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.
One of my spots has offered a nearly overwhelming amount of quality trash in recent weeks & months. I have several boxes of stuff from this house stashed away, and it’s hard to know where to start when it comes to sorting & documenting it all. A good number of my finds have been quite old, dating back to the late 1800s to early 1900s, and there’s a lot of things I’ve never really dealt with before. The superstitious part of me hesitates to say more than that right now – I’m still finding stuff here, and don’t want the trash supply to end – but needless to say I’ve found some interesting junk!
I love old jars, bottles, tins, containers and original packaging. That John Oakey’s Wellington Knife Polish seems to be just about full and probably dates to the late 1800s.
This plastic beverage set probably dates to the 1960s. I would never use it, but it could be a fun decor piece.
These products are a little more practical. I like the graphic design on that Dor-Tite weather strip, which I think dates to the 1930s (early 40s at the latest). The set of pot menders are also pretty cute.
I’ve found several of those vintage slap-chops before, but never one with its original label. The turkey baster and oven thermometer are still in their original boxes. It’s too bad that the box for that 1930s electric mixer isn’t in better shape, but the mixer itself looks pretty good for its age.
On the left is a cool egg beater cup that was patented way back in 1888. Unfortunately there’s a big chunk out of the back, but I still think it could make a cool decoration or vase. You can get a better look by checking out a similar model on Worthpoint (I realize now, after looking at this listing that I also have the top metal piece. Good to know!).
These musical items were all stored inside that envelope on the left. Apparently R.S. Williams & Sons was a Toronto-based manufacturer of musical instruments back in the day. They also seem to have had a store, which at this time was located at 143 Yonge St.
There’s still a few of those C.F. Albert Violin String Gauges kicking around, though I don’t know how many have their original paper sleeve. That “tonologue” seems to be a little harder to find though, probably because it’s made from paper instead of brass. I found reference to it in this 1886 dictionary of musical instruments, and a few newspaper references indicating that it was probably invented around 1875. I wasn’t able to find any pictures of one, or any for sale, so maybe it’s quite rare by this point.
I’ve found a lot of cool paper stuff here. It’s particularly challenging to deal with, given that old paper is often fragile and hard to display for sale. I think this c.1930s book store envelope would be fun decoration if framed.
I’ve also found a lot of very cool photos, like these shots of Llanfairfechan in Wales. The top two look to be the same shot, but the colors tones are a little different. They’re printed on very thin sheets of paper, and I don’t know if they’re originals or prints or original prints. The photo in the purple velvet frame is stuck to a piece of glass, and I’ve never seen anything quite like it before. Any help dating these photos would be appreciated!
Let’s finish with this thing. I have no idea what it is. It looks to be made from bone, and the top part screws off from the rest for whatever reason. It’s about the size of a pen, but I don’t think it’s a pen. Any ideas?
I named this post “Part one of a million” because it feels like it’s going to take a million posts to share all this stuff. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s true that this spot is already one of my best volume producers of all time.
There’s snow outside, but let’s go back to the summer again. I don’t want to give too much away, but this intriguing pile sat out back from an antiques-related business. I’d guess that the things I found here were rejects, perhaps all from one specific estate.
I don’t think anything I found here was super valuable, but I saved enough quality junk to make my day. Those leather covered batons sold for a bit at auction, and that shoe pincushion came from Expo 67 (“Expo 1967” is written in sharpie on the bottom).
That clay pipe was an easy sell at the auction (28$). Other items sold at my yard sales or ended up in one of my free piles. A few are still sitting around my garage, waiting for me to research or test them further, like that Gruen mantle clock in the first picture.
I found a bit of watchmaking stuff. The collection didn’t sell for too much at auction (12$), but it was easy money regardless.
The dish (turned ashtray) on the left is sterling silver. It’s not an exceptional piece or anything, but I still don’t know why anything would throw away sterling! It’s about 26 grams, so it’s worth around 13$ for scrap. The Hensoldt-Wetzlar doohickey is a rangefinder of some kind, and should be worth a little bit on eBay.
My favourite find here might have been the figurines, many of which were inside this little case.
Surprisingly most survived the journey unscathed (if a bit dirty). The frogs might be my favourite here, it’s not too often you find them in this size.
I also liked this old ink bottles, which I’d guess are from the 20s or 30s. That little claw pendant might be unmarked silver, but I haven’t tested it yet. The canister thing on the right is also interesting.
This isn’t the best picture, but inside is some kind of creature that’s supposed to spring out at you (it’s springing days are over, however). I’m not sure what the material is, but overall it looks fairly vintage. I’d guess it was made in China.
I also liked this piece. It looks like jade, and has “New York World’s Fair 1939” etched on the base. It’s in pretty good condition outside of a large chip off the vase, which fortunately is on the back side and not too distracting. I don’t think it’s super valuable, but it’s neat and probably worth selling on eBay.
