It's cheaper if it was taken into custody

TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: Seems like everyone's trying to save a buck during this holiday season. But there is one online store where your gift might literally be a steal. Here's Cash Peters.


Cash Peters: The Web site's called PropertyRoom.com. Imagine eBay, only selling stolen goods. As well as lost property, stuff used as evidence in court. Everything from computers to boats. It's very exciting. Harry Brockman runs it.

Harry Brockman: All of this property comes from both police and sheriff's departments across the country.

Peters: And I imagine initially that the police just took this stuff home. "Wow, a stolen video recorder. I need one of those." And next thing, it's in their living room.

Brockman: Oh actually, they have very, very tight controls on it to avoid just that kind of . . .

Peters: Or is it just PR? Do they really take it home?

Brockman: Oh no, they don't.

Shocking. Small items like jewelry arrive every day in the mail in little envelopes.

Brockman: You know, it's sort of like a treasure hunt. You don't know what it's going to be until you open it. So in this case it's simply a token.

A subway token, what a letdown. But here's the thing, it could just as easily be a gold watch or a valuable painting. Jerry Fernandez is the general manager.

Jerry Fernandez: We had a photograph of President Kennedy. One of the guys didn't really know who President Kennedy was.

Peters: Who President Kennedy was. Oh, it's easy, isn't it, to forget those kind of people?

Fernandez: It came up on the auction, somebody won it and they got a pretty good penny for it.

And the best bit? Everything starts at a dollar. A dollar, that's all. Bestsellers are tools, electronics and bikes. But they also have stuff they can't even identify.

Brockman: There was an item that had two globes with a metal pipe between them, it was all silver. We had no idea what it was, other than it was silver. We described it, we took a picture of it, we put it on the site and it sold for $230, and we still don't know what it was.

Peters: Well, what did you describe it as?

Brockman: A silver item.

Peters: Oh, what's this?

Brockman: It's a samurai sword.

Peters: Oh, wow. It really is.

Brockman: We get hundreds of these.

Peters: Oh really?

Brockman: Yes.

Peters: There now are hundreds of samurais having to fight with their fists.

Hah. Isn't this great, though? In ghastly economic times with the holidays right here, I bet a lot of people are going to be bidding for stuff on PropertyRoom.com.

Brockman: Your kid wants a bike, you can't afford $70 -- but you can afford $20 to fulfill the wish that your child had. It's certainly worth it, then, isn't it?

Peters: You just tell them Santa's cheap.

Well, they have to learn sometime.

In City of Industry, California, I'm Cash Peters for Marketplace.

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