posted on Instagram but I’m sorry if anyone wanted to come but wasn’t notified. Anyways, it was a reasonably good day, not my most profitable sale but still well worth my time (I made around 580$, 180$ of which I paid for a friend to help). Perhaps more importantly I was able to declutter my garage a bit, which should make it easier to reorganize it a bit (as I’ve been wanting to do). I’ll be doing more sales soon, as I’d like to get rid of as much as possible before winter.
I think it’s been almost a month since my last post. Sorry for the wait! I’m struggling to get my brain into writing gear sometimes, but I’ve also been pretty busy with picking & organizing & rearranging my garage.
It was also moving day / week recently, so I was picking a bit more than I would usually. I think it was the quietest moving day I’ve ever witnessed, so I guess people decided to stay in their leases amidst the uncertainty (in Quebec, you usually have to give three months notice if you intend on not renewing your lease, which is April 1, so people may have reconsidered their moves considering that the pandemic really took hold in North America starting in early March).
I still found a bit of good stuff. On moving day itself I picked up a nice old suitcase, some really old carts of some kind (sometimes people just use the occasion to clean out their basement), a lucite coffee table, and some barely used sparring equipment. On the days before, I found a bit of silver (some of which you can see above, on top of an old iPhone that was also tossed), a collection of Canadian Tire money (about 15$ worth), an old temporary bus stop sign, and other bits & bobs.
I haven’t found many particularly “omg” finds of late. Plenty of “nice” or “good” finds, some “very good,” but little worthy of an all-star selection, though one of this week’s runs may have produced some top quality items… I still have some inspection and research to do. Regardless, you never know what’s next when garbage is concerned.
Anyways, I’m pretty well caught up on my picture taking (as opposed to my writing) so I have plenty to share. Today I’ll post some finds from spots that were intriguing for a short time, but didn’t produce for long. One nice, recently sold suburban home started clearing out with a bang, tossing this nice tin Pan Am 747 (in two different pieces) that sold for around 120$ at auction.
I kept my eye on that spot for months afterwards, but things got junkier as time went on. I found a bunch of dolls one day, many of which ended up in a free box. The most valuable is probably the 6 Million Dollar Man, who’s in pretty good condition despite being nearly 50 years old. That bear wind-up toy (which doesn’t seem to wind up no more) is also cool, and the shell figurine at top right is likely a souvenir from Margate in England.
(This is not my finest picture. The weird hue and the shadows is what happens when I forget to turn off my overhead lights while taking photos. Also, I could have lined up the dolls with the fold in my fabric background a little better).
I also picked up this contraption, which is an old oil lamp that someone tried to convert into a electric lamp. I’m not sure what the giant spring or long steel rod was supposed to accomplish… Anyways, it may have looked like junk to whoever tossed it, but after removing the random bits it was quite nice.
The base is (I think) hand-painted porcelain, and the rest of the decorative elements are made from brass. It’s in very good condition other than the bottom (which was part of the steel oil font) being cut out. I’d guess that it was made around the turn of the century, give or take 10 years. I haven’t figured out what it’s worth yet, but I’m sure it has a bit of value.
I may have spoken too soon by including this spot in the “ye of little trash” category, as it recently started producing a bit again after I more or less wrote it off (I’ve been working on this post for like three weeks). We’ll see what happens.
A house in Hampstead provided some quality junk over the period of about a month. The mid-century German vase, the seltzer bottle, and the pencil sharpener all sold for modest prices at auction.
The cute coloured engravings, made for Eaton’s, sold for a little under 10$. Better than nothing though. The rest is yard sale stuff, other than the piece of fossil which I’m saving for a future lot of cool rocks (I know I’ll find more at some point, so sometimes I set things like that, which aren’t worthy of a lot on their own, aside until more turn up).