Now that the seasons have changed I feel a need to get these summer finds posted. I have lots of photos waiting to be shared, but I continue to struggle with writer’s block or maybe just distraction. I’ll try to overcome that and post again soon.
I know, I haven’t posted in about a month. There wasn’t any particular reason for that, I just didn’t feel inspired to write for a while. I guess that’s what they call writer’s block. Sometimes I wonder if I should move the blog in a new direction & focus more on certain aspects of trash picking, post more, post less, keep things more or less the same, or quit altogether (I mostly feel that last one when I burn out). As you can tell I have a tendency to overthink, and sometimes that leads to inaction.
For now, the plan is to keep the blog more or less the same, but if you have any blog-related ideas or suggestions please feel free to share them in the comment!
Last week was a good one for garbage, though moving day had little to do with it. I enjoyed cruising around looking at the massive piles of trash, but I don’t generally find anything too exciting because a) there’s lots of competition and b) most of the people moving don’t have enough money to toss out great stuff willy nilly. You never know with garbage, but from my experience moving day is mostly a fun phenomenon and not a boon to business.
The three weeks before last were pretty mediocre, but I can’t complain about the year overall. I still have lots of pictures to share here from my very productive spring…
I can complain though about the number of buttheads I’ve met lately, particularly in Westmount. One lady screamed at me for saving the vintage alarm clocks & other cool things she was throwing out (she might have set an all time decibel record actually). A guy just this past Friday – after saying, if somewhat belligerently that I could look through the bags as long as I tied them up right (I always do) – later asked if I had any “self-respect,” decided I had none, and threatened to call the police. Oh yeah, there was that older guy in a bathrobe asking if he “[had] to call the police” for the crime of saving quality junk.
After all my years of garbage picking I’m finding that threat to call the police less threatening. At night it’s a different story, because I can understand how someone might feel paranoid and the police are more suspicious as well. But at midday? Sure, call the cops, I’m sure they have nothing better to do than to ensure that your alarm clocks, old books and dusty dishes get sent to the dump. Even if they did show up, they’d probably just tell me to leave rather than arrest me (they second idiot, who I little patience for, asked “do you want to get arrested?” and seemed to take himself seriously).
Anyways, in the moment these people don’t bother me too much, but I’d be lying if a string of cases like this (there have been other, relatively minor incidents as well) didn’t affect my mindset and confidence somewhat. There’s definitely a segment of society that thinks of scavengers as sub-human, immoral, or simply undesirable, and there’s no real way to convince them otherwise in that moment. And who knows, maybe they’re right? While I’m now making a decent living from other people’s trash, perhaps I’m “lowering myself” somehow by doing so? Are the vague privacy concerns of people I don’t know and don’t care about more valuable than the economic, environmental, and historical benefits of saving their discards?
I don’t think so, but it’d be nice to hear otherwise. So, for my sake and the sake of trash pickers everywhere I’d appreciate if you shared in the comments some reasons why you think scavengers are a-ok in your books!
Regardless, garbage picking is unpredictable and it wasn’t that long ago where I felt like I was only meeting nice folks on the curb. I’ll post about one of those positive experiences soon enough, and in the meantime I’ll hope that my luck improves on that front.
Anyways, today I’ll share some garbage from rich people who, while wasteful, weren’t worthy of a dedicated post. I saved a bunch of stuff from this spot in Hampstead, including some lego, a fur coat, several lamps, and a Portuguese tureen that made it to the curb undamaged. It sold for 28$ at auction, and you can see better pictures of it here.
Here’s another quality tureen I found that same night. I forget what the brand is, but I remember that they were selling for around 400$ on eBay. Unfortunately, mine has a little chunk out of it around the top of the vessel. It’s not that noticeable and is likely easy to repair, but unfortunately that bit of damage kills the resale value.
One night I saved a whole bunch of food, much of which wasn’t expired or lightly expired, and much of which has since been eaten!
I also found some decent housewares, like this bag of utensils I saved and sold for 7$ at a recent sale…
… and this box of silver plate that sold for 18$ at auction. You’d think it’d be worth more, but today’s market is trending minimalist and many people don’t want more than one set of cutlery.
On another night I found this ice bucket, and then filled it with more quality junk including a few figurines. The Zebra is notable in that it’s an Abraham Palatnik piece – you might remember that I found a different one among that giant collection of owls some time ago. It’s got a couple of chips, but still looks cool and should sell for a bit of cash.
My favourite find was that cup, with turned out to be solid sterling silver. It weighs about 81g, making it worth about 40$ for scrap, but I might just keep it so that I can feel fancy.
I was hoping these clearly rich folks would toss some gold as well, but it was not to be.
