Ghitta / The pack mule returns

I was without car access for most of week of the 14th. My friend’s insurance was cancelled (for silly reasons that I won’t get into) and no other cars were available. So, if I wanted to do my routes I was going to have to bike. Villeray – my recent Monday night destination – wasn’t too bad to get to given its proximity to home, though it did start pouring rain late in my run.

TMR was a bit more of a hassle to get to. It took nearly 20 minutes of biking just to get to its outer boundary, but I really wanted to go because of my recent success there.


I’m not really set up for large scale bike picking anymore. My bike trailer was stolen a while back, and I hadn’t even gotten around to adding a milk crate to the back of my newest bike. Obviously, I was hoping that I wouldn’t find anything big, and that I’d instead come across small but valuable items like the sunglasses, perfumes, and silver I saved the week before.


At the back of one pile were two big pieces of art. I was hoping they’d just be mediocre prints, but of course they ended up actually being pretty nice. The kind of things I would have to carry home. (I guess I could have taken a taxi, but I hate spending money on that kind of stuff, and then I’d have to come back to retrieve the bike anyways).

I finished making my rounds, came back to the spot and picked up the artwork. One of them was in a black trash bag because the glass from the frame was busted. The other was in good condition, at least for now. Together they were pretty damn heavy, and it was going to be a struggle to get them home (or at least to my friend’s shed, which was about half the distance).

I made it about 100 meters before the nicely framed piece slipped from my hand and hit the ground, shattering the glass. This wasn’t an ideal outcome! The sound of breaking glass at night, especially in a rich neighbourhood wasn’t likely to bring me any kind of positive attention. Fortunately, no one on the street seemed to notice. I ditched the broken glass and the busted frame into a nearby bin. The silver lining here was that the loss of glass made the load a lot lighter. The main challenge now was biking while carrying two awkwardly large items.


I played the pack mule on a regular basis in my early picking days. I’d find some kind of awkward item, put it up on my handlebars or hold it off the the side and get it home somehow. The most ridiculous item I ever hauled home was probably the 67.3 pound U-Matic VTR that I biked (very gingerly!) home on my handlebars three summers ago. That was pretty nuts, and all for something I ended up giving away for free on Craigslist.

Those were different times! I don’t bike as much now, but more than that I’m just not as motivated to expend great effort bringing random stuff home anymore – unless of course I think it can make me some money.


The pieces (which appear to be lithograph prints) are signed by Ghitta Caiserman-Roth (1923-2005), a somewhat well-known Canadian Jewish artist from Montreal. She produced some very interesting and beautiful art, some of which can been seen here or by doing a Google image search.


The work above is titled “Gift”, while this one is titled “Open Windows.” Both are numbered 24/35 and measure around 30 x 22.25″. I’d guess they were made in the early 1970s. They aren’t dated, and I can’t find any reference to them on the internet. However, I was able to find a “Gift III” that was apparently made in 1974 (is is being sold for 1000 US$, or nearly 1400$ Canadian!).


I doubt these will net me 1400$ each (that work is an original, for starters), but I suspect they could sell for a very pleasant amount regardless. First, I’ll have to make sure they’re authentic, though they look pretty legit to me. Then I’ll have to figure out how to sell them. It seems that several galleries and auction houses are looking for her work. It’ll probably be easiest to figure something out with them, as they presumably could also authenticate the works.

I’ll let you know what happens one way or the other. In the meantime, if you have any tips or information let us know in the comments!


Last week was sort of quiet, probably because many people were preparing for holiday celebrations. Still, I saved a bit of decent stuff. In front of a house in TMR I found a bunch of old books …


… and some late 60s early 70s McGill University ephemera.


I also saved a collection of old pamphlets and publications, many of which came from Expo 67.



This person seemed to have a particular interest in the Soviet pavilion.


Otherwise, I came across an open box containing three camera lenses, some mugs, a bit of jewelry and some miscellaneous junk on a rainy night in TMR; …


… a large aquarium, which seems to be in fine condition (Hampstead);


… an upholstered chair with a distinct modern feel (there was a second, but it was busted and wouldn’t have fit in the car anyways – Hampstead);



… a perfectly functional microwave (TMR);


… and a small collection of large format film negatives, all of which seem to be advertising-related photos (Hampstead). My favourite of the bunch was this cool shot of a Laurentide ale, which is a beer made by Molson and only available in Quebec. The picture was probably taken in the early 1980s.

