Did you know you can make cash from lost luggage? Hundreds of thousands of suitcases get lost every year around the world, but they don’t just disappear into a black hole – in fact, they open up an opportunity for you to make money.
Even the ones that never find their owners again end up somewhere. In fact, that somewhere is usually some form of auction house that sells unclaimed baggage to people like you and me. In America, the Unclaimed Baggage Centre in Alabama receives 800,000 visitors per year and is, incredibly, the state’s biggest tourist attraction.
If you can’t get to Alabama then no fear, the British version of lost luggage auctions is also the place to bag a good bargain and even sell it on at a profit.
When British Airways has a surplus of unclaimed baggage in storage, it sells the cases at auction (of course, BA – and we hope all airlines – do their absolute best to reunite baggage that has gone astray with its owner before attempting to sell it off.)
All those looking to bag a bargain on the lucky dip of lost luggage need to do is head down to the auction house, and bid on cases that go under the hammer.
If you’re lucky, you could pick up items worth hundreds or thousands of pounds, for very little – most suitcases sell for between £10 and £75. The savvy amongst you could sell items on for more than you paid, making a tidy profit.
Sometimes, auction houses will have opened up the suitcases and separated the goods. Other times, there may be a generic description of what’s inside – “men’s clothes”, for example.
There are plenty of bargains up for grabs, and it can be fun – many people describe it as being like a treasure hunt.
Where to look
London’s lost luggage hotspot is Greasby’s in Tooting, south west London. It’s here that British Airways (one of the world’s biggest baggage losers) sells its lost luggage. Greasby’s also deals with the lost luggage from Heathrow Airport.
Auctions take place every Tuesday, with views the Monday before. The most recent Monday viewing took place between 11am and 4.45pm. The viewings give you a chance to suss out which bags you want to buy.
Other notable auction houses that deal in lost luggage include:
- BCVA Commercial Auctions (Bristol)
- Mulberry Bank Auctions (Glasgow-based, but all auctions take place online)
- Wellers of Guildford (Surrey)
As most of the above auction houses don’t have allotted airport auctions, it’s probably best to check with their website as to the next scheduled date for baggage bounty. You should sign up to their mailing lists, which will let you know when they’re going to happen, or follow individual houses on social media.
After viewing the auction collection, go home and think about the prices of likely individual items to see how much of a profit you can make up to a certain bid. It’s hard to tell if cases are sold closed, but the posher the case, the more likely it is to contain items of value.
A good way to get an idea of how much the cases themselves will sell for is to search for similar items that are already listed on eBay. You can also check out the recommended retail price of the cases by looking online.
Once you know how much the case itself is worth, you can set your bidding limit. The only gamble is on how much over the worth of the case you’re willing to bid. If the case contains lots of goodies then it could be worth exceeding your limit. Of course, it could be full of junk.
If you’ve found an auction house that lets you see into the cases before you bid on them, you’ve got a better chance of grabbing a bargain.The same goes if the auction house gives you a description of what’s inside the case, even if it’s brief.
There are two paths you can take at the auction. The auctioneers are likely to take very valuable items out of the suitcases first and sell them separately. This might include electronics, shoes and jewellery. You can bid on these and then sell them, ideally for more, elsewhere.
Alternatively, you can bid for suitcases and hope there are some good clothes, shoes, books, etc. in them that you could flog. This is a bit of a lottery. Auctioneers only give the vaguest details about what is in each suitcase, so you won’t know exactly what you are buying.
The auctioneers do tell you whether the clothes are clean or not though. It’s up to you whether or not you’re happy dealing with someone else’s nasty knickers. Of course you can also sell the suitcase itself and make some cash on that too.
Once you’ve successfully bid and paid for unclaimed luggage bargains, take them home and begin your online selling to make money. Take some photos, write some good ad copy, and then post it on eBay and wait for the bidding to begin.
Lots. Valuable items can sell very cheaply at auction. A £500 snowboard recently sold for £75, for example. Suitcases might sell between £5 to £50. Even if the case is just full of clothes you should be able to sell it all for more than the price you paid for it.