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.
In the past I never gave sinks a second glance, but this year I’ve picked up a bunch. I have more storage space than I used to, making them less of a burden in that way, and I’m also a sucker for vintage architectural elements. But the main reason for the change was that I thought they could make me some money.
The first one I saved was this pink one from the early 60s. I brought it to the auction house, and ended up buying it back for 12$. Not a great result, but sometimes you need to put the extra work in if you want to make the extra money. I ended up listing it on Kijiji, and eventually the sink sold for 50$.
I found this late 50s green / jadeite sink outside an apartment building off Cote-des-Neiges.
This one cleaned up pretty well, and also sold for 50$, though it did take maybe a month and a half to find a buyer.
My biggest haul of sinks came from an apartment building near downtown. I picked up five yellow ones, which I think date to the late 60s. They were pretty dirty, but I cleaned them up pretty good with a hose and some elbow grease. I haven’t had much luck selling them so far though. It’s pretty clear that sinks are pretty slow movers, but I’d like to open up that space in my garage eventually!
My most recent addition is this cast iron pedestal sink, which I found on Monday night in Cote-des-Neiges.
This beast was near the upper limit of what I can reasonably carry & lift, which I’d guess is about 75 pounds.
It was made in Port Hope, Ontario. I thought it was older, but I think it was actually made in 1953.
The main issue: it was dirty. The grunge on the bottom looked like damp, caked-on cardboard, which isn’t the worst thing to clean off, but it still looked pretty gross.
Here’s how it looks after about 15 minutes of effort. Already the sides are looking pretty clean, and a fair bit of the grunge has been removed. I’m going to use a plastic scraper tool to get rid of the rest of the cardboard, and then hopefully I can get the white of the enamel back without much effort.
We’ll see how it goes. Perhaps I’ll come to regret lugging this thing to my garage, but for now I’m optimistic that it’ll sell for something. If you have any experience in the sink market, please share your thoughts in the comments! Also, sink cleaning advice would be much appreciated.
This spot in upper Outremont was good to me for about six weeks. I met one of the tossers the first day. She seemed okay with my presence, and even gave me some rollerskates. But on the last day she asked me to leave her trash alone, and threatened to bring it back inside her property if I didn’t. Fortunately the best had already made it to the curb, but the change of heart was discouraging nonetheless.
One day I found a suitcase filled with video games mostly for the Wii. Easy money!
Another day I found a freezer bag full of meat. I don’t usually take frozen food, but this time I took the chance. The meat was still ice cold and rock solid when I found it, and it was pretty clear that these were high quality (often organic) cuts. There was some fish in there as well which was apparently sport-caught in Haida Gwaii BC.
I’m a bit squeamish when it comes to meat, especially garbage meat, but I figured that my friends might be able to view it more rationally. It did spend a few months in the freezer (again), but eventually we tried it and no one got sick – in fact it was pretty delicious. So, that ended up being a nice treat, and it’s good that the animals didn’t die for nothing. But I’m curious as to what you would have done in the same situation, see the poll below!
On another occasion I filled a Halloween bucket full of miscellaneous crap.
There’s lots of items on the junk / quality junk spectrum here. Some of it sold at my yard sales, while some ended up in free boxes on the curb.
The Gucci watch box was nice, but my best find here was the Le Chateau gift card which held about 37.46$. I’m not sure what I’d buy there, however.
Again, my best finds here are probably the two Renaud Bray gift cards. One was worth 25$, the other about 58$. Not bad! Renaud Bray is a largely French book store, but they do sell some useful stuff like candy and printer paper. That beaded Birks clutch is vintage and cool, and those unopened cassettes ended up in an auction lot with other unopened cassettes. The soap is now part of my collection of soaps – my hope is that I never have to buy any again, even after gifting some to my mom.
Here’s the jewels and perfumes. Also, more fancy soap for my collection. To be honest I was hoping for more gold, but I guess I shouldn’t be greedy. That straight razor pendant is 10k gold, and a few other pieces are silver. More valuable is that CB “I hate perfume,” which smells like Russian tea and sells for 110 USD. Given that the bottle is pretty full, it should sell for a good price (if I don’t keep it myself, that is).
These folks also threw out a lot of eyeglasses, most of which were made by designers. A few are by Alain Mikli, and others were made by Prada, Paul Smith, and Ray-Ban. Frames generally take a while to sell, but they can go for pretty good prices.
Last but not least is a soapstone carving that survived the tossing in reasonably good condition. If I remember correctly it sold for 44$ at auction. It seems like I’ve found more soapstone than usual this year.
Otherwise, I finally bit the bullet and hired an old friend to help me with my emails. I was about a year behind, and it was time to accept that I just suck at that aspect of my job. She’s only helped me for a couple hours so far, but I definitely think it will help me stay on top of things going forward. (I still hope to respond to those past emails as well).
I also got her to make me a mailing list for yard sales and such. At some point I might add a script to the bottom of this page (it doesn’t seem to be working at the moment), but for now you can sign up by clicking this link. Unfortunately yard sale season is nearly over, but at least it’ll be set up for next year. Either way, my next and probably second last sale is probably going to be this Saturday, when the weather is supposed to be (relatively) warm and sunny. Again, it will be at 4096 Coloniale starting round 11:30.
