15 Crazy Things You Could Buy On GovDeals, a Surplus Auction Site

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When government agencies need to get rid of stuff, they put it up for auction.

That’s what makes government auction sites, like GovDeals.com, a great place to find truly unique finds at a steep discount.

GovDeals lets you search thousands of listings in just about every category, from heavy equipment and real estate to fine art and jewelry.

(We’re not kidding. You can buy an ambulance or a massive ruby, all from GovDeals.)

What Is GovDeals?

Think of GovDeals like eBay but for governments.

Once an item falls out of use, public organizations — from state colleges to law enforcement — auction it off to the public.

Back in the day, many agencies placed ads in the local newspaper when they wanted to sell off old equipment or seized property.

GovDeals, along with a handful of other websites, lets governments list items for auction online instead, where they can reach a bigger audience. All of the money generated by the sale is returned to the agency.

You can find just about anything on GovDeals, including exercise equipment, school projectors, laptops, food storage items, kitchen equipment, trucks, trading cards, RVs, Ralph Lauren wallets and hunting knives.

GovDeals has generated over $2.5 billion in sales since it was founded more than 20 years ago, according to the company’s website.

How Does GovDeals Work?

Like eBay, you can bid on items listed on GovDeals and there may be a reserve, even if the starting bid is really low. The user with the highest bid when the auction ends gets the item if the reserve has been met. You’ll need to create an account to get started.

You almost always need to pick up the item in person. Rarely, an agency will ship you the item for a fee.

You can search for items by location or product type. Each listing contains information about the item, including payment and pickup instructions. Read over these details carefully.

Some sellers require you to pay them directly, for example, while others let you pay through GovDeals’ online platform.

15 Crazy Affordable and Weird Things We Found On GovDeals

It’s hard to fully appreciate the randomness of GovDeals until you start scrolling through listings.

Once you start, it’s hard to stop.

Wait, they’re really selling that?

Here are 15 things we found on GovDeals. Trust us, there’s plenty more to go around.

A violin sits in its case.
Photo courtesy of GovDeals

1. Violin Strobel ML80  — $120

  • Starting bid: $1
  • Winning bid: $120
  • Sold by: City of Dover, New Hampshire
  • Delivery available: No

You’d be hard pressed to find this style of violin — complete with bow and carrying case — for less than $600 new. This Strobel ML80 violin plays well, and you can own it for a fraction of what it’s worth by snagging it on GovDeals.

You can browse more instruments and musical equipment here.

A gold ring is held.
Photo courtesy of GovDeals

2. 14k Gold Ring — $100

  • Starting bid: $1
  • Winning bid: $100
  • Sold by: State of New Mexico
  • Delivery available: Yes, if shipping label is provided by buyer.

Fine jewelry is a popular category on GovDeals — especially gold jewelry. This 14k gold ring is a size 6, and would be perfect as a wedding ring. Gold is going for about $63 a gram and a ring this size contains almost 6 grams of gold … so it’s easy to see why this auction had over 14 bids when it ended.

There’s more where that came from. To see all the jewelry deals, click here.

Two tables sit on a table.
Photo courtesy of GovDeals

3. Two Samsung Tablets — $25

  • Starting bid: $5
  • Winning bid: $25
  • Sold by: Maryland State Police
  • Delivery available: No

Two Samsung tablets of unknown condition with no warranties or guarantees? If you don’t mind taking a shot in the dark, you can try your luck. Maybe one of them even works!

Assuming they do work, this is a crazy bargain. Similar refurbished Samsung tablets are fetching anywhere from $70 to $150 each on eBay and Amazon.

GovDeals offers an array of personal electronics, including AirPods, iPhones, computers, fitness watches, printers, radios, desk phones … you can even pick up a cassette player.

A sickle sits on a table.
Photo courtesy of GovDeals

4. Sickle circa 1850 — $10

  • Starting bid: $10
  • Winning bid:  $10
  • Sold by:  Dey Mansion Washington’s Headquarters Museum in Passaic County, New Jersey
  • Delivery available: No

As the description says, this is your chance to “own a piece of history.” Though, we’re not quite sure what’s appealing about this rusty corn sickle with a cracked wooden handle. Still, it’s over 170 years old, so that’s cool.

It comes from a collection of items being unlisted from the Dey Mansion Washington’s Headquarters Museum. There’s also a pot lid from 1850 going for $2 and a washboard for $5, if you’re into that sort of thing.

The collectibles category on GovDeals will raise more questions than it answers. Why is a city selling a megalodon shark tooth? How did 300 comic books end up in a police evidence room? Why is a school district in Ohio selling an antique kitchen mixer from 1936?

Hundreds of math books sit in boxes.
Photo courtesy of GovDeals

5. Hundreds of Math Books — $343

  • Starting bid: $5
  • Winning bid: $343
  • Sold by: Springfield R-12 School District in Missouri
  • Delivery available: No

Plan on starting your own school? That’s the only reason we can imagine buying three pallets of math books measuring three to five feet tall each.

Most of the books are new, according to the post. They were discontinued due to a curriculum change.

Biggest drawback? The grade level of the math books isn’t listed, so it’s hard to know what you’re getting.

There’s a lot more than books under the educational heading. You could take home an animatron, microscope, furniture, a smartboard and calculators. There’s also a book category with textbooks, manuals and old library books.

Audiobooks more your style? Check out these 11 options for cheap and free audiobooks.