The Parker fountain pen (a 51 if I recall correctly) is probably the most valuable item I found there. The cap is a little busted, but it’s probably still worth 60-80$. That carnival glass bowl is pretty nice as well, though I can’t tell if it’s an original or a more recent reproduction.
The turtle guy from my last post threw out a box full of turtles a couple weeks later. He must have really liked turtles (maybe it was this kid) at some point but not so much anymore. Anyways, this collection included a couple turtles made from stone, a cast iron turtle, ceramic turtles, miniature crystal turtles, crappy souvenir turtles, and a turtle made by Dansk. It was a nice enough collection (minus the junkier ones, which I put in a free box) to bring to auction, and the lot has achieved a fair number of bids & a reasonable price with a few hours left to go.
I wish I discovered this spot a little sooner, as it seemed like whoever was doing the tossing didn’t give much of a damn.
The folks at this spot were kind enough to put out some “free” boxes filled with junk, but my best finds came from a black garbage bag regardless.
My favourite find was a box of keys and other bric-a-brac, including several different religious medallions.
Whoever lived here worked for the airlines, given the Canadair keychain above and the gold Bombardier service pin below. Also, this cool photo of someone working on a CF-5 #116745, which started its service in 1970 and was scrapped in 1988. I’d guess that this photo was taken in 1972 or 79 (probably the latter) which is when this particular plane was in Quebec.
It’s crazy how much information there is about certain things online, and how little there is for others.
Lastly, this spot in Westmount was intriguing for a little while. My best finds here came on the same day, just sitting out in the open. In the box is a nice vintage Sony stereo receiver, which I haven’t tested yet but probably works / is worth around 150$.
The lamp was the prettiest banker’s lamp I’ve ever picked. It was made in the 1920s, and is in excellent condition for being about 100 years old. The green glass is much darker than you usually see on the more modern ones.
It’s not Tiffany, but this lamp is still top quality junk and is worth around 2-300$. Most of my best finds are hidden away, but once in a while I find them just sitting out in the open.
Otherwise, it seems that we’re allowed (starting July 10) to have yard sales again here in Montreal. That’s exciting news, though the required protocols will be a bit of a (necessary) hassle.
I did a couple of small “social distancing friendly” sales in my front yard over the last month. I invited only my Instagram followers (I would have invited blog-only followers, but I completely forgot I now have a newsletter thing I can use to spread the word) to keep the crowds to a minimum, and told people to “pay what you can” / what they think is fair by leaving money in my mailbox. That made it so I didn’t even have to supervise the sales, thus reducing the effort required to work them. I told people to come out anytime between 9am-9pm on the weekend so that folks were rarely “shopping” at the same time (helping with the social distancing), and chose days when there wouldn’t be rain so I wouldn’t have to rush to pack things in.
The honour system worked pretty well, and I made around 100$ at the first and 250$ at the second (honestly, I may have made more than I would have setting prices, lol…). The fact that the only invitees were my “followers” made it less likely that people would abuse the system – I doubt I’d try a similar tactic with a bunch of randoms. I was also happy to be able to clear some stuff from my various storages, which were (and still are) packed with yard sale type stuff.
While this type of sale is relatively small, it’s also kind of fun and less stressful than a usual sale. I may do more of those going forward, even as garage sales otherwise return to normal. The only real problem with them is that my blog followers have such good taste that they only buy my finest quality junk… I need those random people to come if I want to sell the crap!
Anyways, I hope to do another sale in one form or another soon, and I’ll try to do a better job letting you know about it.
I’ve been picking this past week, even as the pandemic intensifies. I keep some hand sanitizer in the car for my hands, and some disinfecting spray to wipe down surfaces with. I’ve also taken a different approach, more often taking full bags to sort through later rather than sorting on the spot, then letting those bags sit until any potential virus inside has died.
