Hot Deals from Uncle Sam

Get hot deals on high-quality imported merchandise from auctions by Uncle Sam.

| November/December 1983

  • Uncle Sam
    The United States Customs Service auctions off abandoned and confiscated merchandise. This has to be one of Uncle Sam's better ideas, especially for those who are looking for a hot deal.
    Photo by Fotolia/VJ

  • Uncle Sam
Would you be interested in buying a spanking new Kodak Instamatic camera for less than 18 cents? Or how about a still-in-the carton power lawn mower for under $21?

Well, believe it or not, those two super hot deals — along with a lot more that were at least as good — were scooped up by smart buyers who took advantage of one of Uncle Sam's better ideas . . . the United States Customs Service (USCS) auctions of abandoned and confiscated merchandise.

You see, the vigilant folks at the USCS (part of the U.S. Treasury Department) amass millions of dollars' worth of abandoned and forfeited import goods every year . . . and most of that merchandise is new. Of course, all this loot requires expensive warehousing and record-keeping, so Uncle prefers to sell it — sometimes almost giving it away — rather than let it pile up on him.

And (naturally!) that's where you enter the picture.

If you're a struggling small-business person searching for budget-priced quality inventory, an entrepreneur shopping for a fast profit, or a consumer just looking for bargains on items for your personal use, then read on. I'm about to tell you how to take advantage of these fantastic government sales . . . what kinds of goodies you can expect to find at them . . . how to know when the next customs auction will take place in your neck of the woods . . . and the kind of prices you'll probably pay if you decide to do business with the federal auctioneers.

Getting Your Foot in the (Warehouse) Door 

There are 45 regional customs offices scattered around the U.S., including one each in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Auctions can be held at any of these 45 locations, but two or more regional offices will often pool small stocks in order to stage one large, combined sale.

To be eligible to participate in any of these USCS inventory reductions, you must have your name placed on their mailing/registration list . . . and it's necessary to renew your spot there each year, because the agency won't continue to send out announcements to folks who've moved or lost interest during the preceding year. Fortunately, it's easy enough to get on the list: Simply send a written request to the district director of the customs office nearest you. You may also wish to get on the mailing lists of such offices located in other parts of the country . . . and then submit mail-in bids on items that strike your fancy.

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