Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Leftovers take off in Tampa International Airport auction


Maybe she was washing her hands when she slid off the heart-shaped ring crusted in diamonds, then turned her back to catch a plane. Maybe he was too tipsy to care when he dropped the blue plastic beer yard in the concourse.

Maybe they never knew these things would land in a Tampa International Airport warehouse full of mysteries and untold stories, alongside rumpled socks, board games and baby strollers, boxed, bagged and tagged for the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority's Lost and Abandoned Property Auction.

The sale happens three or four times a year on, a kind of eBay for governments. These are not bags left on luggage belts or lost in connections. The airlines handle those. These are coats left on chair backs, laptops left at cafes, suitcases left unattended despite those gentle warnings that chime from the airport loudspeakers.

After officers search the bags for anything dangerous or illegal, they turn to lost and found. There, workers look for identification, take out food and medicine, then set about a kind of detective work, trying for at least 30 days to find owners.

If it's a class ring, they call the school. If it's an iPhone, they call the emergency contact. If it's a prosthetic body part or a chandelier or a wooden cow — all have been left in Tampa — they have to think extra hard.

They're able to return about a quarter of stuff, said Mitch Thrower, the aviation authority's administration manager, reuniting frantic wives with wedding rings and little boys with bikes. Sometimes people don't want the stuff back. Maybe it wasn't worth the price of checking. Think big stuffed animals won at Busch Gardens.

The unclaimed trappings stay in the staid, cool warehouse. Quality things get appraised. Stray clothes get sorted. Sunglasses get grouped. Computers and phones get wiped, photos and search histories gone for good. Luggage stays packed, dirty boxer shorts and all, and best of luck finding a gem.

The money goes into the airport's operating fund. The last three auctions averaged about $14,000. As of Tuesday, total bids were up to $10,000.

A set of 30 packed suitcases had 42 bids, climbing over $900. A Tag Heuer men's watch appraised at $1,675 had bids up to $715. A box of 200 sunglasses, always popular with people hunting stray Guccis and Dolce & Gabbanas, was up to $190.

Deal seekers, charity workers and business types who buy to sell bid for weeks, toppling higher offers, and show up in U-Hauls and pickup trucks.

One came in a tiny car, chucked the boxes and stuffed dirty clothes in the back seat. One, Thrower said, came from New Orleans to haul things he planned to sell at an open-air market in Nigeria.

When this auction ends Monday, buyers will take the leather jackets, the size 36 Tommy Hilfiger belt, the caftan that reeked of patchouli. They'll take the umbrellas and the New Testaments, the boogie boards and motorcycle helmets, the fishing equipment and the painting of a woman smelling roses tagged "WOMAN SMELLING ROSES." They'll take the walkers that maybe belonged to old men, the Winnie the Pooh My First Ride On that maybe belonged to a child, the Star Wars light sabers that maybe belonged to a child at heart.

They'll take iPads more than books, but they'll still take a few hardcovers. Lifeguard. God's Prescription for Healing.

The Leftovers.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3394.

To bid on items in the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority's Lost and Abandoned Property Auction through Monday, visit and search for Hillsborough. Here are some of the items people left at Tampa International Airport::

. Bose headphones

>> Candy Land game

>> Canes with arm stabilizers

>> Air hockey set

>> Golf bag

. Gold rings and watches

. Green pool chair

>> Incandescent torchiere floor lamp

>> Motorcycle helmet

. Red bicycle

Motorcycle helmet, pool chair and more

Leftovers take off in Tampa International Airport auction 01/22/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 12:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Recall petition targets two Madeira Beach commissioners

    Local Government

    MADEIRA BEACH — A petition to recall two commissioners who won their seats in a highly contested election in March began circulating in the city last week.

    John Douthirt
  2. Trigaux: Amid wealth inequality, is middle class losing habit of giving to charities?


    In the slow economic recovery since the nasty recession a decade ago, researchers are wondering if the hard times back then broke middle class America's habit of charitable giving.

    Dr. Kiran Patel and his wife and fellow doctor Pallavi Patel rank among the most generous philanthropists in the Tampa Bay area in recent decades. Their most recent giving: a $200 million pledge, consisting of a $50 million gift to Nova Southeastern University, plus $150 million to buy and build a Nova-affiliated medical education complex in Clearwater. The Patels also have given considerable sums to the University of South Florida and area hospitals. In this 2014 photo, the couple pose for pictures on the green carpet prior to a 15th International Indian Film Academy Awards event in Tampa. [Times file photo]
  3. The celebrities who have said #MeToo about sexual assault and harassment


    #YouToo have seen #MeToo.

    Stories of sexual harassment and assault have dominated the cultural conversation for the past week. Hundreds of thousands of women have taken to social media to share that they have been harassed or assaulted by men. Celebrities have used their platforms to hold men accountable for …

    CHUCK GONZALES   |   Special to the Times
  4. Bahá'i faith celebrates 200th anniversary of birth of divine messenger Bahá'u'lláh


    Times Staff Writer

    ST. PETERSBURG — Farah Khorsandian-Sanchez was born to Iranian parents in India, in a Bahá'í home. Her husband was born in Spain, grew up in Venezuela and is Catholic.

    Patrick Norado (left), Thomas Alexander and Sepideh Eskandari talk after praying at the St. Petersburg Baha'i Center in St. Petersburg on Saturday. A group on Saturday gathered to study the teachings of the Baha'i faith.EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times

  5. Rick and Tom podcast: Who will be the Bucs' QB on Sunday?


    Who the Bucs' quarterback will be Sunday against the Bills became clear as mud as Jameis Winston hasn't thrown all week but will take all the practice reps today.

    Will Ryan Fitzpatrick start for the Bucs Sunday in Buffalo?