Finding Government Auctions
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At the average customs auction, one is quite likely to locate surprising bargains on a wide array of items, providing that the interested buyer does two things correctly. The first thing, of course, is finding out exactly where and when the customs auction is taking place. The second thing is to know as much as you can about the particular items that you’re interested in bidding on.
Conducting a simple online search, using the right search terms, is sure to bring up a host of websites announcing such upcoming customs auctions — almost all of them being open to members of the public. The problem, however, as I’m sure you’ll find if attempting to locate public customs auctions via this method, is that the vast majority of the information you find will very likely be outdated — announcing ‘upcoming customs auctions’ that have already taken place. Internet search engines are great tools for tracking down information. But, due to their nature, they’re often not great tools for ‘timely’ information.
What is a customs auction?
Customs auctions are pretty much what the term implies. Every day in this country border agencies and other customs services seize a wealth of goods that are being imported into the country. The importers may not have gone through the correct channels, or otherwise not properly followed the correct procedures, when attempting to import certain goods into the country. If the matter can not be settled with the importer, for whatever reason, (and it’s not uncommon that it actually can’t), the customs agency will take possession of the goods through seizure. Every so often they will attempt to clear out their stock of such items. They do this, in large part, by holding public customs auctions where such goods are made available to bidders.
Not too long ago a friend of mine, who regularly attends customs auctions, was able to purchase an entire lot of assorted electric lamps at one of these auctions. He managed to place the high bid on the lot at a price of $950.00. The lot contained exactly one-hundred and fifty electric desk lamps — brand new, right from the manufacturer — that regularly retail for $49.95. His cost, per lamp, was about $6.33. Within a week he found a buyer for the entire lot at a price of $3,800.00 — for a total, quick profit of $2,850.00. He could have made a fair bit more if he had chosen to piece the lamps out instead of selling them off all at once, but the opportunity to move them all at once presented itself and he took it. The lamps were being auctioned off in the first place, it seems, merely because an Asian importer had failed to file the proper paperwork, and had failed to follow up with the customs agency in a timely manner. The customs agency had difficulty establishing contact with the importer and, after a time, the items were put up for bid at auction.
There are so many stories like the one above when it comes to these customs auctions, I could literally fill an entire volume of books just relating them. These customs auctions are going on all the time, and a fair number of people are earning a good living from them — just buying and re-selling items they obtain at these customs auctions for a profit. Oddly enough, however, it seems as though not all that many people, in the grand scheme of things, actually know about them. And, of course, even fewer people are aware of how to locate when and where customs auctions, which the’re able to participate in, are actually happening.
How do you find customs auctions?
A lot of people with a casual interest in attending such customs auctions tend to quickly become frustrated if and when attempting to locate them. Such people might hear about such auctions from various sources, become excited about attending one, and simply hit Google, Bing, or some other such search engine in an attempt to locate a customs auction which might be taking place near them at some time in the future. As mentioned above, however, they quickly discover that they need to wade through a sea of useless, outdated information. They quickly become frustrated and give up — usually thinking that finding customs auctions requires some sort of insider information, or special experience or know-how.
So, how do you find customs auctions that you can attend? By far, the most effective way of locating and keeping apprised of any such upcoming auctions in your area (or, any area you choose to apprised of) is to join a qualified auction listing service. Such services keep constant tabs on all public auctions that are taking place around the country. They use their pool of established contacts to maintain extensive and exhaustive lists and notices of any customs auctions, and other types of auctions as well, that are upcoming. The auction listing service will then provide its members with on-line search functionality that will allow you to perform exacting searches by area, time, location, etc. The better services will even allow you search by the specific type of merchandise you’re interested in bidding on. You can also use the listing service to send out e-mail alerts to you whenever an auction is announced to be coming up within the boundaries of a geographical area you specify.
There are a number of such services currently in operation. Here’s a short list of some of the tops ones, listed in order of our recommendation:
As with most people, it’s very likely that you’ve heard of federal government organizations like the Department of Justice’s U.S. Marshals Service, the IRS, the FBI, the ATF, DEA, and many other such agencies, actually seizing things like automobiles, houses, boats, and all sorts of consumer goods and merchandise and then holding auctions to move these items to the highest bidders at public auction for incredibly low prices. Just about everyone knows this goes on. Ask just about anybody and they’ll tell you that they’re aware that such activities are commonplace. Then, ask them if they know how one might go about participating in such customs auctions and they’ll tell you that they have no idea. This is the common experience of most people. Of course, they’d be very surprised to learn that all that is required is to take advantage of one of these qualified auction locating services that will actually do all of the work for them, and they too could be acquiring incredible merchandise at public customs auctions, and a myriad of other types of auctions, at up to 90% off the regular retail price of such goods.
