Shopping At Auction: Buying Seized Property

US Treasury Government Auctions offer great bargains for shoppers in-the-know. But, whatever kind of auction you’re attending, live or on eBay, there are a few simple rules to follow.


If there’s one enduring symbol of our our nation’s current economic slump, this could be it: an auction, where the crack of a gavel marks the end of hope for one family and the beginning for another. But auctions can also be a great way to do some unique holiday shopping. 

“There’s cars, lots of electronics, there’s jewelry, Rolex watches, there’s 140,000 pairs of blue jeans, boats. Very eclectic items from power generators to GPS’s.”
-Rick Levin, Rick Levin & Associates 

But whatever kind of auction you’re attending, be it live or on eBay, there are rules to follow…

First, always inspect whatever you’re buying. Not an expert? Bring one.

Second, know the value of what you’re buying to the penny, and the price you’re willing to pay. Don’t go over it.

And finally, an auction will often deliver deals, but rarely steals.

And even if you do get a deal, what you gain in savings you might lose in time spent. Inspection, valuation, registration, attending… they all take time; time wasted if you walk away empty-handed. Still, there are few ways to shop for used things that are more exciting or more interesting.

Two more tips: The more publicized and well attended the auction, the less likely you are to get a deal. And walk before you run. Attend a few auctions and get comfortable with the process. A Bentley may not be your best bet the first time out. 

To find a government auction (or things like surplus office supplies), visit USA.gov’s Government Sales and Auctions page.

Stacy Johnson

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