A fire truck sits outside of a fire house.
Photo courtesy of GovDeals

6. 1978 American LaFrance Telesquirt Fire Truck — $5,716

  • Starting bid: $2,100
  • Winning bid: $5,716
  • Sold by: Ronda Fire Department in North Carolina
  • Delivery available: No

Yes, for less than $6,000, you too can own a fire truck. Despite being an antique vehicle at 45 years old, this truck starts, runs and “is driveable.” We don’t know how much mileage it has, but the ladder and pump still work — so there’s that.

So, if you’re in the market for a fire truck …

And who isn’t, check out these surplus trucks.

Wooden pallets sit in a field.
Photo courtesy of GovDeals

7. 300 Wood Pallets — $110

  • Starting bid: $10
  • Winning bid: $110
  • Sold by: State of Nebraska
  • Delivery available: No

Lumber isn’t cheap these days, so this lot of 300 wood pallets is a steal. You could use them to create a DIY fence for your yard (it could be a great cheap way to block your neighbor’s view) or even build pallet furniture. They’re in fair condition, so plan your projects accordingly.

Aside from cheap pallets, you can find lumber and other building materials.

8. 2015 Black Ford Explorer Police Interceptor SUV — $9,600

  • Starting bid: $5,000
  • Winning bid: $9,600
  • Sold by: City of North Royalton, Ohio
  • Delivery available: No

With used car prices so high, we won’t judge if you bid on this black Ford Explorer with a V6 engine. It spent its first four years as a patrol cruiser and the last four years as a staff vehicle.

Air conditionings, power locks and doors and a built-in CD player? What’s not to love. The SUV has just under 100,000 miles on it, but the description includes the entire maintenance history, and it looks like the vehicle has been pretty well maintained.

You can also click through hundreds of cars on GovDeals.

You can find cheap cars at auctions. Here’s our guide on how to buy a car at auction.

Office chairs sit in a warehouse.
Photo courtesy of GovDeals

9.  Six Office Chairs — $14

  • Starting bid: $10
  • Winning bid: $14
  • Sold by: University of Alabama
  • Delivery available: No

It’s crazy that these six office chairs are less than $15. You’d be hard pressed to find just one office rolling chair at Staples or Office Depot for less than $60. Then again, the exact working condition of these chairs is unknown. So there’s that.

Furniture abounds on GovDeals and there are some good deals to be had.

A fitness bike sits in a warehouse.
Photo courtesy of GovDeals

10. Upright Fitness Bike — $16

  • Starting bid: $1
  • Winning bid: $16
  • Sold by: City of Dover, New Hampshire
  • Delivery available: No

Ready to start training for the Tour de France? Probably not. But at $16 bucks for this upright bike, you could finally start that home gym you’ve been dreaming about.

Best part? It functions well and the seat is included.

You can find lots of exercise equipment on this site, from treadmills to weight racks.

School tables sit in a cafeteria.
Photo courtesy of GovDeals

11. Eight Cafeteria Tables — $365

  • Starting bid: $1
  • Winning bid: $365
  • Sold by: Bowling Green Independent School District in Kentucky
  • Delivery available: No

Need some extra seating at your next event? You can get all eight of these school cafe tables in good condition (except for a broken corner on one table) for less than $400.

A photo of a snow bunny sits in a frame.
Photo courtesy of GovDeals

12. Snow Bunny Framed Art — $1

  • Starting bid: $1
  • Winning bid: $1
  • Sold by: City of Hendersonville, Tennessee
  • Delivery available: No

In the market for some cheap decor? Just look at this snow bunny painting. Adorable. It could make a unique edition to a den or rustic cabin.

It sold for just $1.22 after taxes and fees. The wooden frame alone is probably worth at least $30.

The fine art section of GovDeals never fails to disappoint. You probably won’t snag a Van Gough or Rembrandt piece, but it can be a great way to find affordable art.

A crossbow sits on a table.
Photo courtesy of GovDeals

13. Crossbow — $260

  • Starting bid: $1
  • Current bid: $260
  • Sold by: Arkansas Game & Fish Commission
  • Delivery available: No

OK, this CenterPoint Patriot 415 crossbow with a scope is probably one of the strangest things we came across on the site. Similar new bows start at $350, so it’s not exactly a steal once you add in fees and taxes ($50), but you’ll have a good story to tell.

A pottery wheel.
Photo courtesy of GovDeals

14. Laguna Pacifica Pottery Wheel — $600

  • Starting bid: $25
  • Current bid: $600
  • Sold by: Portland Community College in Oregon
  • Delivery available: No

New pottery wheels can fetch upwards of $1,200 or more. Which makes this pottery wheel from Portland Community College a solid deal. It’s in good condition, and a two-piece splash pan and foot pedal are included.

The arts and crafts section isn’t all pottery wheels and kilns. It’s also stickers, bowling pins, baskets and framed art.

A water tower stands in a rural town.
Photo courtesy of GovDeals

15. Water Tower, 120 Feet Tall — $1

  • Starting bid: $1
  • Current bid: $1
  • Sold by: Henry County Water & Sewerage Authority in Georgia
  • Delivery available: No

Ever wonder what happens to old water towers? Apparently, they end up on GovDeals! If you’re willing to take on the risk and cost of disassembling and removing a 120-foot, 200,000 gallon water tower down to the foundation, it might be yours for just a buck.

You’ll need to maintain at least $1 million in liability insurance and provide four references to the city government to prove you’re capable of this massive job.

The price might increase — and there could be a reserve — by the time the auction closes. But with a starting bid of $1, the odds of snagging this water tower for less than $1,000 aren’t terrible.

Other Government Surplus Sites

GovDeals isn’t the only game in town when it comes to government auctions — or even odd places to find deals.

Here are a few other government auction sites where you can find bargains:

Happy bargain hunting!

Rachel Christian is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance and a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder. She focuses on retirement, investing and taxes.