SPRINGFIELD - Illinois' online auction of surplus state property is going so well that officials are encouraging agencies and universities to scrounge through closets, garages and warehouses.
Since the launch of I-BID in 2003, the state has earned about $700,000 from the sale of more than 3,000 items, ranging from an old Department of Transportation helicopter to Swiss Army knives confiscated from travelers at the state's airports.
"There are people interested in everything we might sell," said Brian Chapman, chief operating officer for the Department of Central Management Services. "Cars and trucks, to one-armed dolls."
The helicopter sold for more than $250,000 dollars. A bid of $435 was enough to win a bright orange locker, football and helmet from the University of Illinois. There are also boats, musical instruments and exercise equipment.
"And what household is complete without a Zamboni?" Chapman said, referring to an ice resurfacing machine recently arrived from the University of Illinois at Chicago's rink. (Hours before the auction was scheduled to close, sixteen people had bid the Zamboni up to $1,002.50.)
Before I-BID, the state sold surplus equipment at small warehouse auctions in Springfield. But the Web has opened the auctions to a new set of customers, throughout the country and the world. More than 9,500 people are registered bidders.
"It certainly increases interest," said Curtis Howard, head of surplus property for the state.
As interest in I-BID has grown, state warehouse workers have begun looking out for items - like couches, tables and chairs from state office lobbies in the 1970s that have become trendy again.
"We've had people pay up to $600, $700 for recliners," Howard said.
If a high bid comes in at the end of a listed deadline, I-BID officials extend the auction for another five minutes. The extensions continue until there's a clear, uncontested winner.
When the state auctioned off a 1986 Corvette convertible, late bidders extended the auction nearly 35 minutes, running the price up to $10,075, well over the listed value, officials said.
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