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.
When I’m looking through trash I’m often hoping to find jewelry. It’s simply the most predictable (if irregular) way to quickly make money from trash. I’ve found a few hoards with values north of 1000$, including a collection featuring some great modernist and brutalist pieces, a pillowcase full of vintage jewelry, and a bunch of gold in Rosemont. I also like that jewelry is small and easy to store – a great quality for someone with constant storage space issues.
I came across this huge post-estate sale pile last Thursday night. There was a tonne (maybe literally) of useful stuff that should have been donated. I saved a good number of items but most of it wasn’t compelling enough to bother sharing on the blog.
Most of the best stuff is gone after the sale. I’ve actually had better luck finding things before the sale – family and liquidators sometimes toss treasures in their rush to get organized. Not expecting to find anything in the way of precious antiques I mostly hoped to come across a little cache of jewelry. It just go happens that I did find one, mixed in with the food waste no less.
The collection wasn’t worth nearly as much the ones I listed earlier. However, there were still some nice items that I should be able to flip for a bit of money. The enameled cat brooch at back left is the most unusual piece. It’s marked “silver”, which is a simple stamp I haven’t seen previously. It’s in nice shape, though there is some damage to the enamel. Below it is a (modernist?) silver ring, while to the right of that is a single sterling silver earring. It has a distinctly brutalist design, and I tried hard without any luck to find the second. I otherwise found: two more silver pendants; another single silver earring (which is destined for the scrap pile); a silver Royal Victoria Hospital pin; an old brooch featuring a small portrait of a woman; and a pin for a 1938 Kingston Curling Club bonspiel.
I came across another small collection Monday night in NDG. It wasn’t nearly as interesting as the last but I found a few nice costume jewelry pieces and around 10$ in silver scrap. There were also a bunch of foreign coins in the same bag.
Later that night a spot in Hampstead produced a nice Mexican silver pendant (bottom left). I also found two American dollar bills, a heart-shaped crystal glass dish, a bottle of Givenchy perfume (Amarige), and a pair of Burberry glasses.
It’s been a solid week or so for jewelry! I haven’t found gold for a little while though. I’d like to find some of that, because even junk gold is worth a fair bit when sold for scrap.
One last thing! My Tuesday night run wasn’t as productive as it was last week. However, the house that provided all the DVDs last time …
… did so again this week. These people must have spent over 1000$ on their collection originally. They’re obviously not worth that much anymore but I might be able to get a nice price for them yet. I currently have the collection listed on Kijiji in hopes that I can find a bulk buyer.
On Thursday night I went to the spot in Cote-des-Neiges that produced the sewing machine and nice old silver a couple weeks ago. There wasn’t much out but I did save a few interesting things.
I found a book called “Psyching out Vegas”; …
… a $1,000,000 money bag bank souvenir from Vegas (copyrighted in 1953);
… two fun vintage postcards;
… a few small boxes, two of which contained very old syringes;
… a collection of watch bands;
… and two old lighters. The one on the left is marked Rolex, but I don’t think it’s the same company that most of us are familiar with. My favourite is the one on the right, which advertises the Sun Life Assurance company in Montreal. It’s likely from the 1950s. I might keep that one for my personal collection.
I also found this odd medallion. It’s made by Huguenin, a prestigious French medal maker. This side says “Sankt Bernhard Schweiz [Switzerland]”, which likely refers to the Swiss mountain pass. It has two holes which someone has put a string of leather through.
It looks to be from the 5-star Arosa Kulm Hotel in Switzerland. My tests indicate that it’s probably plated silver. I imagine it’s from the 30s or 40s, and expect this would be a souvenir of some kind.
I got up for the morning run and came across this pile in Snowdon.
It produced a diaper box full of candles, which I gave away to various people I know who use lots of candles.