Last week I went on my first ever scrap metal run. The auction house has really helped take the pressure off my storage spaces, so I’ve been more willing to devote a bit of room to found metal.
Here’s a small sample of what I brought. Most of this stuff turned out to be junk because they pay for steel and other ferrous metals (ie: those with iron in them) by the tonne. This particular junkyard says they’ll only take steel, for example if you have at least 300 pounds. So, I ended up giving mine to some other scrappers sorting metal in their truck just down the street. That cymbal was good though (brass I think), and the grungy espresso pot was probably aluminum.
Copper is where the money’s at, at least for me. Insulated copper wire (ICW) is pretty decent…
… but copper tubing and pipe is the best. I found that big roll of copper in Nouveau Bordeaux months ago – I think it ended up being worth about 40$ on its own. I also picked up a couple long copper pipes a couple weeks back in Westmount, which you can see in the trunk of my car.
Going to the scrapyard was definitely a learning experience. We didn’t sort our things beforehand (I heard they did it for you) but apparently we should have. Fortunately my roommates were there to help, and the guy dealing with us was pretty helpful as well. I told him I was a “virgin” to the scrap scene which he seemed to find funny. Anyways, in this picture we can see the scale on the left, and a magnet (the round orange thing) on the beam in the middle.
I quickly realized that the magnet is an important part of the scrap industry. Ferrous metals, which are magnetic, tend to be less valuable than the non-ferrous, non-magnetic metals like copper and brass, and sometimes the easiest way to differentiate them is to see how they react (or don’t react) to the magnet. Thankfully we were each given free key chain magnets on the way out, which should make future sorting easier!
Even though about half of what I brought was junk I still earned a decent chunk of change – 111.45$ in all. It was definitely worth the effort! I now know better what to look for too. Copper and brass are good, aluminum is decent (old pots can be a good source), and batteries & motors are good as well. The ferrous metals definitely aren’t for me, as there’s no way I can fit a metric tonne of it in my little hatchback. I don’t intend on getting super into scrap, but if it’s just sitting around waiting for the garbage truck I might as well take it!
I recently read a book called “Junkyard Planet” by Adam Minter that provides an interesting look at the global scrap metal industry. I’d recommend it if you’re interested in knowing what happens to all this junk! In short, most of it goes to China because they’re one of the fastest developing economies and societies in the world – they need all this scrap metal to build new infrastructure. The different recycling practices used can be both brilliant and problematic, but overall it’s probably still better than mining new materials. The author concludes that recycling isn’t perfect, and that the best way to do good to the environment is for people to buy less to begin with. There’s lots of other interesting info in there, however. I linked to the eBay listings (I get a small cut if you buy via that link), but you can also try Amazon and maybe get a better deal.
I still like ferrous metal though, especially when they’re in the form of a bike. I’ve had good luck lately finding old bikes on the curb. This one was put out after that snowstorm a couple weeks back.
It was a cool vintage 70s Mercier with all original French parts, minus the seat. I loved the yellow color but this bike was made for someone much taller than me. I sold it pretty quickly for 90$. I don’t use Kijiji much these days, but I’ve been using it for bikes because I know there’s a lot of local people cruising those pages regularly (several of my friends are bike nerds).
Here’s an old Supercycle I found on the curb in Rosemont. This one was actually ready to go, other than the flat tires (which still held air when I pumped them up). It sold to someone on Instagram for 90$.
This Westmount pile contained three whole bikes. There was a decent Korean road bike that I’m trying to get 50$ for, an Italian Torpado that I sold for 50$, and a very unusual bike.
It’s a bicycle made for two, a folding one at that! It was made by Graziella in Italy sometime in the late 60s or early 70s and weighs an absolute tonne (getting it in the car was a challenge!). It needs some work, but I’d guess that I can get a couple hundred bucks for it. Montreal is a great place to sell bikes, and there’s always someone looking for an interesting project.
Still, my favourite metals are still silver and gold. This pile in Rosemont was an unlikely source. The garbage bags used were so cheap you could basically see through them.
In one of the bags I found a small three tiered Sterilite storage cabinet filled with jewelry. Most of it was actual garbage, but fortunately there were also precious metals to be saved.
On the left is the gold, and on the right is the silver (the thimble is probably just plated, but it’s a nice piece regardless). A lot of the gold is scrap, but there were a couple of quality pieces. For example, the ring on the far left in the middle is 800 (80%, or 19.2k) Portuguese gold and is adorned with a pearl and a few small diamonds. The hallmark looks like the one pictured here. The little heart shaped pendant, which was marked as 10k gold is also nice. I decided to give both a try at the auction house. I’ll be happy if I can get something above the scrap value for either piece.
This part of Rosemont isn’t particularly wealthy, but I guess I was just in the right place at the right time. I’ve generally had a lot of luck on the gold and silver front lately, and I’ll share more of those finds soon enough!
Spring cleaning season is finally here and I expect this coming week to be a good one. McGill move-out day is also quickly approaching… My first yard sale should happen sometime soon, perhaps next weekend if all goes well! I’ll let you know here if that’s a go.