Thankfully, some other rich people were more generous on that front. At first it was just cans of unexpired tuna, which my cat and I ate. There was also a treasure trove (maybe forty cans in total) of wet food for kitty, though she was too picky to eat most of it (she prefer the stuff with gravy). However, one night I was digging around the recycling bin and found a few foreign bills. Most of the time the bills I find are worth next to nothing, but as it turns out 620 Hong Kong dollars equals about 100$ Canadian, 6000 Yen equals about 68$, and 100,000 Vietnamese dong equals about 5$.
I also managed to scavenge these bits of gold. The bottom bits are marked 750 (18k gold), and though neither fit the actual earrings I’m confident that they’re about the same quality. I had the stones tested at my local auction house and they are indeed diamonds, perhaps the biggest I’ve found to date. The ones in the gold coloured earrings are about 3.5mm-4mm wide, making them somewhere between .21 and .25 karats (according to my amateur calculations). So, they aren’t monsters but they aren’t chips either.
Other things I found here include: an espresso machine I haven’t gotten around to testing, some video game stuff, a bunch of foreign coins, more food (including lightly expired Zebra pate), and some touristy jewellery & trinkets.
Elsewhere, I found a nice antique floor lamp (which despite ruined wiring sold for 70$ at auction – picture here) and this nice rug. After years of trash picking and researching random junk I still don’t know much about rugs, in large part because most of the ones I see are moth eaten, mildewy, or smell of “pet odors.” This one is in good shape, but I can’t tell if it’s basic or special. If you can help me figure that out, please share in the comments! I included a couple of close up shots below, which you can zoom in on. I know hand-woven rugs are generally more exciting than machine made, but I don’t know how to tell if that’s the case.
I found this with a small collection of keychains in Hampstead. It’s my first time finding a silver bar! Unfortunately silver is only worth 45 or 50 cents a gram, but this was still a fun find that earned me about 20$. One of my dream finds is to find a gold bar, but I’m still waiting on that one…
I was keeping an eye at the trash coming out of this apartment building for a while. Occasionally I’d find some neat old things worthy of the yard sale pile, and I had hopes of finding more.
The trash eventually stopped flowing, and my best finds were probable this cool Egyptian silver brooch/pendant and an old-looking coin.
You can see a couple of hallmarks on the brooch, one around the centre and one around the outer ring. There’s also one on the bail (had to look that word up). It’s a pretty striking piece, is fairly large measuring about 6cm tall, and should sell for a decent sum.
I don’t know much about the coin. The writing looks Iranian to me, but I don’t know for sure. It could be ancient, or it could be a reproduction. I think it might be silver, but haven’t gotten it tested. If you can tell us something about it, please share in the comments!
Let’s finish with some watches. This spot in Nouveau Bordeaux was productive for a brief time.
One day I opened up a bag and saw a whole bunch of watches and other jewellery bits. I brought the haul back to the car excitedly.
There was a lot of crap in that bag but also some goodies. Here’s what I kept (the rest went to a friend who enjoys & does better selling that junkier stuff than I do). There’s nothing mind blowing here, but a few of these guys should sell for ok money on eBay. One of the best might be the vintage Jungfrau on the left (unfortunately, it’s pretty out of focus in this picture). The crystal is cracked, but it’s a quality vintage piece that’s still ticking along nicely.
That bit of jewelry is a little different. It looks like silver, but I don’t see any hallmarks so it’s probably plated. I was hoping the red beads were bakelite, but they don’t smell like it.
Otherwise, here’s a little haul I saved in a wealthy part of town around a month ago. I was hoping for more, but the source dried up soon after. I noticed there was ad for an estate sale at the same house last week, which likely marks an official end to the quality finds.
I wonder why a few of these items didn’t make it to the sale. That ring below the box on the left is hallmarked “Spain Sterling.” The earring below is probably silver as well, and the little picture frame is hallmarked Webster Sterling. Otherwise, we have a cute “Buster Brown” Zippo lighter, a Raymond Weil watch box (which should be good for 30-40$), and a vintage pair of Silhouette glasses.
However, the stars of that night were these watches. All were made by Seiko, other than that BMW one on the right. The one on the left is the least valuable, with a missing piece on top and some bleeding on the screen, but it’s a good addition to a parts/repair lot. Second from the left is a bulky model 0634-5001 from the 70s which is very desirable to some watch collectors. Even if it doesn’t work it should sell for at least 70$.
In the center is an automatic Seiko model 6119-5000 that seems to date to the late 60s and early 70s. It looks great and is still working. Based on what I’m seeing on eBay it should sell for between 75-125$. This one might be my favourite!
Last but not least is a 7T32-6A5A, which I’d guess is from the 90s. It has three subdials, and seems to sell for around 60-100$ in working condition. Overall, that was a pretty good haul!
That’s it for now. I don’t think you’ll have to wait another month for my next post but who knows, maybe I’ll get arrested!