Pa. Makes a Bundle Selling No-Fly Items on eBay

For thousands of lighters, scissors and any other type of airport contraband left behind by passengers at airports across the Northeast, a warehouse in Harrisburg is the end of the road.

At least until the state sells those items on eBay.com.

The bustling bit of Internet commerce has netted Pennsylvania more than $120,000 since the program started last year.

The states Surplus Property Division started receiving no-fly items several years ago, but it wasnt until last June that it started using the popular Internet auction site to sell the goods, said spokesman Frank Kane.

Sales started off slowly, running about $1,000 a month. By May and June, however, the auctions accounted for $28,000 and $23,000 respectively, Kane said.

Forks, knives, drafting compasses, lighters the stuff that lands in the Harrisburg warehouse runs the gamut.

We get a lot of scissors. We get a lot of Leatherman, we get a ton of those, he said, referring to the popular all-in-one pocket tools that are frequent casualties at airport screening checkpoints. Weve had a great success selling them on eBay.

For smaller items, the sales occur in bulk 20 pounds of box cutters, 50 pounds of metal scissors, 20 pounds of lighters.

Weve had some weird things too, Kane said. We had a sword, a machete, a meat slicer.

The meat slicer continues to gather dust in storage. We actually havent got around to selling it yet, Kane said.

Proceeds from the auctions go into the states general fund.

Its an unlikely revenue stream that seems likely to continue.

Its not just the states airports that send what the federal Transportation Security Administration refers to as voluntarily abandoned items to Harrisburg.

We pick up from Logan to Newark to Philadelphia, the whole Northeast, Kane said.

Items arent confiscated, stressed Ann Davis, TSA spokeswoman.

Travelers have options. They can return a prohibited item to their car, leave it with a friend, check it through with their baggage or even mail it to themselves, she said.

But when time-strapped passengers simply leave behind their lighters or cuticle scissors at the security checkpoint, it becomes abandoned property.

The stuff adds up.

All three New York metro-area airports ship thousands of items to Pennsylvania a month.

Each month, John F. Kennedy International Airport sends on average 17,000 prohibited items, and LaGuardia adds between 8,000 and 9,000 more.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport collects about 400 items a month, but doesnt send them south to Harrisburg, according to state and federal officials.

Between February 2002, when the TSA assumed the responsibility of screening passengers at airports, and March 2005, more than 18.3 million items have been collected. Its a staggering number thats likely to keep Pennsylvania in the surplus scissor game for quite some time.

And buyers couldnt be more pleased.

The states Internet sales have garnered the state Surplus Property Division the coveted status of an eBay.com Power Seller, with at least $1,000 in sales a month for three months and exceedingly positive feedback.

One buyer, the high bidder on a 50-pound lot of assorted kitchen utensils, had nothing but praise for the state and his $53 transaction.

Pa. Proud! Smooth as a Babys Bottom! Thank You! he wrote on the states eBay.com feedback page.

Want to check out what the states Surplus Property Division has to offer online? Search by seller on eBay.com using the advanced search option and type in pastatesurplus. With a well-timed bid, you could be the proud owner of a 20-pound lot of drafting compasses. The state made more than $120,000 selling abandoned items at airports in Pennsylvania and elsewhere last summer.

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