Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Selling what the dead leave behind

Dozens of men and women surrounded the auctioneer, yellow bid cards in hand, whispering and vying for a glimpse of the latest lot for sale. They were bidding on the unclaimed belongings of the dead, each tagged with the name of its former owner. A 200-year-old German violin that belonged to a man named Leon David Cislin rested in a case of crushed red velvet. Hundreds of Hallmark Christmas ornaments once owned by a Thomas Young, many in unopened packaging, filled several tables.

Also on display were an autographed cymbal and other memorabilia from the collection of Dewey Martin, drummer for the '60s rock band Buffalo Springfield, who died in January at 68.

"Wow -- he didn't have any heirs?" a bidder asked, scanning a lot that included one of Martin's gold records. "That's sad."

If you die in Los Angeles County without heirs or a will, your worldly belongings will probably end up here, in a 122,000-square-foot warehouse along the railroad tracks in the City of Industry, protected by surveillance cameras and extra security. The walls are piled high with hundreds of 7-by-5-foot wooden crates. County employees and private auctioneers break open crates, divide the contents into lots and sell them at daylong auctions held on the second Saturday of the month, typically 10 times a year. Proceeds go back into the estate and often are used to cover burial expenses and other costs. Whatever is left goes to the state of California.
Read more at the Los Angeles Times
Location Oakland, Ca - Private Investigator