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Finding Public Customs Auctions

Customs Auctions - Shipping containers

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public customs auctions via this method, is that the vast majority of the information you find will very likely be outdated — announcing ‘upcoming customs auctions’ that have already taken place.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.

Customs AuctionsThere 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.