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Police auctions – how to legally buy stolen goods

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Buying stolen goods might sound a teeny bit dodgy but, through police auctions, it can help you make some big savings – and it's all completely legal.

burglar carrying tv and woman holding bidding card

Credit: Andrey Burmakin, rtsimage – Shutterstock

Ever wondered what the police do with all the stolen goods and lost property they recover if they can't return it to the owner? They sell it for cheap prices at police auctions, and if you know where to look, you can find an absolute steal.

Buying stolen goods at police auctions is completely legal. And the best part is that not many people know they exist, let alone that they're on eBay and other online auction sites. You can find some real gems with (hopefully!) little competition from other buyers.

Interested? Read on to find out more about this nice little money-saving trick.

If you haven't already, check out our guide to the best swap sites to exchange things you no longer want for things you very much do.

Best police auctions UK

Here are the best places to find stolen goods that are being sold in police auctions:

  1. Bumblebee Auctions

    bumblebee auctions logo

    Many police forces in the UK use a site called Bumblebee Auctions to sell their stolen goods.

    The process is similar to buying items on eBay, but the site is a little less user-friendly and there will likely only be a small number of items up for grabs at any one time.

    Categories that tend to have the most listed items include bikes, cameras, jewellery and gaming consoles, but it's worth checking back regularly to spot the best finds.

    Before you can bid on an item with Bumblebee Auctions, you first need to register on Nochex (which is similar to PayPal) and link it to your bank account.

    Nochex will take a non-refundable admin fee of up to £3 to get you started, and only then can you register on Bumblebee Auctions and start bidding on items. Because of this charge, we'd recommend only signing up if you're sure you'll make use of your account.

    Unlike eBay, you can't 'snipe' an item on Bumblebee. Sniping on eBay is when you watch other bidders go against each other and then jump in with your bid in the last few seconds to win the item.

    On Bumblebee, however, if you place a bid within the last 10 minutes, the auction is automatically extended by 10 more minutes.

    Bear in mind that most items will be collection only, although you can occasionally pay for delivery. If the item isn't as it was described on the site, you do have the right to return it and get a refund, but check for any issues when you first collect it.

    Visit Bumblebee Auctions »


  2. Police eBay stores

    ebay logo

    A number of police forces have set up their own official eBay stores to sell stolen goods or lost property. For example, Sussex Police and Leicester Police have their own stores.

    Again, the goods sold on these eBay pages will likely be collection only, but smaller items might occasionally have a delivery option. And as with Bumblebee Auctions, the selection of items on sale will vary all the time.

    To see if your local police force has an eBay store, check its website or give them a call.

    You'll need to bid for most items, but you'll sometimes see a 'Buy It Now' option – read our eBay buying tips to make sure you get the best deal.

    Visit eBay »


  3. Auction houses

    auction hammer

    Finally, as well as online bidding sites, some police forces use good old-fashioned auction houses instead. These are events where you physically go along to bid on items, like you may have seen on TV shows like Flog It or Homes Under The Hammer.

    You can hunt out the details of any upcoming auctions on your local police force website or by searching online for police auctions in your area. Wilsons Auctions and John Pye Auctions are just two of the auction houses selling police seized goods.

    Auction houses are perfect for selling larger items as the buyer is able to take the item away with them on the same day.

    What's more, some auction houses allow potential buyers to come in to view items the day before the auction is due to take place. This gives you the chance to suss out what you want to bid for in advance.

    Just remember that you usually need to register with an auction house to be able to bid there, and you'll have to pay a buyers' premium of around 15% – 25% plus VAT on top of the sale price.

What are police auctions?

auction hammer

Credit: Billion Photos – Shutterstock

Police often retrieve stolen goods from criminals or receive lost property from the public. If they aren't able to track down the original owner, they auction the items off and put the proceeds towards police initiatives or charitable causes.

The police don't have the capacity to store items (especially larger items like bikes) for long periods of time, so police auctions are an effective way of legally passing them on.

If you're browsing a police auction and spot something that you lost or was stolen from you, contact the police with evidence and you should be able to claim it back. But, as a buyer, bear in mind that this means that auctions can sometimes be cancelled at the last minute if the original owner comes forward.

How to find police auctions online

While some police forces sell stolen goods in auction houses, there are actually a fair amount of police auctions online, too.

On eBay, for example, you can find a number of police shops that sell items that have been confiscated or gone unclaimed. We go into more detail on where to find the best police auctions above.

And, for specific details about where your local police constabulary sells goods, either online or offline, it's worth giving them a call.

What can you buy at police auctions?

There's a huge variety of stolen goods for sale at police auctions. They can typically include cheap cars, bikes and other types of vehicles, as well as jewellery, designer clothes, house tools, cameras and pretty much anything else you can think of.

There often won't be a huge amount of info about each item at police auctions. But the listings should at least include a photo to give you an idea of the quality and condition of whatever you're buying.

Although items sold at police auctions are generally a lot more affordable than you'd find elsewhere, our main piece of advice is that you shouldn't automatically assume something is a good deal just because you've found it at a police auction.

Make sure to check online marketplaces like eBay, Amazon and Facebook Marketplace and selling groups to see if you can get a better price elsewhere first.

Police auctions are something of a hidden gem when it comes to finding a bargain – just like these secret sales sites...


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