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Police and lost luggage auctions: make money from suitcases and stolen goods!

Bagging a bargain at an auction is not just limited to sites like eBay and eBid.

Thousands of suitcases are mislaid by airlines each year and the ones that are never reunited with their rightful owners end up at lost luggage auctions.

Another option is to attend an auction where police sell off seized goods or items handed into police stations that remain unclaimed. Let's take a closer look at how these auctions work, and what you can expect to get from them.

Find lost luggage

British Airways flogs its lost luggage at auction house Greasbys in Tooting, South West London.

Viewings take place every Monday afternoon to give you a chance to have a look at the bags you might want to buy, and auctions take place every Tuesday at 10.30am.

However, it’s all pot luck as you don’t get to see inside a bag or suitcase before you bid. Instead you have to guess at its contents. Chances are sports-style luggage is likely to contain sports clothes or equipment while top of the range suitcases might contain some posh clobber.

Other auction rooms worth checking out include Wellers Auctioneers in Guildford which sells off lost luggage from Gatwick Airport and Hertfordshire Auctions which flogs Luton Airport’s mislaid bags.

Bear in mind though that auctioneers will take very valuable items out of suitcases and sell them separately. So if you buy a suitcase hoping it will contain an iPad and £1,000 digital camera, you’re likely to end up disappointed. However you can bid separately on valuables – and at least you’ll know what you’re getting, unlike the mystery suitcases.

If you decide to bid on suitcases bear in mind that as well as getting your hands on some decent clothes, books or toiletries, you’re just as likely to take home a bag of dirty washing.

Related link: Compare credit cards

The auction

After you’ve identified which suitcases or items you want to get your hands on, it’s time to bid at an auction.

The key to success is set a budget and stick to it – don’t get carried away. Suitcases tend to go from £5 to £50 so there’s a chance to make some decent cash – even if it’s full of junk, selling the suitcase itself could see you make a profit.

If you’re the highest bidder when the hammer falls, you’re legally obliged to pay for the goods.

Police auctions

If other people’s dirty laundry isn’t your thing then a police auction could be a better place to grab a bargain you could then sell on at a profit.

Police sell off items that have been seized from criminals or handed in to police auctions and not retrieved by the rightful owner.

Typical items include jewellery, household items, and electrical equipment such as laptops and mobiles. Bikes, in particular, tend to go very cheaply.

Although some police forces hold live auctions – advertised by “seized assets” adverts in local papers – you can bid for items online too.

Bumblebee Auctions sells off property seized or found by the police and works a bit like eBay. Current items under auction on the site include a Raleigh bike, going for £18 at the time of writing, and a job lot of unused camping equipment including two sleeping bags, two sleeping mattresses and a 20L daypack, going for £61.50.

If you win an auction you’ll need to collect larger items from the police station in question or pay for postage of smaller items.

You can search for products, or by towns, and so only view items you’d be willing to go and pick up. To bid you need to set up a Bumblebee account and also an e-money account with Nochex, the only form of payment Bumblebee accepts.

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