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16 Unusual Items For Sale on the Government’s Version of eBay

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There’s a place on the Internet that sells real estate, office furniture, biomedical equipment, scrap metal, airplanes, slide projectors, and more to the highest bidder. It's not eBay, but GSA Auctions, or the government’s version of an online auction market. The U.S. General Services Administration (which declares its mission to be providing “the best value in real estate, acquisition and technology services to the government and the American people” in order to make a better, faster, more sustainable government) runs the site as a means of selling off surplus or forfeited federal assets to the general public. These might include the contents of an office in the process of relocation, or dozens of wedding gowns seized in relation to a drug trafficking case.

Due to the nature of their origins, the range of items available on the site at any given time can range from practical to downright strange. Here are but a few examples.

1. 152-PASSENGER BOAT.

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New Yorkers looking to invest in aquatic transportation might consider skipping the boat shows and instead go bargain-hunting among the government’s gently (well, maybe not quite) used vehicles, paying particular attention to the fine passenger vessel docked at Ellis Island by the National Parks Service. The 75-foot, Coast Guard-inspected boat has both a passenger cabin and outdoor seating on its upper deck, a standalone pilot house, and crew quarters below the deck—which is all together enough space to transport 149 passengers and three crew members. Despite some rust on the hull, its interior still looks clean and hospitable.

With a starting bid of $5000, it sounds like a great deal for a seaworthy vessel, so what’s the catch? There are a few: main engines with a tendency to overheat and coolant that leaks; non-functioning heating, ventilation, and air conditioning; substandard steering; broken generator; incomplete safety equipment; and oh, that Coast Guard certification expired a while ago. It’s a fixer-upper, to say the least. On the bright side, there are no known asbestos materials on board.

2. BROKEN AIRPLANE.

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Many of the items listed for auction on the site come in various states of disrepair, marked “scrap” in their titles and descriptions. This Fairchild C119C fixed wing aircraft, the bidding for which started at $1000, has “major components missing,” “is not in operating condition,” and “is unstable to tow”—and yet someone, somewhere has placed a bid on it for $1100. After all, one man’s trash…

3. USED DENTAL CHAIR.

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Someone’s got to have some use for it.

4. MISCELLANEOUS GEMSTONE.

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It seems reasonable enough to try to make some money back for the government from a loose diamond, 3.9 millimeters in size with a weight of 0.23 carats in a round brilliant cut. However, bundled with it is an 8 mm “round foil backed, colorless imitation ‘gemstone,’” which seems like an odd freebie to throw in there.

5. TYPEWRITER AND DVD PLAYER.

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Somewhere in Columbia, Missouri, a state government agency finally cleaned out its attic and is trying to get rid of some clutter.

6. GAS CHROMATOGRAPH.

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It’s tough to get research grants, especially for expensive lab equipment, so there’s no shame in scientists shopping around for the best prices on everything from Erlenmeyer flasks to gas chromatographs. This Hewlett Packard model on the GSA Auctions site needs a few parts replaced, but at under $4000, it boasts a huge discount off the same model being sold for around $16,000 on eBay.

7. GUCCI WATCH.

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GSA Auctions offers a tab dedicated to Jewelry & Exotic Collectibles. It’s a category less populated than Industrial Materials or even Construction Materials, but a savvy bidder might come across a potential treasure once in a while. At the moment, the only active listing in the category is a stainless steel, rectangular-faced Gucci wristwatch with white analog clock markings and an unknown provenance. Why does the federal government have a secondhand designer wristwatch for sale? The buyer might never really know.

8. CARPET SQUARES, EST. 12 BOXES.

GSAAuctions.gov

Looking to cheaply redecorate your home or office? Look no further. This lot is described as an estimated 12 boxes of blue/gray carpet squares measuring 24 inches by 24 inches, and…that’s it. That’s all the information provided.

9. 3130 POUNDS OF SCRAP CABLE WIRE.

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NASA’s Johnson Space Center has a lot of scrap cable wire to get rid of, but any prospective buyers will have to jump through a few more hurdles than they would with most sellers. The lot is only available for sale to U.S. citizens, who will have to provide a notarized declaration of their citizenship in order to make an appointment for pickup, as well as showing a U.S. passport or two forms of acceptable federal identification upon arriving at the property.

10. STEP AEROBICS SYSTEM.

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A month after the customary new year fitness resolutions, it looks like even government agencies are giving up on their commitment to exercise, or at least their commitment to a mixed lot of dusty step aerobics equipment that probably dates all the way back to the ‘90s. The listing consists of 104 pieces in all—more than enough to start a fitness class in 1992 (leotards not included).

11. POLYGRAPH CHAIR.

GSAAuctions.gov

Among the dozens of listings peddling miscellaneous sets of office furniture—purple upholstered lounge chairs, wooden desks, five-shelf bookcases, etc.—one stands out as a bit less likely to be repurposed in a doctor’s or lawyer’s office. With wide plastic armrests designed to keep the seated party’s arms in place while hooked up to a polygraph machine, perhaps the chair, with its flat surfaces on either side, could find new life as a place to keep snacks and drinks close at hand while watching TV.

