Pittsburgh International Airport greets millions of passengers each year. Sometimes, they leave behind their headphones. Other times, they forget their brand-new decorative egg. Some even abandon cars in the parking lot.
To help find these items a new home, the Allegheny County Airport Authority hosts an annual auction with the thousands of lost and found items the airport has collected over the past year.
When an item is turned into the lost and found, it stays there for 30 days. If it remains unclaimed, it goes to a warehouse until it is donated to a charity or becomes part of the airport auction, a popular annual event now in its 12th year.
“The airport auction is popular each year because it’s a community event,” said Elise Gomez, Manager of Customer Experience. “There are a variety of items to bid on that tailor to different people’s interests.”
The auction will be held Saturday, Oct. 7, at the Heavy Equipment Building on Cargo Road. Licensed auctioneer Joe R. Pyle will again lead the proceedings. Doors open at 8:30 a.m. and the event will begin at 10 a.m., with food trucks on hand.
This year, auction attendees can expect to see over 150 electronic devices including air pods, gaming consoles and laptops. They can also bid on over 200 pieces of jewelry and more than 10 cars.
About the cars: police and state government try to contact the owners of vehicles left in airport lots more than 45 days. It is ultimately up to those officials to decide if the cars are considered abandoned.
A few weeks before the auction, the Airport Authority convenes the all-hands-on-deck challenge known as the “Big Sort.” For two days, dozens of ACAA team members and volunteer ambassadors gather in a field maintenance building and search through piles of boxes filled to the brim with lost items.
They work like a well-oiled machine, removing items and categorizing what they find. Some items cause them to stop in their tracks.
“In the past, we’ve found some strange belongings left behind, like a rice maker, [an] alligator head and a toilet seat,” Gomez said. “There is always something new to bid on.”
This year, one volunteer was surprised to find a pair of size 16 bright blue sneakers. Another volunteer found a pair of python skin cowboy boots, estimated to cost a few hundred dollars when they were purchased new.
Some boxes were hiding designer items. This year, bidders will be able to purchase authentic items like a Burberry coat and Marc Jacobs and Telfar bags.
Musically inclined bidders might be interested in the mini keyboard and microphone, while board game enthusiasts can bid on a chess board, rummikub game or playing cards. No matter your interests, the airport auction likely has something for you.
The auction is more than a fun Saturday bargain-hunting outing, however. It’s also a way to give back: proceeds from items left behind go to the ACAA Charitable Foundation, which helps support the airport’s Art in the Airport program, aviation scholarships and workforce development. Last year, the auction raised more than $75,000 for the foundation.
Also, not all abandoned items are auctioned off. Some clothing items and prescription eyeglasses will be donated to local nonprofit organizations.
For bidders, there will be a 15 percent buyer’s premium with 5 percent waived for cash or check purchase. Cash, checks and credit cards will be accepted. Payment, inclusive of any taxes and fees, must be made in full at the auction.