"We have gross sales of $150 million in a year and have given $500 million back to the government" since Government Liquidation took over the auctions 12 years ago, said Burton, whose business has its headquarters in Scottsdale, Ariz.
The auction site has proved a boon to Al Harrison, who runs A&M Harrison Construction Co. in Jackson Township, Ocean County. He has purchased five heavy trucks, two large generators, and three light stands over the last several months.
Two five-ton trucks, each with 25,000 to 29,000 miles, cost him $3,800 and $4,800, said Harrison, who uses the trucks to plow snow for the township. Each would have cost $72,000 new. Three other 21/2-ton trucks sold for $3,800.
"The price is right, the deals are good, and the stuff is unique," said Harrison, who was able to drive the trucks from the joint base with temporary tags. The auction site "makes things affordable that wouldn't be possible elsewhere."
Last year, a Maryland buyer purchased the decommissioned 1946 Coast Guard cutter Blackberry to transplant oysters from a hatchery at the University of Maryland to the Chesapeake Bay.
A Virginia man bought the 1953 Army firefighting tugboat Valley Forge to tow boats, concrete, and metal railing to artificial reef sites along the East Coast.
Other qualified buyers have acquired horses retired from service because of age or unsuitability and purchased millions of pounds of scrap metal.
"One time, I saw a guy stuffing his sedan" with items purchased at auction, Burton said. "I asked, 'Hey, what did you get?' "
"He bought about 30 sleeping bags and was going to sell them on eBay," he said. "You can borrow your father-in-law's car, stuff it with sleeping bags, and get a shot at the American dream."
At the Fort Dix portion of the base, Government Liquidation usually has about 30 items at any given time with bids starting at $50. Among the lots this week: a snowplow, freight container, mobile home, and tens of thousands of pounds of brass and aluminum shell casings and cartridges.
"We receive property [from the Defense Department], write up a description, and put it on the website" govliquidation.com, said the site's manager, Dennis Moyer. "We move dozens of items a month - construction equipment, bulldozers, forklifts, trailers, and tree spades. Price is a big part of it."
"I get the invoices and make arrangements for delivery," said Moyer, who also runs sites at Defense Department facilities at Tobyhanna, Pa.; Fort Drum, N.Y.; and Richmond, Va. "We sell to individuals and businesses. Some of them resell things."
Among the prospective buyers monitoring the Government Liquidation website is Andy Wade, proprietor of Wade Salvage in Atco, Camden County. His location is a graveyard for military and civilian aircraft, with fuselages, wings, and engines resting atop mountains of other scrap metal and assorted items.
"Because the military is downsizing and modernizing, there will be a lot of stuff sold," Wade said. "I'm getting ready. . . . I'll have to be more aggressive" in bidding.
Some auction lots have gone for unexpectedly low prices. At a Twentynine Palms, Calif., site, millions of pounds of scrap metal were offered.
"Someone bid $150 and got it," Burton said. "Nobody else was looking at Twentynine Palms."
At Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, a 1974 Navy tugboat, the Catahecassa, was auctioned Feb. 11 for $106,000 after serving 39 years in the waters around Bremerton, Wash.
Other purchasers have asked Government Liquidation for tanks. "We have them, but you have to dissemble them and cut them up as scrap," Burton said. "A VFW post or government-sponsored entity might be able to take custody of a tank in an inert state, but everyone else has to use it as scrap."
Seventy-five percent of the proceeds from scrap sales go to the government and 25 percent to Government Liquidation. With other items, the company pays the government 2 percent of the original purchase price of an item and keeps the rest.
"We get 5,000 to 10,000 items a week - from ballpoint pens to trucks - and 20 to 30 million pounds of scrap a month" from the Defense Department, Burton said. "We've sold 240 million items - and people aren't paying full price."
See a video about auctioning military goods at www.philly.com/
Contact Edward Colimore
at 856-779-3833 or email@example.com.