An Elf on the Shelf needing a new home for the holidays. Souvenir alligator heads. And if you’re already making your holiday shopping list, how about a pair of high-end designer dress shoes?
These are just a few of the hundreds of unclaimed personal items left behind at Pittsburgh International Airport that will be auctioned off at the Allegheny County Airport Authority’s annual auction on Saturday. The bidding—in person—begins at 10 a.m.
“We are excited to be returning to an in-person event,” said Dawn Bailey, Manager of Landside and Terminal Operations. “We have two years’ worth of left-behind items for the public due to a scaled-down, online-only event last year.”
The list is long and impressive: nearly 1,000 pieces of jewelry—including silver and gold pieces—more than 500 electronic items, nine abandoned vehicles, runway brooms and plows.
Oh yeah, and a fire truck.
The big sort
Getting ready for the auction is a team effort. The Heavy Equipment Building at PIT transforms into a mini-warehouse with a team of volunteers sorting through thousands of items.
“We spend about two full days going through the different items and making sure we’re categorizing them and putting them in different boxes,” said Elise Gomez, Manager of Customer Experience.
Anything and everything are part of the sort, from a portable travel toilet seat to a rice maker, a lava lamp, canes and walkers, picture frames, a skillet, a cooler and a speaker.
“There’s always new surprises, but there’s also a lot of the same items, like electronics and clothing, some of the things often left behind at airports,” Gomez added.
Items are turned into the airport’s lost and found and held for 30 days. When an item isn’t claimed, it goes to the airport auction. Nine vehicles, abandoned in the airport’s parking lots, are up for bid, ranging from a 2002 BMW 530i to a 2016 Mini Cooper S Hardtop.
And about that fire truck, it’s a 2001 model that was part of the fleet at PIT’s fire department. It served until two years ago, when the department received federal funds to get another fire truck.
Chief Tom Bonura said the fire truck could be an ideal purchase for a small regional airport, or a construction company with needs for large-scale dust control.
Proceeds from personal items left behind go to the ACAA Charitable Foundation, which helps support the airport’s military lounge, Art in the Airport program, aviation scholarships and workforce development. In 2019, the last in-person auction raised $83,627 for the ACAA Charitable Foundation
While there are plenty of items on the auction list, not everything left behind goes to the auction. The Airport Authority donated dozens of boxes of clothing to Circles of Greater Pittsburgh, a nonprofit that assists individuals living in poverty. Boxes of unclaimed prescription eyeglasses were donated to the Pittsburgh chapter of the Lions Club.
Proceeds from the sale of ACAA equipment, such as the fire truck and runway brooms, go back into the airport’s general fund. The Airport Authority has the right to collect unpaid parking fees from abandoned vehicles that are auctioned off; whatever money is left goes to the state.
Doors open at 8:30 for auction at the Heavy Equipment Building on Cargo Road. The bidding starts at 10 a.m. There will be a 15 percent buyer’s premium, with 5 percent waived for cash or check purchase.
Cash, check, and credit cards are accepted. In addition to the live bids, items can be bid via auctioneer Joe R. Pyle’s website, where you can also preview auction items.
As for that lonely Elf on the Shelf, we hope some lucky parent will pick him up. And don’t worry—the unspoken Elf on the Shelf rules are on hold until you get him home.