It began with a $15 bike and ended with three gold rings for $45 -- and in between, yesterday's Baltimore County Police Department auction had bounty aplenty for bargain hunters.
Car radios, tools, coolers, coats, clothes, lawn mowers, lamps, curtains, tires, tureens, lawn chairs, televisions, suitcases, fishing rods, fans, bedding, backpacks and even illuminated plastic statues of Joseph and Mary -- the dusty, diverse inventory from the police property department was a discount shopper's dream.
"Let your eyes and your pocketbook be your guide, ladies and gentlemen," said auctioneer Irvin Sass as he opened the bidding. "No warranties, no guarantees on anything -- what you see is what you get."
The auction has been an annual event for about five years, police said. Hundreds of items were sold, all of them either stolen property that had been recovered but not claimed, or items never reclaimed from the evidence room.
"We're required by charter to have a public auction with proceeds going to the Baltimore County general fund," said Warren J. Fewster, director of the Police Department's Evidence Management Unit, which managed yesterday's sale.
About 500 people attended the sale, held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at police headquarters on Joppa Road, and nearly half registered for the white numbered cards that allowed them to bid. The auction was run by Baltimore Auction Co.Inc., with three auctioneers.
The total for the day's sales was not available yesterday, but Fewster said he expected at least as much as the $12,000 raised last year.
Some of the newer items had clearly been shoplifted from stores but never used -- a mound of ladies' underwear still had price tags attached. Other, older items had a murkier provenance.
"Now who would steal a Mary and Joseph?" wondered Becky Grinage, as she looked at the three-foot-tall religious lawn ornaments incongruously displayed in a sea of tools and machinery.
"There's even a brand new Bible over there for sale -- some people will steal anything," she said.
Happily for the county's coffers, buyers seemed to span the same broad spectrum as thieves.
The Mary and Joseph -- with a third seasonal lawn item, a life-sized reindeer covered with tiny lights -- were picked up by Shari Anderson and her fiance, Joe Panholzer, of Crofton for the paltry sum of $27.50.
"They're going to go on the deck," Anderson said. "I have a ton of Nativity scenes in the house at Christmas, so I'd love to have one outside."
Bikes, which were auctioned first, were clearly the most popular item -- more than 70 sold in an hour.
Some buyers were replacing stolen bikes. Others were buying spares or gifts.
"We bought it for his dad," said Kathy Lang of Parkville, after her son successfully bid $68 for an adult mountain bike.
"We're happy -- I think we got a pretty good deal,'' added her son, Chuck.
Other buyers agreed. "Chock-full of goodies," said Kelley Pryor, surveying the ice chest full of assorted tools her husband had bought for a mere $25.
The sellers were equally happy.
"Oh, God, I love it,'' said Fewster, the manager of the police property room, as he watched the crowd bid eagerly for bicycle after bicycle.
But his brief burst of salesman's glee was quickly overlaid by a police officer's caution.
"I just want to say to them, 'Please, you've got to take pictures of those bikes -- you don't want to be buying them back next year,' " he said.
Pub Date: 9/07/97