County holds annual public auction

By: Nico Rubello | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published May 8, 2013

 A crowd gathers to bid on one of hundreds of items up for bid.

A crowd gathers to bid on one of hundreds of items up for bid.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Experienced bidders know that, when it comes to public auctions, it’s good to do your research.

Many times, new bidders come to the block hoping to walk away with a cheap bargain, yet are disappointed when the actual bidding quickly goes beyond their expectations.

“You have to do your DD, I guess you’d call it — your due diligence,” said Jeff Tinknell. “You have to know the value of things.”

Tinknell, of Washington Township, was among those who turned out to the annual Macomb County public auction on May 4 at the county warehouse on Vic Wertz Drive in Clinton Township.

With rapid-fire efficiency the prices of the electronics, jewelry, furniture and municipal vehicles went up. One by one, the goose statue, the flat-screen TVs, various chairs and desks, the punching bag, municipal fire trucks and dump trucks, out-of-service police cruisers and the other 500-plus items were sold off to the crowd over the next few hours.

The auctioneers, Chuck Cryderman and Associates LLC, provided a list of some of the items up for bid on their website beforehand.

The diverse inventory comes from police seizures, or from county departments and local cities and townships that have no use for the items anymore. In exchange for selling the items for the localities, the county takes a 2 percent commission for staging and running the event.

The list of participating localities included Harrison Township, Chesterfield Township, Ray Township, New Baltimore and Warren, said county Warehouse Services Manager Debbie Gunn.

Like last year, this year’s auction was marked by sunny skies, which drew more people — or, as some bidders see it, more competition.

The process of organizing the event takes three months, Gunn said. This year’s auction featured more fire trucks but fewer vehicles overall, many of which are from Warren, she added. On the whole, the sale was on par with past years.

Dan Saleh, of Clinton Township, said he attends auctions every few weeks, looking for good deals. He has been buying items from public auctions for about 15 years. Sometimes he sells the item; other times, he uses it himself before selling it.

“Do your homework; that’s all I can tell you,” he said when asked for bidding tips. “You want to do as much research as you can.”

When the items are posted beforehand, as in the case of the Macomb County auction, you can do research before the bidding starts, said Armada resident David Tinknell, who bought a camera at the county auction, where organizers opened the warehouse doors at 8 a.m., and the auction began an hour later, running  through the afternoon.

And even while you’re at the auction, you can do plenty of research with a smartphone.

Still, for all the preparation possible, you never know what you’re going to find at a public auction.

Gunn said the county does its best to disclose information about the items for bid — in the case of cars, phrases like “do not drive, no brakes” were written on the windshield — but if sellers don’t know it, they can’t disclose it.

Jeff Tinknell said that the county public auction was better than private auctions about disclosing the information.

Since the items are sold as-is, bidders try to guess the cost of refurbishing the item while forming their top bids.

But the unpredictability factor may also work to their advantage. Take, for instance, the time Saleh walked away with a box of phones and cameras for $35, and only after the purchase did he find an iPhone in the bottom of the box.

“I wasn’t planning on buying the box of phones,” he said.

Tony Capizzi said he buys, refurbishes and sells vehicles regularly from public auctions, like the county one, for Motor City Car Company. He has sold fire trucks in the past for use in other countries, like Chile, or to be used as Hollywood props, he said.

When bidding, he takes into account how much it will cost him to fix up the vehicle and how much he thinks he’ll be able to sell it for.

But it doesn’t always work out. He recently purchased two vehicles from other auctions.

“One made easy money, and on the other one, I lost” because it needed a new motor, he said. “It’s very hard. A lot of people come and get burned on this (stuff), but it’s just part of the game.”

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