You’re ready to start your vacation and you’re waiting in line at the TSA checkpoint, anxiously checking your boarding time while practicing your frozen jumping jack maneuver to ensure all goes well in the x-ray sensor. Then it hits you. You forgot to take those throwing stars out of your bag (before you scoff at this, just know that throwing stars are among the most common weapons seized by TSA agents). At this point, you have two options: beeline it out of security and ditch the item in the trash or play it cool and hope the stars pass as coasters. As the security line takes a step forward, you’re forced to make a snap choice. You panic. You roll with option B. Then everything goes wrong.
Where do confiscated TSA items go?
Where your confiscated item goes largely depends on what category it falls into. Drinks and food you can’t take through security can either be consumed right away or thrown away. Alcohol is always dumped.
Items like household goods, power tools, weapons, and sharp or otherwise dangerous objects — including your throwing stars — are taken and kept by the TSA in their storage area within the airport. After spending an undetermined amount of time in what is essentially a penitentiary for “voluntarily surrendered items,” the TSA hands many of these goods over to the state government. By the time it makes it from the TSA to the state government office, you’re likely already back from vacation and have figured out a way to live without your item. All hope is not lost, however.
Where to buy confiscated TSA items
This is where the story gets good. If you never quite got over that object the TSA took from you, or want to take advantage of items other people have lost, some state governments actually sell the confiscated goods in online auctions via government-operated websites. There’s no set time table for when your item will appear — or any guarantee that it ever will, for that matter — but this is your best bet for reunification. Even if you don’t find the exact item, there’s a chance you’ll find something similar.
The online auctions run like one on eBay: Place a bid on it in the allotted time, check back to see if anyone bid higher, and, if you win, the item is shipped right to your doorstep. The state selling the item keeps the revenue, putting it towards such line items as the state general fund. In some states, you have to register with the government or website selling the items in order to bid while in others you can simply click in and get started. Some states even host live auctions and sales, which are wild events that are essentially a cross between an estate auction and a flea market where you can show up and peruse items for sale in person.
The best part of these auctions is that you can shamelessly take advantage of other people’s misfortune. It’s an incredible hack for holiday and birthday shopping, or even for rewarding yourself for not totally blowing your diet on a recent trip. A full list of where to buy items confiscated by the TSA is available from the National Association of State Agencies for Surplus Property. Here you’ll find links to an impressively large collection of stuff for sale, from used government fleet vehicles to seven pounds of assorted watches. And because these auctions include items taken from checked baggage as well as at security checkpoints, you just might score a great deal on a taser along with a sweet Hydro Flask water bottle. When it arrives, you can give it a good cleaning and embrace the fact that the stickers on the side of your new water bottle give it a touch of character you never could have achieved on your own.