Lost and ill-gotten gains up for auction

June 17, 1994|By Ed Heard | Ed Heard,Sun Staff Writer

It's not exactly a yard sale, but county police say they'll have the best bargains in town tomorrow at the department's annual auction.

Bikes, videocassette recorders, phones, stereos, tools and other things -- stolen or lost property unclaimed by owners or items forfeited by the courts -- will be sold for a fraction of their usual prices at an open-to-all auction in the rear parking lot at police headquarters in Ellicott City.

"Anything you can imagine is sold," said police spokesman Sgt. Steve Keller.

Starting with the first sale item -- a Romper bike -- at 10 a.m., to the last item -- a miscellaneous collection of coins -- auctioneers from the Baltimore Auction Co. will accept bids until the 476 items are sold.

There are two rules: cash only, no warranties.

Participants are allowed to enter the auction site at 9 a.m. to register for their personal identification numbers, which they wave at auctioneers, and to check out the sale items.

No firearms or weapons will be sold at Saturday's auction. About 155 bikes, including mopeds, will be for sale.

Sergeant Keller said that since the auction is not intended to generate profits, there are no set bids. The highest bidder wins, even if the offer is relatively low for the item.

"It's much better than a sale," Sergeant Keller said. "Stuff goes for a fraction of what it's worth." For example, a $700 Fuji mountain bike could sell for as low as $100, he said.

About 200 people are expected to attend this year's auction. All proceeds go into the county's general fund.

Items for sale this year were kept in the police property room or at police storage facilities from 1988 to 1992. Police say that although property is sometimes stored for years, valuables are eligible for auction if they are not claimed within 30 days of the time they come into the possession of the police. Some property has gone unclaimed for six years.

As a precaution against late claims, police advertise a list of all items with serial numbers in newspapers 40 days before an auction.

Rick Riddle, police property evidence supervisor, said people often get carried away in the excitement at the auctions.

"Sometimes people get caught up in a bidding war -- 'He's not going to get that, I am.' -- They could end up paying more than they planned to pay. But it's everybody's preference," Mr. Riddle said.

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