Saving or Making Money with Police Auctions

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As a frugal shopper, you’re adept at finding bargains in typical retail situations. There’s a level beyond frugal, however. Some shoppers are able to root out extraordinary bargains on valuable merchandise that far exceeds the average “good deal” pricing that most folks are thankful to find.

We’ve all heard of the stories of someone who struck gold when they bought a box of old baseball cards and landed a thousand dollar find. And who could forget the story of the guy who spent $4 at a Pennsylvania flea market to buy a painting because he liked the frame, only to find out later that he landed one of the first printings of the Declaration of Independence? A million-dollar find is obviously rare, but there are still plenty of smaller finds out there. That’s why there are so many extreme bargain-hunters who are passionate about their craft. These shoppers either:

  • love the thrill of hunting down incredible steals on valuable items; or
  • generate considerable income by re-selling these valuable items they find at dirt-cheap prices on eBay, Craigslist...

Regardless of the reason behind their purchases, these individuals can pick up a fortune in merchandise for pennies on the dollar by knowing the value of what they find and buying wisely at second-hand and consignment shops, garage and yard sales, and estate sales. Many people made a pretty penny doing this, but everyone by now knows these methods so the competition is fierce.

What if I were to tell you that there’s another, less obvious place to find such valuable merchandise for sale? The answer lies in the police station, literally. Police departments sell off merchandise on a regular basis in order to generate revenue in what’s called police auctions. If saving money or making money is what you are after, then I suggest you check these out.

Where does the merchandise sold at police auctions come from?

Sure, some items are definitely tied to crimes. The thought that the diamond ring on your hand may very well be stolen in a possible grand heist may excite some. I bet it would be an interesting story to tell over a beer at the very least. On the other hand, you may feel uncomfortable buying anything that could be tied to criminal activity. If that’s the case, you can rest easy knowing that not everything sold by the police is stolen goods. And plus, they are sold by law enforcement so you can be assured that what you bought is perfectly legal to own. Even if they made a mistake, then there are plenty of paper trails to prove your innocence. Here are a few ways police come into the possession of the stuff they sell.

Property connected to crimes - Any property used in the commission of a crime or purchased with stolen money is subject to seizure and sale by law enforcement agencies.

Items confiscated as evidence - Property taken into evidence is held until the case is closed. If the owners of that property fail to retrieve it within a specified amount of time, the police can sell it.

Surplus equipment - There are plenty of items and equipment used by police departments that are no longer needed. Some get thrown away, but many get sold in the police held auctions.

Unclaimed property - Any lost property turned into the police that is not claimed by its owners within a specified time frame can be sold at auction.

Where can you find police auctions?

Contact local police agencies or consult the Internet on sites like auctionzip.com to find auctions near you. There are online police auctions as well, at sites like policeauctions.com.

What kinds of merchandise can you find at police auctions?

There’s no shortage of variety in the items you’ll discover up for auction:

  • luxury items (vehicles, boats, jewelry, furs, china, crystal, fine furnishings…)
  • collectibles (coins, art, statuary, books, dolls...)
  • ordinary items (electronics, appliances, bicycles, sports equipment, cameras…)
  • unexpected items (stained glass windows, pottery, ceramics, taxidermy…)

How are police auctions conducted?

Most police auctions are well organized in the interest of liquidating this inventory as efficiently as possible so they can receive and allocate the proceeds. Items are carefully identified by professionals so they can be accurately represented to bidders. Some departments even hire professional auctioneers to manage the process. Auctions are moving more and more online these days, but you’ll have the opportunity to inspect the items prior to bidding if you attend an in-person auction. Online bidding sites generally have detailed descriptions of their merchandise. But remember, items are sold “as is” so the items won’t come with any guarantee of their condition.

Can you find legitimate deals?

Certainly. It’s not uncommon to pay only 25% of the retail value of items at police auctions. That provides you with extraordinary savings and/or the opportunity to make a profit on items you win. And like I said, not everybody is onto these auctions yet so this is your opportunity.

Winning bid strategies

Look for items that interest you and do research on the ones you plan to bid on before the auction. Online auctions make this process easy because you have your computer with you and you can look up whatever information you need before you make the bid. That also makes competition potentially tougher though because others can also do the same.

Determine the maximum bid you’ll be comfortable paying and stick to that figure. And avoid getting caught up in the excitement. Remember, the point is ultimately to spend as little as possible, not more. There will be plenty of future auctions with great bargains. Don’t overpay!

Final thoughts

It’s great to have nice things but don’t become a slave to material possessions even if they’re of value. First, figure out whether you are bidding for the item to resell or to use yourself. If it’s to resell, then nothing but profit will dictate your bidding strategy. After all, there’s no benefit to even scoring the first print of the Declaration of Independence if you have to pay $2 million for it because the item will only fetch $1 million. If it’s to use for yourself, then be mindful of your budget and what you can afford. You can score deals but you can also end up buying something that costs less brand new. Don’t get emotionally attached. Remember, money is a resource that must be allocated wisely and with discretion.

Have you ever purchased merchandise from a police auction? How much did you save?

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