What would you do with a 20-foot-wide American flag? How about one for which you paid upward of $300 and that came straight from the military?
Such an item would make "an excellent piece of patriotic wallpaper," says Hunter Hoffmann, the spokesman for Government Liquidation LLC, a subsidiary of Liquidity Services Inc. Since June of 2001, his company has been auctioning surplus military and government items, ranging from uniforms and accessories to fire trucks and catamarans, on www.govliquidation.com.
Last week, the company auctioned off 18 authentic military-issue American flags from its Fort Meade warehouse. The flags measured 10-by-19 feet each, and sold for $240 to $340 - the prices varied by flag, since each was auctioned separately.
The liquidation company works with the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service. Sale profits, which exceed $45 million annually, are split between DRMS and the liquidators, generating millions of dollars every month for the U.S. Treasury.
Many of the auction site's customers are small businesses that are able to purchase items like machine tools, wood- or metal-working tools, tires or audio-visual equipment, fix them up as needed and sell them for a profit. Many collectors also patronize the site, but they are usually more interested in uniforms and memorabilia, according to Hoffmann.
As at most Internet auctions, prices range from a few dollars for a soldier's water canteen to five- and six-figure sums for fire trucks and boats, respectively. The site's 18,000 customers come from 81 countries in addition to the United States.