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 found most of the tiny treasures on my first day here. You’ll see this watch again later on.
Those old metal scissors always do well at yard sales. We also have a bus ticket from 1952, a mercury thermometer, a rubber tobacco pouch (“blague automatique”), a metal mirror in a leather pouch (bottom right), and an old print.
I thought this box (which is about the size of a lunchbox) was kinda neat. It’s wooden, hand-painted, and was once sealed with wax stamps. It has a coin slot in the back, so maybe it was made to hold cash. It’s pretty dirty, but would probably clean up pretty nice. I’d guess it’s from at least the 1930s, maybe earlier. I’ve never seen anything like it, so please let me know if you have!
This spot produced a fair bit of silver. Those two picture frames were 800 German silver, and sold together on eBay for 50$. The stubby little candle holder is British, made in Birmingham in the late 20s if I remember right.
Let’s finish with the little bits of jewelry. There’s a lot of good stuff here. That brooch near the top left is unmarked but probably silver & tortoiseshell, and the t-bar & c-clasp date it to the late 1800s.
I realized after taking this photo that the long chain connected to the pin on the left was probably supposed to be attached to the shorter, incomplete looking chain. That piece is also unmarked but probably silver, perhaps adorned with little bits of gold as well. It probably dates to the same time period as the brooch, given that it has the t-bar pin and likely once had the c clasp (it has since broken off). I’ve been told that similar pieces are made for holding watches, but I can’t picture how that would work. If someone can post a video of one being used, that would be helpful!
The watch you saw earlier has a transparent back, so it’s probably a salesman’s sample. It doesn’t work, but it’s still cool. I have no idea what that doohickey with the orange cap is. The metal looks like silver, and the cap material looks like Bakelite. The cap comes off pretty easily, and that resin looking stuff on the inside smells like sappy incense.
Otherwise, there’s some scrap quality gold and silver, like that long dangle earring missing all its stones (18k), the busted watch (farthest to the left, 14k), and that triangle shaped thing (probably off a fancy portfolio or album of some kind, 800 German silver).
My most valuable find though was probably this old Masonic medal. It’s definitely the best Mason piece I’ve found to date. Each segment is marked 585 (14k), indicating that it was likely made in Europe, and the eye is enameled. I don’t know much about the Masons, so please help me out if you can! I wonder if that oval piece (which you can see in the first piece) has a meaning I’m not aware of.
Regardless, there’s about 9 gram of 14k gold in there, making it worth over 300$ in scrap. But it’s definitely not scrap, and should sell for a fair bit more than that.
All in all this was a pretty exciting spot, even if it lasted just a couple weeks!
I haven’t been super lucky lately, but my runs have been reasonably productive anyways thanks to the occasional quality find. For example, a few weeks ago I spotted this ring in a bag alongside some other less exciting junk. It must have been a wedding band, given the date and pithy statement of love engraved on the inside.
I noticed a moving sale announced at the same house not long after. It’s a bit unusual to throw out items of value right before you do a sale, but perhaps the tosser didn’t want anyone else to own it. I imagine it was thrown out because of a divorce, as you tend to hold onto these things otherwise.
The ring is 14k gold and fairly hefty at 9.17g. That makes it worth around 337 CAD$ at current scrap prices, minus the jeweler’s cut of course (~15%). Needless to say this ring helped to make an otherwise slow week of garbage reasonably profitable. There’s no real resale value here, so it’ll soon be melted down and transformed into something else.
A spot in Cartierville provided two larger pieces of sterling, including a (candy?) dish made by Birks and a small silver cup. Neither piece is worth much more than scrap, though the dish may have been if it wasn’t monogrammed. Together they weigh 270 grams, which should earn me about 135$ as sterling is currently worth about 50 cents a gram. 135$ doesn’t make my week, but it definitely makes the trip worthwhile.
Last week I tried some different routes in hopes of improving my luck. That doesn’t always work, but on one run I was rewarded with a fair bit of quality junk, including this cute silver picture frame I found with a larger collection of junkier examples.
The hallmarks indicate that it was made by a William Henry Sparrow of London in 1916. This piece definitely punches above its weight in scrap, and I expect it to sell for between 60-80$ (eventually).
I did that route again this week and found some gold, so hopefully this marks the beginning of a new trend.
I was planning on writing a longer post, but I’ve got writers block again so I decided to keep this one short. My last yard sale of the season might take place this coming Saturday, assuming the weather holds up. For the most up to date yard sale info & announcements sign up for my new mailing list or keep an eye on my Instagram stories!
2018 was an excellent year for garbage – I think this top ten list is my most valuable to date!
The year also saw some changes to the way I do business. For one, I finally discovered the local auction house around the middle of June. It’s been a great way to unload things quickly and effortlessly while getting decent money for my finds. I can’t understate how much this has reduced the accumulation in my storage spaces, something that’s caused me a fair bit of stress over the years. It also reduces my reliance on eBay, though I’ll continue to use it for many items, especially smaller ones. I haven’t yet done the math, but I think my auction sales outpaced my eBay earnings in the second half of 2018. That’s due in part to the epic purge I undertook this summer, but I expect the auction house will be a prime source of income going forward.