I’m hoping for some good luck this week! I’ll keep you posted. I’m also currently working on a “Best of 2015” post, which I expect to publish before the New Year. Check back for that, as it should be a fun time!

Rosemont cannonball


I used to do all my trash picking by bike. I’d often ride three or four hours a day, sometimes six or eight if I was particularly motivated. As you can imagine all this biking kept me in pretty good shape. However, since I started using a car the bike has fallen by the wayside, to the point where I barely used it at all. Needless to say I’m not in particularly good shape anymore.

I realized recently that I missed exercise, that it makes me feel good – both mentally and physically – to get the heart pumping. I’ve been taking a lot more bike rides, and when I do I generally go somewhere that might have garbage. This recently took me to Rosemont (between St Laurent and Papineau), a neighbourhood I’ve neglected since the beginning of the car era even though it was just a short bike ride away.


One box on the curb held a bunch of sewing supplies and other junk. More interesting though was the large (approximately 5″ wide) metal ball that found its way to the corner of the box. It weighed a ton (or at least felt like it) and I concluded that it was a solid chunk of cast iron.

My first thought was that it might be a cannonball. It was heavy, round, and looked old. What else could it be? Could there be any other purpose for a large cast iron sphere? Then I started wondering how cannonballs worked. I worried… Were they filled with explosives? Did they explode when they hit the ground like in the movies? Could this thing potentially blow me up? I didn’t want that. However, based on its weight and shape I really didn’t think that there could be anything inside the ball outside of more cast iron. I biked it home, moving quite gingerly on the off chance that I was wrong.


I brought it home and showed it to my room-mate. His first thought that it was a shot put ball, and he was correct. On the ball is engraved the number 12, which is apparently the weight in pounds typically used in high school competitions. (Olympians use 16 pound balls, FYI). It felt a lot heavier, which I suppose is because the weight is so dense.

I did a bit of research and found out more information about cannonballs. The vast majority were solid balls of stone, lead, or iron, meaning that some cannonballs were pretty similar to shot put balls, and that shot put balls could potentially be fired from a suitable cannon. Cannonballs didn’t explode on impact as you often see in movies – they were more like bouncing bowling balls that mangled anyone in their path. Cannonballs were the most common projectile used in the American Civil War, though different types of exploding projectiles came into use around this time as well. These exploding cannonballs are still quite dangerous: one man was killed while restoring one in 2008.

While a (non-exploding) cannonball would have been a cool find, I appreciate having shot-put ball. Maybe I’ll take it to the park and see how far I can throw it without blowing out my shoulder. The world record for a 16 pounder is just over 23 meters. I’d be surprised if I could throw this 12 pounder half that distance!



There’s been so much good trash lately that it’s been impossible to keep up. Finds that I’d otherwise have mentioned (particularly in the winter when things are slower) are now being left aside. Regardless, I still have a whole ton of stuff from the last week or two that I definitely want to post here, so if everything goes well I should have a few new posts for you soon.

I was pretty busy yesterday. I found some neat stuff in Rosemont in the evening (I’ll post those finds sometime soon!) and at night went to check out the place in Westmount that I featured in my last post. Along the way however I stopped at this spot in Cote-des-Neiges. I saw a few interesting things here on the previous trash day, and the items being thrown out (including old sewing stuff, a portable record player, and many full expired cans of food) indicated that someone was probably clearing house. I made a mental note to check back in the future, and it paid off big time.


I love seeing cases like this because there are usually cool old machines inside. It was hiding underneath a black trash bag at the center of the pile.


This case contained a cool old portable Singer electric sewing machine! I tested it and it works great.


I just looked this up on eBay. I was thinking that it might be worth a hundred, maybe two hundred dollars. However, it might actually be worth closer to 600$. That’s a lot of money! It’s a beautiful machine, and it’s in really great condition for its age. It also comes with a bunch of accessories. It’s marked as being made in 1951, which was Singer’s 100th year in business.


