Military surplus sales go online

Posted: Tuesday, May 28, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Do you need 77 pairs of bunny boots in assorted sizes? Or perhaps some church altar hangings or brass ecclesiastical candlesticks?

How about an infant incubator or a two-seat diesel Jeep to tow aircraft around on runways? For $35, you could get a shot at owning these or other cast-off military surplus items.

''We sell by the pallet,'' said Hunter Hoffman, a spokesman for Government Liquidation. His company has taken over the job of selling military surplus for the government.

People used to line up at the Fairbanks Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office warehouses for a chance to buy tools, furniture, beds and or appliances the Air Force and Army no longer needed.

But no more. Now shoppers may sit in their homes and browse the Internet for a list of goods, some with photos, and make an electronic bid or send off a fax.

Shoppers aren't limited by what's for sale in Alaska. Government Liquidation has more than 130 sites, Hoffman said. The company has a deal to sell the military surplus and give a percentage back to the U.S. Treasury.

The company is currently conducting a sealed bid auction in Fairbanks and Anchorage, with bids due June 3.

Inside the gray metal warehouse in Fairbanks, large boxes of clothing, medical supplies and camping equipment line metal shelving.

Pallets of video equipment, industrial kitchen appliances and office goods sit on the floor.

Near the wall is a dental chair and a medical examination table.

Outside, dozens of washing machines, dryers and refrigerators sit in a grassy field. They won't be sold individually, but in groups as large as 27.

In Anchorage, the items are available for viewing at Elmendorf Air Force Base. Want 129 pairs of white snow trousers that cost the government $1,967. Your minimum bid is $35.

You can pick up five air conditioners, or a Dodge Model D200 maintenance truck, year unknown. The truck cost the government more than $17,000, but the minimum bid is still just $35. Expect it to go for more.

It only makes sense to sell the merchandise in bulk because individually items like clothing aren't worth much, Hoffman said. Most of the buyers turn around and sell the goods at retail.

Al Rector, owner of Badger Trading Post, said he likes to buy furniture and tools, popular items in his store. He inspects the goods before he bids on them.

''You know what you're buying,'' he said.

The Alaska auctions run on 60-day cycles, Hoffman said.

The military first offers the surplus goods to other military branches and then federal, state or local agencies. What's left goes to Government Liquidation.

Last week, three pallets of winter clothing sat in the warehouse waiting to be shipped to a South African customer.

''That's a good example of how far-flung our business is,'' Hoffman said from the company's Arizona headquarters.

People in Alaska can purchase goods from other sites in the Lower 48 on the company's Web site.

A couple of days ago, two horses from the U.S. Cavalry came up for sale. ''They're still in good shape,'' Hoffman said, but too old to participate in parades and shows. ''They're retiring.'' The horses are expected to bring tens of thousands of dollars.

Sold recently was a 1941 General Electric locomotive offered in Virginia.

Allowing the public to buy the surplus military goods keeps them from going to landfills, Hoffman said. And the government gets back a little of the money it spent on the goods.


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