Treasury Auction Deals: Not Bills and Bonds but Boats and Bangles

NEW YORK (MainStreet)—You've heard the stories: going to a government auction and buying seized and forfeited property for next to nothing. Snagging the drug mule's late-model black Escalade for pennies on the dollar. The white-collar criminal's luxury yacht purchased for a song. The repossessed high-rise condo por nada. Is it the real deal or another urban myth?

Ian Aronovich, the president of, a website collection of auction information, says that once property is no longer needed to be held as evidence in a criminal matter, it is offered at public auction. And yes, he's seen his share of unusual bargains.

Government auctions put up for bid items as diverse as Unibomber Ted Kaczynski's hoodie and Harvard diploma to Bernie Madoff's money clip. Not to mention one of the best bargains Aronovich has ever seen: ATM machines.

Normally selling for $1600 new, and even as much as $1000 used, Aronovich saw ATMs sell in a lot of 50 for what amounted to $14 each. Cash not included. Even considering transportation and storage, that could still be a pretty sweet profit. If you know a buyer.

Government customs auctions can find pallets and containers of seized merchandise for sale, including clothing, car parts, televisions, computers and house wares. And that thermal imaging camera you've been looking for.

"The average person doesn't need a thermal imaging camera, but they use them in the building industry," Aronovich says. "There was a very high-end Flir Thermal Cam, a handheld infrared camera which retailed for like $12,000. The one at this auction sold for $700."

The range of bid items can be massive, from a 48-foot yacht to military vehicles. A recent auction included Kansas City Motor Speedway tickets. Search lights, body armor -- floating toilets and 28,011 rolls of toilet paper are out there. Be prepared.