A company can pretty much outfit its offices by attending bankrupt businesses' liquidation auctions. (See "Slightly Used, Plenty-Cheap Decor," In the Office, August 1992, [Article link]) But what if you're looking for cars, airplanes, entire buildings? Such high-ticket items are available at deep discounts from unlikely places: local and national government agencies. But not only do you have to know which agencies to approach and when, advises George Chelekis, compiler of the newly revised Official Government Auction Guide (Crown Publishers, 1992, $25); you'd better know how to proceed.

Sources range from the General Services Administration (GSA), whose well-promoted auctions dispose of merchandise from any number of federal bureaucracies, to sporadic liquidations of SBA loan collateral, to ad hoc property disposals staged by agencies such as sheriffs' departments.

The GSA alone routinely disposes of such staples as cabinets, computers, partitions, safes, and telephones, as well as vehicles. In 1990, 46,000 used cars were auctioned off at an average of $2,600 each. But some had seized engines and wouldn't move an inch. Yes, even our government exaggerates. But so does Chelekis: his book's claim to be "official" has no endorsement behind it. -- Robert A. Mamis