My best finds though came from Westmount, which has been very productive for me recently. There were a few good things at the top of the pile, including a painting easel, a wicker picnic basket (filled with decent plastic plates), …
… and a 12″ disco ball! I gave this to a friend of mine who loves disco.
I opened one bag and found a jewelry box. There’s some old tape glue stuck to the top, but it should come off pretty easily.
Underneath it in the bag was a bunch of jewelry …
… which I put back into the box.
There’s some nice stuff here, the best of which I put into one section of the box. All the pieces at the bottom are sterling (mostly from Mexico). The earrings at the top left are silver and adorned with marcasite, which was popular in Art Nouveau days (1890s-1910s) The brooch in the middle is by Monet.
My best find though might be these two laptops, both of which were inside a different black trash bag. One came with its power cable and seems to work totally fine, though I’ll have the reinstall Windows and format the hard drive to get past the password (which is likely for the best regardless). The other has no cable, but I’d bet on it working as well.
These are the most modern laptops I’ve seen in the garbage. They’re not new, but they come installed with Windows 7 which means they were likely made between 2009 and 2012. The one with the power cord is a Gateway MS2285, which seems to go for around 125-200$ depending on the specs (and 50$ if broken). The other is a HP Pavillion DV4 which seems to go for around 150$ if in good working condition. I’ll take a little gamble by buying a power cord for the latter.
I’ve been getting pretty lucky lately. Hopefully it keeps up!
Spring is finally here! It’s definitely a lot more fun to look for trash when it’s warm out. Not only does it make sorting through bags easier, but it inspires people to get organized (which often involves them tossing out their old, unused stuff).
The arrival of spring also means that I’ll again be able to do yard sales. I look forward to unloading some of my stuff, as I’ve been collecting without a real outlet (outside of eBay, of course, but I use that mainly to sell only the more valuable items) since the end of October. I’m aiming to do one, or maybe even two sales this weekend – the forecast is calling for sunny skies, 12 degrees, and low wind. If everything works out, I’ll post the location on my Facebook page.
This spot in Hampstead produced a few interesting finds.
A few small things were floating around near the bottom of a bag.
None of it was particularly noteworthy, outside of this brooch (about 3″ long, for reference). There’s a mark on the pin, which looked indecipherable at first but upon further inspection looks like an incomplete 18k mark. My acid test supports that theory, though I’m still not 100% confident in my ability to test gold.
Either way, it looks and feels like a nice piece. The front is white and shiny, hopefully a thick layer of white gold on top of the yellow back. There is one larger blue stone, and several clear shiny stones, which could be diamonds. I think I’d have to get an expert to look at it to be able to really know what it’s worth. If it really is 18k gold, it could be a nice get.
I also saved this ancient mobile phone.
Some vintage cell phones are actually worth a lot of cash, though I don’t expect that this one in particular is valuable. The hinge of the receiver is cracked, and there’s no charger to test it with. It’s a fun yard sale piece.
On Tuesday a reader sent me an email to tell me that his neighbours were throwing out a bunch of stuff. Before I got there, however, they apparently got one of those junk removal companies to pick up the bulk of it, perhaps thinking the city wouldn’t take it all. Still, a few things remained, and I found something cool leaning up against the post in the background.
It was a large (about 4′ x 2.5′) Parti Quebecois election sign. It bears the name of Gérald Godin, a poet and MLA in Mercier (Plateau) from 1976 to 1994. One of his poems is painted on a wall near Mont-Royal metro station – see a photo of the poem here.
However, my favourite part of the sign might be the painting on the back. It depicts a “Oui” (yes in French) surrounded by flowers and the warmth of the sun. The dot of the I is a fleur-de-lis. For those who don’t know, the province of Quebec has held two referendums about separating from Canada – one in 1980 and one in 1995 – and “Oui” was what you would have voted if you wanted Quebec to become its own country.
I would guess that this sign would have been made for the 1976 Election, when Godin defeated the former premier Robert Bourassa in his own riding. Someone then saved the sign for four years before painting the mural on the back for the 1980 referendum. As someone with an interest in politics as well as folk art, this is a pretty cool thing!
