While many online retailers cite auctions as an inventory source, most overlook police auctions as a resource for high-quality resale items. But if you sell products online, police auctions represent a tremendous opportunity for you to find all kinds of saleable products. Hundreds of millions of dollars in merchandise are auctioned off annually, and you can purchase many of those items at a tiny percentage of their retail value. Exactly where do the goods at these auctions come from? Explains Bill Keck, founder of PoliceAuctions.com, “Police auctions usually deal in property that’s been seized from criminals, or abandoned. The property is cataloged and held for a time; and then, periodically, the police department holds auctions to make it available to the public.” The type of merchandise you can find varies widely – from furniture to jewelry to electronics to vehicles. Although many of the items are unique, it’s not uncommon find bulk lots being auctioned off as well. According to Keck, there are two types of police auctions: live and online. Each offers a different experience and set of benefits for the attendee.

    Live auctions involve fewer bidders, and provide a preview period during which you can examine the goods up-close, determine their condition, and identify lots you expect to have good resale value. Once you have that information, you can use your cell phone, laptop, or PDA to check the online product market. Look to see the market value, the level of demand, and the kind of competition you’ll be up against. Understanding this information allows you to develop a successful bidding strategy. • Online auctions are easier to locate in advance than their live counterparts. They don’t involve opening bids, auctioneers trying to incite bids, or travel time or expenses. Many allow proxy bidding, which can save you even more time. And since you’re already online, doing your market research is a piece of cake.
The good news is that most police auction lots have no minimum bid (or reserve) attached. This leaves you room to find some high-margin deals. While a live auctioneer may try to open the bidding at a certain price-point, if no one responds, it will come down and continue coming down until someone jumps in. The bad news is that police auctions aren’t well-publicized, so finding them can be a challenging task. Most police websites, if they include auction info at all, don’t update it frequently. Their next tier of advertising is usually the classified section of the newspaper. This lack of publicity makes these events difficult to track down; but it also means that, for those who find them, there won’t be a lot of competition running up the bids. One option you have is to simply call your local police department (not 911) and ask about upcoming auctions. You can also sign-up for a subscription service, like PoliceAuctions.com or GovernmentAuctions.org, which will supply you with a centralized source of event information. Police auctions take a decided effort to track down, but the value they offer more than makes it worthwhile. If you take the time to understand what you’re buying and what the value of those items is, you can find some very high-profit buys for your e-business. Says Keck, “Whether you’re looking to diversify your product line or just find high-margin items to resell, police auctions provide a unique opportunity to go outside the box and source some truly profitable products.”
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