12. FIVE ACRES OF CALIFORNIA MOUNTAIN LAND.

GSAAuctions.gov

There’s a small parcel of “unimproved” land in Tehachapi, California that the government isn’t doing anything with at the moment, and it’s available to any prospective bidders at a starting price of just a quarter million dollars. The pictures may not provide a comprehensive impression of the area, but the listing points out that the land off Barstow Bakersfield Highway is vacant and thus “can be viewed by the public at any time.” Always try before you buy.

13. AN ENTIRE NORTH CAROLINA APARTMENT COMMUNITY.

GSAAuctions.gov

More ambitious investors with a few million dollars to spare might be interested in the Coastal Park area of Elizabeth City, North Carolina, all of which is for sale. The property consists of 82 housing units, several basketball courts, a tennis court, a playground, a gazebo, “and plenty of space for a number of recreational activities.” However, the whole place is covered in lead-based paint, so that might be a minor concern.

14. 2280 SCREWDRIVERS.

GSAAuctions.gov

Every good toolbox needs at least one screwdriver with interchangeable tips, and even the most barebones hardware store should keep a selection in stock. However, if the nearest Home Depot doesn’t happen to have 2280 screwdrivers in their inventory, the GSA Auctions site just might be able to provide. All 2280 even come stored in a single, enormous wooden crate for easy(?) pickup.

15. 2011 FORD ESCAPE.

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Amidst the listings for various wrecked vehicles, GSA Auctions has for sale some perfectly road-worthy cars. With just over 10,000 miles and “no known deficiencies,” the 2011 Ford being sold by a USDA office in Kentucky seems like at least as good an option as leasing.

16. 46 FIRE EXTINGUISHERS.

GSAAuctions.gov

Buying in bulk is usually a great way to save money, but when it comes to safety equipment, a warning that fire extinguishers “appear new” but “some parts may be broken or missing, repairs may be required, sold as is” should probably cause the buyer to pause and think whether it’s really worth skimping on that part of the budget.

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10 Surprising Facts About The Babadook
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IFC Films

In 2014, The Babadook came out of nowhere and scared audiences across the globe. Written and directed by Aussie Jennifer Kent, and based on her short film Monster, The Babadook is about a widow named Amelia (played by Kent’s drama schoolmate Essie Davis) who has trouble controlling her young son Samuel (Noah Wiseman), who thinks there’s a monster living in their house. Amelia reads Samuel a pop-up book, Mister Babadook, and Samuel manifests the creature into a real-life monster. The Babadook may be the villain, but the film explores the pitfalls of parenting and grief in an emotional way. 

“I never approached this as a straight horror film,” Kent told Complex. “I always was drawn to the idea of grief, and the suppression of that grief, and the question of, how would that affect a person? ... But at the core of it, it’s about the mother and child, and their relationship.”

Shot on a $2 million budget, the film grossed more than $10.3 million worldwide and gained an even wider audience via streaming networks. Instead of creating Babadook out of CGI, a team generated the images in-camera, inspired by the silent films of Georges Méliès and Lon Chaney. Here are 10 things you might not have known about The Babadook (dook, dook).

1. THE NAME “BABADOOK” WAS EASY FOR A CHILD TO INVENT.

Jennifer Kent told Complex that some people thought the creature’s name sounded “silly,” which she agreed with. “I wanted it to be like something a child could make up, like ‘jabberwocky’ or some other nonsensical name,” she explained. “I wanted to create a new myth that was just solely of this film and didn’t exist anywhere else.”

2. JENNIFER KENT WAS WORRIED PEOPLE WOULD JUDGE THE MOTHER.

Amelia isn’t the best mother in the world—but that’s the point. “I’m not a parent,” Kent told Rolling Stone, “but I’m surrounded by friends and family who are, and I see it from the outside … how parenting seems hard and never-ending.” She thought Amelia would receive “a lot of flak” for her flawed parenting, but the opposite happened. “I think it’s given a lot of women a sense of reassurance to see a real human being up there,” Kent said. “We don’t get to see characters like her that often.”

3. KENT AND ESSIE DAVIS TONED DOWN THE CONTENT FOR THE KID.

Noah Wiseman was six years old when he played Samuel. Kent and Davis made sure he wasn’t present for the more horrific scenes, like when Amelia tells Samuel she wishes he was the one who died, not her husband. “During the reverse shots, where Amelia was abusing Sam verbally, we had Essie yell at an adult stand-in on his knees,” Kent told Film Journal. “I didn’t want to destroy a childhood to make this film—that wouldn’t be fair.”

Kent explained a “kiddie version” of the plot to Wiseman. “I said, ‘Basically, Sam is trying to save his mother and it’s a film about the power of love.’”

