A lesser known place to pick up a real bargain is a police auction. When property gets seized by the police or is left unclaimed, the boys in blue run auctions to flog all manner of things. Cars, jewellery, electronics and many others are all up for grabs, and generally at rock bottom prices.
Every year millions of pounds worth of goods are seized by the police or handed into stations. Rather than be lumbered, the police are allowed to sell off the goods, them re-propagate the money back into the force. As the police are in a hurry to sell, and the fact that they aren't well publicised, you can usually grab yourself a real bargain.
Recent sales according to police-auctions.org.uk have included a Dyson DC04 for £27, an Panasonic DVD player for £4.02, and a 300 watt car amplifier sold for £5.50. That's not to mention the masses of other items sold such as clothes, bikes, computers and vehicles.
Where are police auctions listed?
The official website for police auctions is bumblebeeauctions.co.uk, which is used by forces all across the country. Here users bid on auctions in the same way as on ebay.
"Bumblebee Auctions acts effectively as a shop front the police force and local authorities can use to dispose of various types of property," explains Chris Leach, director of Exess Consultants, which runs the day-to-day side of Bumblebee Auctions.
"The force is responsible for photographing and listing the items and the items stay with them until either collected by the winner or collected for delivery."
Leach says it's possible to get brand new goods for up to 50% or more off high street prices through Bumblebee Auctions, not to mention the chance to get your hands on some pretty unusual items.
"The most unusual item we've had for sale is probably an industrial fog-making machine that fell off the back of a lorry in Sussex, literally," says Leach. "There was also an old brass diving helmet from Devon and Cornwall, we've had all sorts of strange and wonderful items."
There are some websites you can use but some of them, such as governmentauctionsuk.com (Gauk) charge a monthly fee for access to all auctions across the UK.
Police forces that don't use Bumblebee Auctions tend to sell their unclaimed property through auction houses. Chris Aston is the owner of Astons Auctions, which holds police auctions on behalf of the West Midlands Police Force.
"The auctions are the same as any other auction, except all of the stock has either been stolen and recovered and subsequently not been claimed by the original owner for whatever reason, or has been handed in as lost property and not been claimed," he says. To find your nearest auction house and details of upcoming sales, your best bet is to contact your local station.
Ironically, not all police auction sites are legitimate and you should be careful about using sites other than those listed above. To make sure you're dealing with a real auctioneer, you can contact your local police authority for confirmation.
"Each police authority has their own system for handling property," explains Aston. "Call your local one and they will tell you where they send goods for auction." For example, in Scotland, the Strathclyde force uses wilsonsauctions.com.