(Just as a reminder, if you ever see a potentially good trash spot, but can’t or don’t feel like picking it yourself let me know! It might help me find something I wouldn’t have come across otherwise. I can travel to nearly anywhere in Montreal and Laval, depending on my schedule).
I went out on Thursday morning and came across this spot near Westmount. I talked to the janitor, and he encouraged me to take a look as long as I didn’t make a mess. He told me the stuff belonged to someone had passed away. I saved the cute table on the left hand side (which I gave to Sarah) …
some housewares (my favorite of which was a heavy vintage glass pitcher) …
an old St. Anne medallion …
a collection of stainless steel scissors …
and some books, including a nursing guide and four miniature dictionaries. The dictionaries translate French, German, Italian, and Spanish to English. There were many other books, but none seemed particularly special – mostly softcover romance novels from the 80s and 90s.
A few pages in the nursing book were bookmarked using pins, which I’d never seen done before.
I also saved a few potted plants. They were very dry, but still alive. I gave them water and expect them to recover well. They looks like Hyacinths, which I think can do well planted in the ground.
A couple of my best finds though came from my spot in NDG. It didn’t produce anything for my previous post, but the trash started flowing again last week.
I thought I saw an old coin at the bottom of one bag.
It was only an imitation Roman coin (you can see it at top center), but I pulled out some other interesting pieces, including several new-age pendants.
There were many other useful, interesting, or just cute things to be saved, including:
some oil pastels and water colours …
a pocketknife by Richard’s of Sheffield (England) …
a tiny metal cup (about 3″ tall) …
some vintage hand-wrought Canadian aluminum ware …
an old salt shaker with a sterling silver top …
an “egg” made out of some kind of stone (it’s a bit worn, or chipped in places) …
a bank envelope marked “amber beads” …
which, true to its word contained some amber beads …
and some editions of Man, Myth, and Magic magazine from the 1970s.
One contained a poster of the zodiac, drawn by a guy named Owen Wood in 1969.
It’s pretty cool! There’s not much mention of it on the internet, beyond this short article and a few places referencing it. (The link also has a nice quality scan, which is better than my photo if you wanted to take a closer look). The poster doesn’t seem particularly common, so maybe I can get some good money for it.
My favourite finds though came from this grubby plastic bag.
Inside was a matching sterling silver necklace and bracelet!
The best part though is that they match the brooch and earrings (picture) I found at the exact same spot a few weeks ago. All the pieces are by Arne Johansen, a Danish modernist jewelry designer. Her work sells for pretty good money on eBay. I’m excited to see what I can get for a set, considering that many single pieces are going at auction for between 125 and 180$. My general pricing strategy is to start high and adjust lower, so I plan on starting the set at around 700-800$ and seeing what happens from there. No matter what I end up getting for it, it’s an awesome find!
Last week’s garbage sales (March 30 – April 5)
1. Vintage Dunhill lighter box: On eBay for 52$. Found in Hampstead around a month ago.
2. Harley Davidson belt bucket: On eBay for 11$. This has been in my eBay store for quite some time. I don’t even remember where I found it, though it might have been in Rosemont.
3. 14k gold bracelet, and 10k gold ring: On Etsy for 190$. The ring I found in Rosemont over two years ago, while the bracelet was found in Mount Royal last year.
Total: 253$, 14075$ since May 18 2014 and 4392$ since the new year began. Another decent week. I also sold a vintage thermometer on eBay, before realizing that you can’t ship mercury via Canada Post or USPS. It’s too bad, because it would have made me around 100$. Maybe I can try Kijiji.
Email and links
If you have a question, see anything that you’re interesting in buying, or to just want to say hello feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I also enjoy reading your comments! I frequently get behind on emails, so I apologize in advance if I take a few days or weeks to get back to you.