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Police auction draws live audience

Sally Martin laughs as Lawrence Martin, owners of

Sally Martin laughs as Lawrence Martin, owners of Studio Antiques in El Segundo, CA, throws up his arms after winning a lot at the live auction run by Property Room at its Farmingdale location. (May 12, 2012) Credit: Newsday/Karen Wiles Stabile

All morning, Mark Meyer had his eye on a used Mercedes-Benz police bike -- but it wasn't meant to be.

When it came to the auction floor, the bike, valued at $2,000 new, sold for $950. Meyer, owner of Nifty Thrifty secondhand and vintage store in West Babylon, bowed out at $650.

But as one of the hawk-eyed thrift shop owners who doubles as a cast member on the Travel Channel's show "Baggage Battles," Meyer still walked away with several items including a camcorder for $20 and a few "mystery boxes" -- that might hold anything from plastic jewelry to vintage Chanel purses -- for about $200.

"I'm in my home-field-advantage right now," said Meyer, a Lindenhurst native. "I have an empty truck and a full pocket."

The live auction in a Farmingdale warehouse was material for episode 10 of "Baggage Battles," a reality show on the business of buying and reselling unclaimed property, shot for the first time on Long Island.

It was hosted by Property Room, an online bidding company that partners with police departments nationwide to auction the found and seized merchandise that police agencies collect.

"Every police department in the United States has a property room, and, by law, has to clean out the property room and auction the stuff off to the public," said Tom Lane, the company's founder and a former Long Beach Police Department detective.

Several hundred people gathered Saturday to bid on 230 pieces, ranging from guitars, antique swords and jewelry to more unusual items, including an unused 10-year-old Siemens X-ray machine.

Police departments don't give back stories on the merchandise, Lane said.

Property Room has contracts with roughly 15 Long Island departments, including Nassau County's, which signed on in January and recently handed over a Patek Philippe, he said. Valued at $125,000 new, the watch is going for $70,000 on

Amid the hoots and hollers as bid numbers flew into the air, Bryan Johnson, of Huntington, a customer for a year, hung back. Johnson said he came out of curiosity.

He flirted with bidding on a concrete saw and a few iPods -- but didn't want to spend more than $200. But "it's addictive," Johnson said. "You can save a lot of money."


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