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.
I’ve been keeping an eye on this spot in Saint-Michel for a month now. I found some clothes and vintage junk there, and while none of it was super exceptional it was evidence that someone might be cleaning out a house. I didn’t see anything there the next few weeks (perhaps due to Christmas, and the bad weather) but there was a big pile out on the curb this time around!
There were four bags of clothes, all of which I threw into the car. It was too cold to bother sorting through them on the spot. I looked through the bags yesterday at the garage, and from what I could tell (my knowledge of fashion is pretty limited!) it seems like a good batch, featuring lots of 80s fashions in nice condition. I don’t have any pictures, but if there are any particularly noteworthy pieces I’ll mention them in a future blog post.
Otherwise, I found some quality vintage junk, which you see below!
I took these pictures using my new garage setup. My goal was to show a lot of different stuff at once, including things that probably wouldn’t have made the blog otherwise. You’ll be able to see a lot more detail if you click on the picture and zoom in. I’m reasonably happy with how the photos turned out but I think there’s room for improvement, whether by tinkering with my camera or upgrading to something fancier. If you have any relevant photography tips let me know!
I found a small collection of dolls here. I don’t think any are particularly desirable, but maybe I’ll start a doll box and see what happens when yard sale season comes. There were plenty of Staedtler Mars Technico lead holders here (perhaps the most I’ve ever seen in one spot) as well as drawing leads. I think those are used for drafting, and they seem to sell for around 5-10$ a piece on eBay. I think I have eight, and I’ll probably try to sell them as a lot.
There were a couple of really old photos. One is captioned “1931” and was probably taken at a school.
I thought that vintage flyswatter was a fun find; it’s not something I find very often. It was made for “Les Produits Myst-Air Inc.” The metal doohickey near the top-right is a vintage fry press. I almost threw out the parts (they were thrown in a different bag) but I figured out what they were just in time. The Expo 67 souvenir map is quality yard sale material. The box at the bottom left held a bunch of keychains and office supplies.
I like these vintage plastic boxes. The logo on the top says “Hole in Head” and “Don’t Bite,” which is a little odd. This old cigar box was the only thing I found when I searched those phrases on Google, so maybe this colourful box held cigars at one point.
My favourites things here are the two vintage Calgary / Stampede Beer labels. I’d guess they’re from the 40s or 50s and they’re lucky to have survived their trip to the trash bag unscathed. Some beer labels go for pretty good money, but I’m not sure what makes a particular label more collectible than another – perhaps an auction is the best way to get them out the door. That typewriter paper is mostly there and mostly empty, as are those vintage bank notebooks on the bottom right.
I’m excited to go back here next week. This place provided some interesting old junk, some of which was new to me. Of course, I’ll let you know how things progress!
What’s it worth?
Sometimes I’ll save something but wonder if there’s actually a market for the thing. I don’t like holding onto to junk that’ll never sell and takes up space until I figure that out (ie: after a few yard sales). I thought it’d be fun and maybe helpful to post these questionable items here and ask you readers what you think.
Today’s item is a Le Creuset dutch oven I found in Westmount. It has a bit of chipping to the enamel (mostly around the edges) and the inside shows some discoloration and wear. Otherwise it seems like a solid piece. However, I’m not sure if people buy cast iron with worn out interior enamel. What do you think? Let me know in the following poll, and in the comments below!
In other news I started a few more auctions this week. Those bakelite beads (minus the red ones – I’ll explain later) are for sale again, as are those fortune cookie boxes I mentioned in a recent post. I’m also auctioning off a whole bunch of vintage batteries, for which there’s a surprisingly strong market. Anyways, check them out if you’re interested!
I did a little exploring on Thursday night. First I went to the Bois-Franc sector of Ville St Laurent for their heavy garbage day – I hadn’t visited the area in quite some time. I found some decent stuff, like this collection of lightly used shoes, a storage bin, a filing cabinet, and an unused candle, but it’s not the most exciting neighbourhood overall. The area was developed in the 90s so there isn’t much vintage stuff kicking around. Still, people there have money and I’m sure they toss out good stuff on the regular.
After that I went to St Leonard for the first time. I didn’t find anything but I’ll probably head back at some point. The buildings there are a little older (most were built between the mid 60s to mid 70s) but the population is generally less wealthy than in Bois-Franc. Check out this map to see the median income of Montreal’s different neighbourhoods.
I found some cool old stuff at this spot not long ago. I was hoping that it would produce more over time, but I noticed an ad for an estate sale at the same address soon after. From my experience most of the cool garbage is thrown out in the weeks or months before (not after) the sale, which means that I might have missed out on some sweet junk. So it goes. I ended up going to the sale with a few friends; the inside of the house looked as if it hadn’t been renovated since the 60s.
I expect that this kind of junk is regularly thrown out by estate liquidators. Perhaps they don’t know about certain niche markets, or maybe they just want to bring order to the often voluminous contents of a house. Either way, it often results in a bit of profit for me! If only I could know where the sales are going to be beforehand.
For instance, that old ring box is probably worth around 10-20$. The little green holder on the top left is probably about the same. The Aspirin bottle, which comes in its original box and is still full of pills is probably worth around 20-30$. Believe it or not there’s a market for vintage credit cards, and the American Express card that expired in 1976 is probably worth around 20-30$. The Lux toilet soap, which was probably made in the 40s or 50s, is worth around 5-10$.
