Since its launch in 2001, PropertyRoom.com has sourced a host of consumer goods from an extensive network of sheriff and police department property rooms. Early on, jewelry and watches quickly became the top the product categories. Today, they represent 61 percent in total sales and 65 percent of total units for the online auction website.
PropertyRoom.com founder Tom Lane has followed a very diverse career path, starting with his work as a police officer. A common complaint heard by Lane from old friends and former colleagues in law enforcement is how quickly property rooms can become overcrowded, and how grossly inefficient periodic police auctions can be.
“Many police departments actually found that managing and hosting a police auction costs more than the take-in from sales,” says Harry Brockman, vice president of client services for PropertyRoom.com. “Our auction website offers police and sheriff departments an inexpensive and efficient outlet to sell goods from crowded property rooms.”
An actual search/result page of diamonds and jewelry items on PropertyRoom.com
Lane brought on Brockman early in the formation of the online auction website. Brockman, who was also a police officer early in his career, went on to work in senior management positions with Target, Petco, and Smart & Final. His experience in distribution, transportation, and logistics helped in working with police and sheriff departments across the nation to bring goods (mainly jewelry and watches) from property rooms to the online auction website to help raise money for city and state municipalities.
PropertyRoom.com currently works with more than 2,000 police and sheriff departments to source property that is either been found, seized, or used as evidence in trials. Once these items have been held for 30 to 60 days (or are no longer needed as evidence in a trial) the items become the property of the State.
The top 2 selling categories for PropertyRoom.com are jewelry and watches, with consumer electronics a close second. As the auction website’s top earners, these property categories go through added layers of inspection before being uploaded for the auction website’s 1.5 million registered users to bid on.
All bids start at one dollar and have a set bidding time, usually three to four days. As bids tick upward, only a user’s ID number is shown, concealing the bidder’s identity.
PropertyRoom.com has its own GIA-certified jeweler on hand to inspect loose gemstones and jewelry, while a watchmaker to examine watches. These gatekeepers put gemstones, jewelry, and watches through tests and examinations to ensure goods uploaded to the website are actually what the product description states, especially high-end watches.
Taking fake Rolexes and other high-end watch copies out of circulation to be destroyed is part of the filtering process in determining the best products to upload to the auction websites.
“People have a tremendous level of trust with their local police force,” says Brockman. “That’s why we must maintain the highest product integrity.”
As one might expect, there’s a grab bag of jewelry and watches users can bid on, from inexpensive colored-stone set bracelets to pricey jewelry and watches as well as important diamonds. PropertyRoom.com even issues its own grading report for these higher-end items.
In fact, Jewelry and watches have become such a lucrative product category for the auction site that they have hired a buying agent in recent years to purchase closeouts from well-known jewelry manufacturers. “Our agent goes to all of the big gem and jewelry industry trade shows,” says Brockman.
PropertyRoom.com takes a percentage of auction sales to cover operating costs and profit, with the remaining proceeds going back to city and/or state’s general operating funds. “The money is then used for any number of city and state infrastructure projects,” says Brockman.
Some of the top jewelry buyers using PropertyRoom.com have carved out a good business model for themselves. Kristy Walz, who owns a small salon and fashion accessories boutique in Minnesota, does well in selling sterling silver rings set with colored stones. Pearl necklaces sourced from the auction website have also been selling well for her in recent months.
Judy Giampieri, owner of JudysJewels.com, has created a virtual store front for her business, with jewelry sourced mainly from PropertyRoom.com. Yellow gold bracelets set with colored stones are top sellers for the Colorado-based jewelry e-tailer.