I just received an email from a reader who told me she rescued an old family album from a stranger’s garbage can. She thought the pictures were great and felt that they may be worth something to someone – and how should she go about selling them. While writing her back to tell her to visit dealers that are close to where she lives in the US and to do a bit of research to determine how old the pictures really are I started thinking about something that happened to me about twelve years ago… I had had my antique store about two years. Early one morning while I was taking my Welsh Terrier for a walk in the alleys not far from home I saw an amazing sight! Two garbage cans full to overflowing of framed pictures and other good stuff. There were large gilt Victorian frames with pictures of people in them. There were a couple of examples of tramp art frames too. I felt so awful for the people in the pictures because it was obvious that someone had just walked into the house and cleaned everything out in one fell swoop. So what should I do?? Was it legal to help myself? All of a sudden I heard a very loud noise – the sound of a motor..the sound of a garbage truck making its way behind me. I had to act fast – I grabbed as much as I could and waddled down the street loaded with my booty. That’s not the end of the story though. I took the treasure to the store and did some restoration on some of the frames. I got $250 for one frame alone with nothing in it. I sold several pictures and the tramp art. I still had a picture of the couple that caught my attention in the first place only by this time they were in a different frame. And then one day… Four people came into the store. One of the women stopped at the picture of the old couple and gasped “That’s Baba and Gito!!!” (Ukrainian for Grandma and Grandpa.) They did not stay in the store but left quickly thereafter. Thank God. I took the picture down and put it in the back of the store – where I sold it eventually. They never questioned me but that sure was close. To this day I still have one of the large frames in my possession. I have my own grandmother’s family photo in it.
One thought on “Saving Pictures from a Garbage Can”
Hi Johanne: Your story of the pictures in the trash is very close to an experience I had this past summer. A friend who knows of my interest in “old stuff” called me for help. She was helping a neighbour pack up to move to a retirement home and they wanted some advice. When I arrived, the first thing I saw was a wonderful photograph in an oval frame with convex glass. When I admired it, the owner started to cry–the people hired to help ready the home for sale had put it along with many other pictures into the dumpster! She rescued it because it was a picture of her sister and also pulled out her grandfather’s framed WW1 enlistment certificate. Both items will be going to our local museum.