This cool Vervant’s Oriental Rugs ashtray was the only non-sewing related item inside the Singer’s accessory tray.


There was more sewing stuff too.


None of it was particularly exciting, but I did think this thimble was cooler than most others, even if it’s missing all but one spot of its red enamel.


In one bag there were several books and some records.


Another bag contained some old letters, postcards and photos. Oddly, some of them were ripped to pieces, while others were not. A significant amount of the photos were related to swimming and probably from the 1940s. The letters look to have been written in a Slavic language.


One bag contained a bunch of newspaper clippings, most of which looked to be from the 1940s and relating to swimming competitions.


I found a stained navy-style hat …


… that was apparently made in Montreal by a Principle Cap & Sportswear in 1952.


I also saved some cool cat-eye sunglasses by Martin Wells. These are pretty hip right now and should make me at least 50$. I sold a different pair of Martin Wells frames not too long ago.


I looked in one bag and saw one of my favourite garbage-related sights: a collection of baubles! Thankfully, they were all inside this one smaller plastic bag, so I didn’t have to rummage around the bottom of the bag as I usually have to.


There were several key-chains and some pins. The Aztec key-chain on the left is marked as being sterling silver.


However it was the collection of cufflinks that truly made the collection great. Most are classic vintage pieces, but it was the pair on the bottom right that stuck out most to me. I instantly recognized them as the work of Guy Vidal, the renown Quebec brutalist jewelry designer. I found a bunch of his stuff a few months ago and a reader helped me identify the pieces as his before I sold them at yard sale prices. I sold a pair of earrings by him for around 100$, and I expect the cufflinks to go for a similar amount (though I will be tempted to keep them for myself! I really like Vidal’s work). The things you learn in this business!


These cufflinks are marked 750, or 18k gold. They weigh around 6.6 grams, so if they’re indeed 18k gold (they do look the part) they’re work around 200$ in scrap gold value. Not bad!


I’m not done yet though! These two bags had labels on them indicating that they were full of silverware.


True to their word, they did contain a bunch of nice silver plate cutlery. A few average stainless pieces were mixed in as well.


A few of the smaller pieces were particularly nice. The tongs (presumably made for sugar cubes) on the far left are marked Heirloom Sterling; the spoon second from the left is marked Birks Sterling; and the spoon third from the left is marked 800 silver. A few others have confusing, foreign, or no markings, so they could be sterling too. The spoon third from the right is an odd one – it has a sort of art deco-y design on the underside (bottom right photo below, click for a better view).



This might be one of the nicest silver pieces though. It’s a tea strainer with a matching crystal drip bowl, both of which are marked as Birks Sterling. I found them in the blue felt bag in the background.


I found a similar one on eBay that sold for close to 100$. This one looks a bit nicer though, and I think if I sold it at a Buy It Now (or set) price instead of at auction (as this one person did) I could get a bit more for it. Again, I’m tempted to keep it as it’s very beautiful and I love loose-leaf tea.



I probably gained over a 1000$ in stuff in just one night here. I’m excited to go back in the next weeks and see what else gets tossed! If this is what someone thinks of as trash, I can only imagine what else they might throw out…


I went to my spot in Westmont after searching through the trash of Cote-des-Neiges. There was nothing there that wasn’t already out when I drove by on Tuesday, long before trash day. I presume these people have finally cleared out.


Most everything there was junk this time around but I did save a few cool things. I found another rock collection, though this one’s not nearly as interesting as the one from the week before …


… an antique pewter baby rattle


(it’s marked W.E.B. Pewter, and seems to sell for around 10$ on eBay)


… and a cool box of shells!


The shells are nice, but it’s the box that makes this a cool find.


I’m not sure how old it is, but from the design I’d guess it was made around the turn of the century or maybe a bit before. I could be wrong, though. What do you think?

I’ve been finding so much stuff these days, and It’s not even the end of the month! Either way, things will be okay if I can keep cranking out blog posts. Things seem to be going a bit faster since I switched to this new format, as this post took only 4-5 hours to finish. It might also help that I’m switching my coffee for tea, as my brain seems to work a bit better (and write a bit faster) when I drink the latter. Anyways, more posts coming soon!