Everybody knows that one of the absolute surest ways of making money in business is the “buy low and sell high” model. And, it goes without saying, the lower you can buy an item for, and the higher you can turn around and sell that same item for, the more money you’ll make. It is precisely for this reason that sourcing potential trade items from surplus providers is so attractive to so many. There are few, if any, other avenues that hold an equal potential to provide a buyer with lower priced, quality merchandise which can then be re-sold for higher profit margins than government surplus sources.
Through government surplus outlets and auctions, a buyer is able to locate all manner of various goods very inexpensively and re-sell those items at a substantial profits. Such cheaply sourced items can be re-sold easily, effectively and without much overhead, through on-line means such as eBay and other online auction services, flea markets, junk sales, Craigslist or print classified advertising, mail-order, liquidation centers, and more.
Sourcing merchandise intended for resale from government surplus sources offers very attractive profit potential because government surplus sources aren’t likely to be as concerned with obtaining the highest prices for their surplus merchandise as are private, commercial sellers. When it comes to government surplus sales — such as government surplus auctions, or government direct liquidation — the sales are being run and handled by government employees. This means, of course, that it wasn’t their personal money that was used to procure the items in the first place. It was tax-payer money. The sellers have no personal stake or financial investment in the sale of the items which they need to make certain they recoup. So, they are not strongly motivated to make sure that they obtain the best possible price on a sale. At least, they’re not nearly as motivated as a private seller would be — one who, if they are unable to obtain a good price for the item they have personal capital invested in, might not be able to provide for themselves or their families as well as they would have liked. The government employees overlooking the sale of the government surplus items you’re interested in purchasing are getting paid the same wage whether the item sells or not, and regardless of how much it sells for. Whether an item ends up being sold for one dollar or a million dollars, the people overseeing the sale make the same wage.
Now, many people that are inexperienced in the game of flipping goods obtained from government surplus sources are very often under the mistaken impression that government surplus really means military surplus. And, that most of the types of goods available have very specific military applications only and, thus, appeal only to a very specific and somewhat limited market, making the items obtained somewhat difficult to re-sell unless you already have avenues of distribution set-up within that market. This, however, is not the case at all. Military surplus actually only accounts for a small portion of the surplus merchandise that various government departments sell off practically every day. Most of the merchandise that makes up regular government surplus sales are items with very mundane, every-day, civilian usages.
At government surplus auctions and distributors it’s common to find things as ordinary and mundane as office furniture, consumer camera, photography and other types of audio-visual equipment, regular clothing, consumer computer equipment, various electrical and kitchen appliances, musical instruments, hand tools, exercise equipment, janitorial supplies and equipment, and much, much more.
Of course, with all the attraction that’s obviously inherent in exploiting government surplus sources in order to make money flipping surplus merchandise, there really doesn’t seem to be a lot of people actually doing it. And, one must wonder why this is. The reason is fairly straight forward, however. I explained above how the people who run these government surplus sales aren’t personally motivated to get the best prices for the items being sold. And, of course, for this exact same reason, these government surplus sales aren’t widely advertised. The truth is, most people just don’t know about these government surplus sales. The sellers aren’t personally motivated to publicize the sales in order to bring in the widest array of potential buyers and make sure the items are moved for the best possible prices. This is another reason why merchandise can be obtained at such great prices from government surplus sources — there’s less competition among buyers than there usually is at private sales, simply because less people are aware of them.
So, all you really need to do is find these under-publicized sales. Fortunately, we’ve published articles right here on SurplusBusiness.Com in the past that will explain to you the best methods of going about finding these sales. Check out just some of our articles listed below for more information:
So, these are the attractive advantages of government surplus when it comes to turning a profit by buying low and selling high: The sales tend to not be well publicized, which means less competition among buyers. Which, of course, means less demand and less buyers running up prices. Government surplus auctions tend to place items up for bid with either very low, or absolutely no reserve price. Coupled with the less than normal buying competition, this means that, often, even placing a ridiculously low-bid on an item can result in a winning bid.
Just recently, I was at a government surplus auction where a lot of antique shaving kits — never used and still in their original packaging — came up for auction. I know there’s a small, but fairly enthusiastic, collector’s market for such items. I estimated the re-sale value of the lot at around $500.00 But, since the market is so small, it probably would have been a hassle to move them quickly, if I won the bid.
In this particular case, it was a silent auction. In such an auction, you don’t get to know what other people have bid. You enter the most you’re willing to pay, and at the end of the day, the person who entered the highest amount wins the item for the amount they entered. Even though I knew the re-sale value was around $500.00, the reserve price placed on this particular item was set at only $25.00.
