FORT WAYNE – Power tools, knives, air-gun pellets, snow globes and even dumbbells are just a few of the items people boarding planes in Indiana have surrendered to federal agents in the last three years.
And the objects are proving to be a small windfall for the state.
Items the Transportation Security Administration prohibits in passenger cabins – weapons like knives and snow globes because of the liquid inside – will occasionally end up at airport security checkpoints. Either passengers forgot such items were in their bags or didnt know they werent allowed on planes.
Instead of bothering to check such items in a separate bag for the cargo hold or racing back to a car to stow them and risk missing a flight, many passengers will simply leave the objects with TSA officials. These items are then handed over to the state to be auctioned off online by the Indiana Department of Administration.
Since online sales began in 2009, items as varied as tools, sporting goods and odd knickknacks have netted the state an extra $53,530.
Its amazing what people are taking to the airport, said Bob Flake, director of the Indiana State and Federal Surplus, the man in charge of the items. Its like theyre not reading the newspaper.
Items surrendered to TSA agents at Indiana airports typically end up at Indianapolis International Airport. Once a month, state workers pick up the items and take them to a warehouse near Lucas Oil Stadium.
Most of the items that come in are knives, particularly of the Swiss Army variety, but every so often the unusual and strange appear.
According to records provided by state officials, Purdue snow globes have been left at boarding gates multiple times. Also abandoned were nail guns, pool cues, golf clubs, aluminum baseball bats, bolt cutters and – one time – two bowling pins, one of them autographed by NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.
Thats probably the most unusual of all, said Connie Smith, spokeswoman for the department of administration, of the bowling pins, which sold as a set for $15 in 2009.
Flake declined to mention the most unusual items hes come across. Instead, he jokingly said, We cant go there. He did say that items the state does sell online typically sell quickly.
The state has been selling items left at airports for the past decade, but the price customers are willing to pay increased considerably after auctions were posted online, Flake said.
Before, silent auctions were conducted once a month. Customers had to come to the Indianapolis warehouse to see the items and make bids. They had to make a second trip to pick up the items if they had the winning bid.
Now, anyone anywhere can bid on anything the state posts. Officials said one recent bidder even lived in Thailand.
Our audience grew tremendously and the money has grown, Flake said. Id say we make about 10 times what we used to.
Other states have similar arrangements with the TSA.
According to a recent USA Today story, about 30 states auction off property surrendered to the TSA. California made about $9,800 in a quarterly auction this month, the newspaper reported, while Alabama sold 3 tons of items collected from airports in that state and Florida for about $15,000 last year.
Like Indiana, the majority of the items given to TSA agents at security checkpoints across the country are knives, according to the USA Today story.
James Fotenos, a TSA spokesman, said many of the objects surrendered to agents are usually in bags that passengers forgot to clean out. Other times, objects were in lost-and-found for more than a month, Fotenos said.
TSA agents will not confiscate items that are legal but prohibited from being carried onto a plane, though, and will always give passengers the chance to find some other way to transport the item.
People should double-check their bags before flying, he said.