The most valuable thing here is probably the Waterman pen. It’s missing the cap, but has a 14k gold nib and is in nice condition otherwise. I expect it to sell for around 40-60$. The Parker ballpoint pen and Royal Bank desk pen are also cool finds.
Paper ephemera is especially likely to be tossed by liquidators if the family has no interest in keeping it. I found several old photos here, my favourite of which is above. I also enjoyed finding that old advertisement / flyer for the Stoeckmann & Lanzer renovation company. Based on the letters in the phone number I’d guess it was made sometime between the 1930s and early 1960s.
I also saved two vintage card decks, some interesting old ID cards, an old wallet …
… a 1960s McGill student directory;
… a Knights of Pythias “diploma” from 1937;
… and a bag full of cool vintage glasses. None of them are brand name, but they’re pretty fun regardless.
I also brought home a few big bags of vintage clothes and accessories. I haven’t had time to look them over much, but I’m hoping some are worth keeping. If any of it is particularly noteworthy I’ll be sure to share it here!
Otherwise, now is a good time to share a couple of unreported tales from the summer. I went on a garbage run to one of the rich neighbourhoods with a couple of friends back in June or July. We stopped at a big pile of trash, as I have a wont to do. The house that purged it had recently sold and a big moving truck was being filled with its junk. The garbage wasn’t at all interesting but my friend wanted to take some slides off a set of drawers. I got bored waiting for this to happen so to pass the time I took a closer look at the discards. That’s when I noticed that one of the mattresses there was quite clearly infested with bedbugs.
My friend obviously lost interest in the drawer slides after this discovery. However, we also considered the movers who didn’t seem to be aware of the infestation. After thinking it over briefly we decided to talk to them, and indeed they had no idea that the house was infested. I showed them the bug on the mattress and their faces went white – one of them said he had planned on using the truck for his own move later that day.
I’m not sure how that all panned out. I used to work as a mover though, and if I were to guess I’d say that the workers probably called their boss, who would have told them to get the stuff out of the truck and back in the house ASAP. The boss might have even come to personally deal with the situation, and maybe try to charge the homeowner for the cost of PCO. I know my old boss would not have been pleased to find out that his truck was loaded full of buggy crap.
Anyways, I’m glad I was able to save multiple people from infestations and bug-related stress. I don’t see bedbugs in rich neighbourhoods very often, so this experience was a good reminder that bugs aren’t only a problem for lower income folks. I usually inspect all the furniture I take regardless of what neighbourhood I find it in, but I’m more likely to give rich people’s stuff the benefit of the doubt.
The day wasn’t over yet though. While dealing with the bug situation I noticed that one of the neighbours had thrown away a grocery bag filled with square objects that turned out to be records. After I put them in the car an older lady, probably in her 80s called down from her balcony and asked us if we wanted any books. I said sure, and she ended us giving us some stereo equipment as well, including a nice cassette player, a couple of speakers, and this Marantz receiver. It’s not one of the really valuable ones, but it’s still a quality machine – my roommate is currently using it in his room. She seemed happy to get rid of her old stuff, and we were happy to meet someone nice on the garbage circuit. I gave her my number in case she needed help bringing anything else down to the curb, but she never got in touch.
Here’s a couple of random finds from the spring. The WWII-era ration token was cool if not particularly valuable. The brooch was missing its pin, other than that it was quite nice.
I’ve been picking up furniture more often this year but a lot of my favourite pieces haven’t yet made the blog. I found this set of drawers in Westmount sometime in mid-summer. I’ll bet they’re around 100 years old, and the wear to the paint gives it a sort of unintentional “shabby-chic” look. I hope to get 100$ for it.
A friend and I found this wardrobe while out on a run in TMR. It weighs a tonne, probably around 100 pounds. It must be some kind of hardwood. It didn’t fit in the car so we actually paid a Craigslist mover 50$ to bring it to my garage. It might be a good idea to reshoot the photos – the piece is probably worth about 300$ but the pictures, including the ones below don’t do it justice.
I picked up this secretary desk in Westmount. It has some wear and tear but is still nice, and the fold-out section is pretty cool. It’s probably worth around 50$, and would make a nice project.
I saved this nice old dresser just a few weeks ago. It’s in pretty solid condition and has that cool “wavy” design. How much do you think I should try to sell it for?
I’d like to move some of this big stuff, so if you have any interest please send me a message!
If you’re into 70s music you might like this little filing cabinet! The thing was just covered in old band and concert stickers. It ended up going to a local archivist who appreciated that some of the bands were local. If this brings back any old memories let us know in the comments! Remember that you can click on the photos for a closer look.
Let’s finish with a potential opportunity. My garage landlord recently let me know that one of his other garages will soon be available for rent. This one would be 400$ a month instead of 200$, but it’s about three times bigger in terms of usable indoor space, and that’s not including the extra vertical space. Having the extra room would allow me to save more stuff, stay better organized, and have better yard sales, but the extra financial burden is also worth considering.
Renting the larger garage would cost me about 2400$ extra per year, assuming my friend remains willing to rent a portion of the space for 100$ a month. So, for it to be worthwhile I’d at least want the extra storage to pay for itself, since I’m not rich and still have a lot of debt to pay off, teeth to fix, and so on.
However, it might be worth the risk. Having that much room could revolutionize the way I sell garbage, and maybe even the way I collect it. Plus, I’m making more money these days so it’s not totally unaffordable. What do you think I should do? Let me know in the comments!