I also started leaving the house earlier when going on evening trash runs. For years I left at around 10:30pm, but one day (I’m not sure when) I realized that I could leave earlier and see the same amount of garbage. Now I start my runs around 8:30pm, which makes it easier to get to bed at a reasonable hour and perhaps go out in the morning as well. I’m not sure why it took me so long to figure this out, but I guess old habits die hard.
Finally, much of the city used to have two garbage collection days per week. However, in recent years they’ve been slowly replacing (one borough at a time) one of those garbage days with a compost day. Now there are very few places that have two trash pickups a week. That doesn’t mean much for most people, but for me it’s great news because all of the garbage is now concentrated on a single trash day. It makes every run a little more productive, and I’m sure the new compost days contributed to this being my best year to date.
Anyways, enough chatter. Here are my top ten finds of 2018!
10 – Tchotchke cabinet. Most people seem to recognize this as a printers tray. Personally, I think it had a different purpose. Each hole was labelled with a place name (most of which were in Quebec), and inside were pieces of paper with even more place names written on them. It’s also a lot sturdier than most of the printers trays I’ve seen. Regardless, it’s a great piece that will likely be used to display miscellaneous junk going forward. It’s currently “on loan” with a friend, I might take it back when I have a vision for it. Also, I kept the pieces of paper – one day I might map out all the places in hopes of finding out what unifies them. Found under a pile of junk in Rosemont.
9 – Collection of lab Pyrex. I was too busy to take many pictures, but over a few weeks I found hundreds of pieces (most of which were in their original boxes) ranging from the humble beaker and Erlenmeyer flask to the more exceptional models you see here. Thank goodness I had discovered the auction house by then as I’m not sure what I would have done with it all otherwise. Without looking at the numbers I’d guess that the collection netted me somewhere around 500$. Found in the Mile End.
8 – Old platters. As mentioned in my last post. These could move up in the rankings depending on their value, but I have more research to do before I can say anything with confidence. Regardless, they’re very beautiful and I expect that they’re eBay-worthy. Found in the Golden Square Mile.
7 – Expensive perfume collection. Most of the nice perfumes I find are vintage. This collection, however, was relatively fresh and fairly expensive. The Kilian “Smoke for the Soul” sold for 115$, the “Tuscan Scent” by Salvatore Ferragamo sold for 120$, and the Byredo “Super Cedar” went for 50$. Those were all friendly rates as well – they would have gone for a bit more than that on eBay. Found in Westmount.
6 – 1950s St Laurent oil quart. Petroliana is very popular these days, and the oil tin has become a desirable collectors item. This one was pretty rare – I couldn’t find another like it online. So, I wasn’t totally surprised when it sold for 355$ via eBay auction. That still seems like a lot of money to pay for a tin, but I’m not complaining. Found in Nouveau-Bordeaux.
5 – Uranium glass lamp. This thing sat in my basement for months before I thought to check and see if that green hue was a result of uranium. Sure enough, it glowed very nicely under UV light (as you can see below). The glass was broken in a couple of places, but thankfully I found the pieces and was able to repair it so that the flaws weren’t too noticeable. It’s a great piece, and it definitely gains some value being uranium glass. Found in TMR.
4 – Silverware collection. This bag contained a collection of old cutlery, some of which was 80% and 92.5% (sterling) silver. Overall I saved over a kilogram of solid silver. I melted the damaged pieces and listed the nicer ones on eBay, many of which you can see below. I still have yet to figure out the origins of two pieces, including a knife with a dragon motif. If you know anything about them please let me know! Found near Vendome metro.
3 – Cold hard cash. 2018 was my easily my best year ever in terms of finding cash. I saved 307 USD (nearly 400 CAD) in Nouveau-Bordeaux, 262$ in a fake fireplace in the Mile End, 140$ in some shirt pockets in the Plateau, and a coin collection featuring old bills and several silver coins. On a related note, I also found 225$ in unused gift cards, besting my previous best of 68$. I doubt I’ll get nearly as lucky in 2019, but you can never know for sure.
2 – Austrian 4 ducat gold coin in a 18k gold frame on an 18k gold chain. God only knows why someone threw this out – my guess is that it was a gift to a privileged kid who didn’t know any better. Either way, it ended up being a nice little windfall for me. This ducat coin is pretty common, so I wasn’t going to get much above scrap weight for it. Still, I was able to sell it to my jeweler for around 1000$. This is the best find that I don’t remember finding – sometimes, especially when it’s cold I’ll throw things in the car and figure it out later. The one thing I know for sure is that it came from a certain rich neighbourhood.
1 – Solid 18k gold Cross fountain pen. My best find of the year was one that didn’t made the blog. It came to me in the summer, right when I was super busy switching garages and trying to get on top of my overwhelming collection of junk. I usually like to take my time posting my more awesome finds anyways, but before I knew it months had passed and I figured I might as well save it for the top 10. This Cross pen looks like most other Cross pens, the main difference being that instead of being gold-filled (as many are) it’s made from solid 18k gold. This is an upper class pen, one that only CEOs and others in the 1% could ever hope to afford. I have it listed on eBay for 1500$, which I think is a reasonable price. I expect it will take a while to sell, however, as the market for fountain pens costing over 1000$ is fairly small. Found in Outremont.
2019 is off to a bit of a slow start. I’ve made some good finds, but nothing that seems worthy of next year’s top-ten. However, I’m sure the awesome garbage will come eventually, especially after the weather improves!