Friday, March 22, 2013

Government Deals: Accessing Merchandise Values

One of the most important skills you will have to bring to a government surplus or seized merchandise auction is the ability to assess the value of any item you intend to bid on. If you intend to come out on top with the best possible deal, you will have to be able to determine the approximate price of an item before you place your bids. Items can range from exotic collectibles, to furniture, to vehicles, and a whole slew of other goods, so regardless if you’re a professional salesman or an everyday consumer or collector, you will need the resources to help you with price checks.

The easiest way to go about researching item values would be getting your hands on the various price and facts guides that are available for virtually any kind of item you can find at government auctions. The best and most widely used guides fall under the Blue Book guides, which cover items from cars to electronics to jewelry.

When accessing car values, you can start by running the car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) that should be made available at most auctions. You can check the VIN with services like CarFax to bring up information regarding the car’s history, whether it’s been in any floods, or if it underwent any cosmetic makeovers before, etc. In combination with any descriptions provided by the auction organizers, you can get a bigger picture of the car’s value before you even physically inspect the car during the auction’s preview dates. You should then get a copy of the National Automobile Dealer Association’s (NADA) used car guides or some version of the Blue Book guide to complement the research you’ve already done. With all this information at hand, you should be able to get a clear picture of what each individual car is worth, making your purchases that much more worth it.

For electronics such as computers, cameras, sound systems, you’ll want to get a copy of the Orion Blue Book, which is one of the largest and best known version of the Blue Book series that covers not only electronics, but also power tools, firearms and musical instruments. You can access additional up-to-date information on their website (, where you can access their reports at varying costs, or subscribe annually to their services for more hefty amounts. But depending on what kind of information you’re searching for—for example, if you only want price checks for iPods or other MP3 players—it will be significantly cheaper to get only the reports you need.

There are also Blue Book guides for coins and other collectibles, should you be interested in those types of items. For antique items, a great guide to rely on would be the Kovels’ Antiques & Collectibles Price List ( to get the best up-to-date information around. In many cases, you can also check out the listings on auction websites such as eBay and get a good feel of how similar items are priced. What can be agreed upon is that there are price guides and resources for generally anything that could be found at government auctions around the country. If you want to get the most out of your bargain-hunting endeavors, you will want to have some of these guides in your hands to help you find the most worthwhile deals around.

Before you go out of your way to find physical price guides to help you with assessing item values, check out first and see if there are any auctions in particular that you may be interested in. If there are, contact the auction organizers who are in charge and see if you can get copies of their catalog. Then when you see any merchandise that suits your tastes, you can start researching the prices and proceed from there.

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