Maybe it’s unwise to do this. But to be honest, I’m not really sure what I’d do with myself otherwise. Garbage picking is a passion of mine, and it’s hard to stop knowing what treasures I’ll miss. Maybe that makes me a little crazy or obsessive. I do think that with the precautions I’m taking, the risks are pretty low. As bad as the pandemic is, it’s safe to say that only around .1% (or 1/1000) of the population is currently infected (current known cases are 4682, making the official count closer to .01%, but we can assume that the number is higher than that, so .1% seems like a liberal estimate).
Regardless of the risk, trash picking is definitely less fun right now. The need to compulsively clean is annoying, and I find myself feeling paranoid, mostly because other people feel so paranoid. It’s a bit sad that my enjoyment of my hobby / job has been tainted for the foreseeable future, but so it goes.
I have to say though that this week was pretty successful on the garbage finds front. In particular, I struck gold on Thursday, and had a very 2020 interaction while doing so. It’ll make for a good blog story, which I hope to share here relatively soon.
Anyways, let’s go back to before this all started, when it was cold out and there was still lots of snow on the ground. This spot looked good from the get go: sold sign out front, fancy house, hint of old junk (the suitcase) on the curb, and a bit more volume than your usual pile. I did indeed find some great stuff, and was hopeful that this spot would end up being a regular producer (at least for a while). However, later that day I got a message announcing an estate sale at the house, which usually means that the flow of trash is at its end.
I know the estate sale people didn’t throw this stuff out, so it must have been from the family sorting through personal affects. A large percentage of the trash was old photos & ephemera, but I also saved a bit of quality junk and silver. Also, it’s worth noting that a member of the estate came from a pretty prestigious Canadian business family, so my finds here are the remnants of some serious old money.
Let’s start with a couple of the best photos. These 10×8″ photographs featuring the Harrison Hot Springs & Lake were taken c. the 1930s by Leonard Frank, a noted photographer of British Columbia. The photos are both stuck to the same piece of fibrous backing, which is something I haven’t seen before.
His photos are apparently fairly sought after, and I think mine will sell in the 2-300$ range.
This photo is signed by Yousuf Karsh, the famed Canadian portrait photographer. He took portraits of lots of famous people, but also some less famous folks like Jimmy here. I found another Karsh photo around five years ago and sold it for 235$, though a friend of mine did me a favor and framed it professionally, thereby increasing its value. Still, I’m guessing this would sell for 50-75$.
I found lots of other great photos here, but I’ll save them for another post.
Here’s some “quality junk” displayed on a jewelry box tray I also found. The watch is a Hamilton, and probably worth around 30-40$. May Cutler was a writer and publisher of children’s books who was also mayor of Westmount from 1987-1991.
Here we have an old school Charga-Plate (precursor for the credit card) in its original leather sheath, a candy thermometer that may contain mercury, some vintage lipstick, and a souvenir key fob from the US Capitol.
Here we have some 20-30 year old rolling tobacco, an enameled copper dish, a magnifier, and some vintage products. The Christmas tree ornament hangers are my favourite – based on the font, I’d guess they’re from the 40s.
I saved several Cirque de Soleil DVDs, which should do well at a future yard sale.
Here we have a small collection of coins including a silver dime, a silver cat brooch, a tin filled with vintage keys, a shotgun shell, and a vial that I’d guess contains kidney stones. The 15″ ruler on the bottom is quite nice, it has a brass edge and was made by Eberhard Faber.
I also found two sterling silver picture frames, including one (on the right) made by Birks. It has it’s original glass, so it’s probably worth around 40-50$. The spoon is also sterling, but it was real dinged up and only good for scrap (around 5$ worth).
Let’s finish with this cool piece of art, which is painted on a round piece of wood around 11″ in diameter. It’s pretty well done, but unfortunately unsigned. If you know something about it, please let us know in the comments!
Given that we’re all (mostly) stuck inside I’ll try to post more than I usually do. Recently I’ve been addicted to the news and not really getting a heck of a lot done, but I’m trying to reduce my consumption. It’s good to be informed, but you have to draw a line at some point.