A 52-pound "mountain of miscellaneous used hand tools" sold for about $150. A lot of 200 Swiss-style (but Chinese-made) knives went for a bit more--at slightly over $1 per knife. Bidding was just getting underway on a pile of 30 pounds of scissors (22 scissors per pound).
Such was the scene recently on eBay, the Web-based auction site, when California offered up part of the haul that security screeners had collected at several in-state airports. Despite all the attention paid to airport security since September 11, 2001, passengers persist in trying to carry on knives, box cutters, baseball bats and other items forbidden in airplane cabins. Travelers surrender such items by the millions to federal Transportation Security Administration personnel, but there is, as yet, no nationwide policy for what to do with them once they've been collected.
Confronted with rooms full of sharp objects, some airports, such as Dallas-Fort Worth International, have sent the items to scrap-metal dealers for destruction. Others, including North Carolina's Piedmont Triad, have handed the booty over to charitable groups.
California's eBay sales were a natural outgrowth of the state's policy of selling surplus office equipment and unclaimed stolen property over the Internet, says Robb Deignan of the state's Department of General Services.
The Golden State took in about $28,000 during its first six months of hawking airport contraband. "It lets the market dictate what is the significance of the items," Deignan says. "It goes back into the economy and helps small businesses."