So, I thought, “What the hell!” I’ll put in the minimum bid. I don’t really want the hassle of trying to move the items in such a limited market — so, if I don’t win it, I won’t be all that disappointed. But, if I do somehow manage to win them for the minimum bid, I’ve pretty much got to go for it. If I don’t get it, I don’t get it. No big deal. I didn’t expect to win the bid. But, I did. As it turned out, nobody else even placed a bid on the item. And, as luck would have it, I actually did find a buyer fairly quickly and with relatively little hassle. I paid exactly $25.00 for the lot, and within two weeks I found a buyer and sold the entire lot for $380.00. A profit of $355.00. Not bad!
There’s no doubt that if you’re interested in saving cash on any sort of goods, property or items, the bargains that can be obtained at local or federal seized property auctions are positively unparalleled. Everyone knows, or has heard, about people managing to snag incredible deals at such seized property auctions. Yes, a lot of people know this — but, not a lot of people seem to be regularly taking advantage of the low prices for quality goods that these local, federal or state seized property auctions offer. Why is this?
Most people, when in the market for some sort of high-priced item, having heard of seized property auctions, spend a token amount of time investigating them. And, as is regularly the case, quickly become frustrated because finding such seized property auctions proves difficult. They try once, don’t have much luck finding any seized property auctions, and from then on they never try again. From then on, their opinion is that what they’ve heard about seized property auctions and the deals that are available at them is just some sort of hype, or that actually finding seized property auctions is really more trouble than its worth.
If you’re like most people who have looked into taking advantage of such state, federal or local seized property auctions, chances are extremely good that you’ve had a similar experience. The truth of the matter is that taking advantage of seized property auctions, finding them, and actually obtaining amazing deals on items that you’re interested in acquiring is much easier said than done.
Traditionally, government seized property auctions are not well advertised and promoted. There’s two main reasons for this: The first reason is that, counter to what might be intuitive, the government agencies that operate these seized property auctions actually want to keep the competition amongst bidders to a minimum. This attracts the big players — the professional liquidators and other such business professionals that buy and buy and buy, and have the means to drop huge amounts of money on the big lots.
If such pros are constantly dealing with a swarm of (what they consider to be) gnats (the little guy — the private, independent individual), they’ll go elsewhere. The real pros view this as an inconvenience and an impediment to their ability to do business smoothly. The operators of government seized property auctions welcome all bidders, big and small — they have to. But, if they had their way, they’d limit the seized property auctions to just the big fish — the big time business players that will think nothing of dropping $10k on a lot of, say, 500 assorted pieces of office electronics, or a lot of 50 industrial arc-welders. The big players have big money. And that’s very attractive to the government agencies operating seized property auctions. And, the big players with the big money don’t like the annoyance of having to compete with a bunch of little players.
The second reason is that there really is just no pressing incentive to advertise seized property auctions widely, while there most certainly is incentive to keep costs to an absolute minimum. Remember, the whole shtick behind seized property auctions — what makes them so attractive to the big bidders — is that the merchandise is available for ridiculously low cost. Advertising is an added cost for the operators of seized property auctions — an added cost that, if incurred, reduces the profit able to be made by the auctioning department from the already razor-thin profit margins obtained on the individual items or lots.
The big players that fuel the seized property auctions don’t need advertising to know when and where these seized property auctions are taking place — it’s their business to know. They’ve usually spent years in developing the right professional contacts and putting a system in place to effectively keep abreast of upcoming seized property auctions.
Seized Property Auctions — The Where and When
So, if you’re not one of these big players, where does that leave you? How can you find these local, state and federal seized property auctions? Luckily, it’s not as difficult as it may at first appear.
The best way, hands down, is to take a page from the big players themselves. One of the methods the pros employ is to use the services of a government seized property auctions locating service. There are companies out there who act as service bureaus to auction buyers and interested parties looking to score deals at private and government seized property auctions. One such service is GovernmentAuctions.Org. However, there are a number of these companies currently in operation. Information on another popular seized property auctions locating service can be found at this link. And, yet another is located here. Yet another can be found at this link.
These locating services do all of the work in finding these unadvertised government seized property auctions that are coming up all across the country. You simply inform them of the locations you’re interested in — the locations you have easy access to — and when one of these seized property auctions is scheduled to happen, they’ll inform you regarding all of the information you need so that you can attend and take full advantage. It’s an invaluable service for anyone looking to obtain hefty bargains at seized property auctions. If you’re actually thinking about perhaps getting into a full-time, or just a side business, or revenue generating hobby buying low at seized property auctions and selling high, then a quality auction locating service such as one or more of the ones mentioned above is an absolutely indispensable tool!