one man’s junk – vince’s, actually

One of my first major publications was a piece for the Globe and Mail’s Facts and Arguments section. It was an essay about diving dumpsters – specifically the one behind the supermarket near my house. We were finding food, all kinds of it: loaf after loaf of delicatessan-style bread, pounds of butter, lots of veggies, and even, one day, a mushroom lasagna.

Dumpster diving is still a way of life for many and I commend them for it, but I’ve hung up the habit. These days instead of looking for second-hand food (I mean, really, how easy is it to find organic carrots and tahini tossed out?), I hit the thrift stores for second-hand treasures.

The latest trips I’ve taken to the Goodwill across town have opened up a whole new interest – oddly, in ceramics. First, there were the mushroom salt and pepper shakers that I couldn’t resist:


After that, it was love at first site with this thing… I mean, really, does this objet d’art not whisper some story about free love and hallucinations of diamond-studded skies? And not only is it adorable, it’s also a piggy bank!


One man’s junk is another man’s treasure, they say. I’m not a man, but I sure know what they mean. This pleasingly-retro item was made using a mold, my potter sister-in-law informed me. She was there when I squeeled in delight upon spotting it. And it wasn’t created anonymously. In fact, Vince crafted it in 1974, as the scrawled signature on the bottom attests.

And now, in keeping with the great cycle of discard and claim, it’s mine. It’s your turn: what was your greatest second-hand find? (answer by clicking Comments at the top)    

8 Responses to one man’s junk – vince’s, actually

  1. Avatar
    John F May 11, 2007 at 6:10 pm #

    About 6 years ago, I found a dishwasher in the Penny Saver. It cost me $50. It was made in 1974, the same year as I. It faithfully kept the squalor at bay for the past several years. People look at me funny when I tell them how much I love my 33 year old dishwasher. Sometimes I think it must’ve been made on my birthday.

  2. writerspice
    writerspice April 21, 2007 at 10:26 am #

    Wow! How I would love to get all of these things in the same room. Imagine it: the mermaid dress tossing off her black velvet cape before sharing a smoke (and accompanying ashtrays) with the purple-silk-lined leather coat and nibbling on cucumber sandwiches served on fine china…. Bring it on!!

  3. Avatar
    Cristel April 21, 2007 at 8:45 am #

    Value Village is a doorway to the afterlife, I think. The harsh white lights, the distinctive tangy smell, the little bits of other people’s history sitting out on plain metal shelves for mortals to touch. It’s eerie and fascinating and addictive.
    My best find at VV was a set of three ashtrays. I don’t even smoke, but when I saw them gleaming at me with their nonchalent 70’s style, I had to have them. They were heavy glass, yet small enough to each fit in the palm of my hand, and they somehow managed to be triangular and curved and sharp, all at once. But the best thing were their colours: one was the deepest, most mesmerizing amethyst, the second a glowing amber, and the third a sensual and roguish smoky grey.
    Who was ever so stylish as to disregard these works of art and do nothing but tap their crumbling cigarette ashes into them? How cool would you have to be to defile such beautiful things and continue drinking your Harvey Wallbanger without pause? I’ll never know the answers to these questions, but I’m grateful for these three small things that slid into my life and sent my thoughts down such interesting, shag-carpeted pathways.

  4. Avatar
    Elouise marshall April 21, 2007 at 6:39 am #

    a few years ago I went to the Goodwill down the street to drop some of my much loved treausres off ( yes even i get rid of stuff from time to time) and found a black shoulder length velvet cape. Now while i had gone down there with the intention of getting rid of thigs this caught my eye. On closer inspection i turned it inside out to see that it had a Christian dior label on the inside! I am not a label desginer person per ce but this being vintage i had to have it and for only 15 bucks it was a steal
    I did go tnd get it upraised by afeind of mine who is a vintage clothing collector nd she figured it to be from about the late forties early fifties.
    As far as my vintage pieces go it has to be one of my best loved

  5. Avatar
    James A. April 21, 2007 at 4:08 am #

    My best find was a tough-looking leather coat that I bought 12 years ago, when I was 22, at the Women’s Auxiliary second-hand store in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta. The coat came down to about mid-thigh on me, and had purple silk lining inside. One of the lapels was dog-eared, but otherwise there was nothing wrong with the coat, and I paid $3.50 for it.

    That summer, which was the summer before my final year of undergrad, I was working as a tree-planter, and I wore the coat to country bars all over Alberta — in Drayton Valley, Hinton, Fort Assiniboine, Whitecourt, etc. — and into B.C. I wore the coat when I came back to Toronto, and I was still wearing it 9 years ago when I moved to New Brunswick, 6 years ago when I moved to Seattle, and 2 years ago when I moved to Missouri. It became more and more tattered, and was even kind of infamous among my students in Seattle.

    Sadly, this past summer, I finally had to throw it away, because it was torn, shredded, and worn utterly beyond repair. I held onto it so long — “my favourite coat” I called it — because I felt as though I was holding onto that summer of tree-planting, which is unlike anything I’d done before, and unlike anything I’ve done since.

  6. Avatar
    Amber Mills April 20, 2007 at 3:54 pm #

    My best thrift store buy comes from a store in Halifax called Junk and Foibles. They often get alot of old antique clothing. One day I walked in and I saw to my shock something I couldn’t believe was only $40. It was a full lenth mermaid gown from what I believe was the flapper girl days. It is covered from head to toe in Turquoise blue sequens and white iridecent beads that were applied by hand.
    It’s not the kind of dress that can be cleaned and it’s also made of wool. It’s a bit too big for me so I don’t wear it. I think it really should be in a museum somewhere behind glass, but instead I have it hanging in my room where I can watch it sparkle and fill me with dreams of magical galla’s where it once brushed its hem along marble ballroom floors.

  7. writerspice
    writerspice April 20, 2007 at 2:24 pm #

    Thanks, Della! Great find 🙂

  8. Avatar
    Della-Mae Kuchta April 20, 2007 at 12:22 pm #

    Two months ago I went down to one of my local thrift shops to hand off some of our treasures that we no longer needed. When I went in to ask one of the clerks to open the receiving doors, I noticed a table set with some “china”. I checked the stamp on the bottom but not knowing much about china or German china, I just put it back. There were 12 place settings(5 pieces a setting), 2 platters, a serving bowl, covered serving dish and salt and pepper shakers. There were 3 price tags reading $129. I wasn’t sure if that meant everything together was $129 or it was divided up into 3 parcels. I didn’t ask and went on my merry way as they were closing for the night. I went home and decided to research the the stamp on the china. My heart skipped a few beats. The china I had seen wasn’t your regular thrift store “junk”. One of the serving pieces alone was worth $130 to $140. I shared my discovery with my husband and we agreed that I should go back to the store and make a purchase! I went back the next day the moment the doors opened and bought the whole kit and kaboodle for $129.

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