How to Run an Army Surplus Business

How to run an Army surplus business and stock your own business from government auctions. Includes information on selling space, advertising budget tips and shopping for surplus items.

| November/December 1982

You can learn how to run an Army surplus business by stocking your own business from government auctions or finding personal bargains at some of the largest clearance sales ever. 

My husband and I have run a successful Army surplus business for more than 20 years. But apparently many people aren't aware of the bargains that can be had when Uncle Sam disposes of unwanted or "unfit for military use" items . . and as far as we're concerned, such folks don't know what they're missing!

The truth is that countless articles manufactured to military specifications can be bought at government auctions and—sometimes with the help of a little ingenuity—adapted to civilian use. And these sales aren't limited to military equipment, either. After all, a plethora of government offices generate great piles of leftover office furniture and machines, paper, ink, and the like. Hospitals unload beds, sheets, stethoscopes, and bandages. And motor pools dispose of old, battered, overused vehicles varying in size and shape from motorcycles to halftrack tanks. (One local purchaser I know of had to buy a field near Fort Lewis, Washington just to store the halftracks he bought.)

My mate and I have purchased everything from thousands of scratch pads (at scrap paper prices) to an old army flatbed truck for $59.95 (it needed only a new battery to be serviceable). We've also acquired clothing of many descriptions, calculators, sleeping bags, watches, pocketknives, and numerous household furnishings. We've even bought scrap cotton, then cut it up and sold it—for a profit—as wiping rags.

Of course, our primary aim is to purchase large quantities of goods, repair them if necessary, and then sell them—at a good markup—to other people. You, on the other hand, may simply want to attend sales to pick up a few items for yourself, but in case you later become interested in how to run an Army surplus business enterprise, here—based on our experience—is how to do it.


First off, you'll need to locate a large building such as a garage, a barn, or the back of a warehouse. This store doesn't have to be attractive, nor does it have to be on a busy street . . . because folks who enjoy browsing through Army surplus stores will drive miles to dig through items, and they don't tend to care much about the aesthetics of the shop.

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