4. THE FILM IS ALSO ABOUT “FACING OUR SHADOW SIDE.”

IFC Films

Kent told Film Journal that “The Babadook is a film about a woman waking up from a long, metaphorical sleep and finding that she has the power to protect herself and her son.” She noted that everybody has darkness to face. “Beyond genre and beyond being scary, that’s the most important thing in the film—facing our shadow side.”

5. THE FILM SCARED THE HELL OUT OF THE DIRECTOR OF THE EXORCIST.

In an interview with Uproxx, William Friedkin—director of The Exorcist—said The Babadook was one of the best and scariest horror films he’d ever seen. He especially liked the emotional aspect of the film. “It’s not only the simplicity of the filmmaking and the excellence of the acting not only by the two leads, but it’s the way the film works slowly but inevitably on your emotions,” he said.

6. AN ART DEPARTMENT ASSISTANT SCORED THE ROLE AS THE BABADOOK.

Tim Purcell worked in the film’s art department but then got talked into playing the titular character after he acted as the creature for some camera tests. “They realized they could save some money, and have me just be the Babadook, and hence I became the Babadook,” Purcell told New York Magazine. “In terms of direction, it was ‘be still a lot,’” he said.

7. THE MOVIE BOMBED IN ITS NATIVE AUSTRALIA.

Even though Kent shot the film in Adelaide, Australians didn’t flock to the theaters; it grossed just $258,000 in its native country. “Australians have this [built-in] aversion to seeing Australian films,” Kent told The Cut. “They hardly ever get excited about their own stuff. We only tend to love things once everyone else confirms they’re good … Australian creatives have always had to go overseas to get recognition. I hope one day we can make a film or work of art and Australians can think it’s good regardless of what the rest of the world thinks.”

8. YOU CAN OWN A MISTER BABADOOK BOOK (BUT IT WILL COST YOU). 

IFC Films

In 2015, Insight Editions published 6200 pop-up books of Mister Babadook. Kent worked with the film’s illustrator, Alexander Juhasz, who created the book for the movie. He and paper engineer Simon Arizpe brought the pages to life for the published version. All copies sold out but you can find some Kent-signed ones on eBay, going for as much as $500.

9. THE BABADOOK IS A GAY ICON.

It started at the end of 2016, when a Tumblr user started a jokey thread about how he thought the Babadook was gay. “It started picking up steam within a few weeks,” Ian, the Tumblr user, told New York Magazine, “because individuals who I presume are heterosexual kind of freaked out over the assertion that a horror movie villain would identify as queer—which I think was the actual humor of the post, as opposed to just the outright statement that the Babadook is gay.” In June, the Babadook became a symbol for Gay Pride month. Images of the character appeared everywhere at this year's Gay Pride Parade in Los Angeles.

10. DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH FOR A SEQUEL.

Kent, who owns the rights to The Babadook, told IGN that, despite the original film's popularity, she's not planning on making any sequels. “The reason for that is I will never allow any sequel to be made, because it’s not that kind of film,” she said. “I don’t care how much I’m offered, it’s just not going to happen.”

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15 Fascinating Facts About Amelia Earhart
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Amelia Earhart was a pioneer, a legend, and a mystery. To celebrate what would be her 120th birthday, we've uncovered 15 things you might not know about the groundbreaking aviator.

1. THE FIRST TIME SHE SAW AN AIRPLANE, SHE WASN'T IMPRESSED.

In Last Flight, a collection of diary entries published posthumously, Earhart recalled feeling unmoved by "a thing of rusty wire and wood" at the Iowa State Fair in 1908. It wasn't until years later that she discovered her passion for aviation, when she worked as a nurse's aide at Toronto's Spadina Military Hospital. She and some friends would spend time at hangars and flying fields, talking to pilots and watching aerial shows. Earhart didn't actually get on a plane herself until 1920, and even then she was just a passenger.

2. SHE WAS A GOOD STUDENT WITH NO PATIENCE FOR SCHOOL.

After working with the Voluntary Aid Detachment in Toronto, Earhart took pre-med classes at Columbia University in 1919. She made good grades, but dropped out after just a year. Earhart re-enrolled at Columbia in 1925 and left school again. She took summer classes at Harvard, but gave up on higher education for good after she didn't get a scholarship to MIT.

3. ANOTHER PIONEERING FEMALE AVIATOR TAUGHT EARHART HOW TO FLY.

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Neta Snook was the first woman to run her own aviation business and commercial airfield. She gave Earhart flying lessons at Kinner Field near Long Beach, California in 1921, reportedly charging $1 in Liberty Bonds for every minute they spent in the air.

4. EARHART BOUGHT HER FIRST PLANE WITHIN SIX MONTHS OF HER FIRST FLYING LESSON.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

She named it The Canary. The used yellow Kinner Airster biplane was the second one ever built. Earhart paid $2000 for it, despite Snook's opinion that it was underpowered, overpriced, and too difficult for a beginner to land.

5. AMY EARHART ENCOURAGED HER DAUGHTER'S PASSION. HER FATHER, ON THE OTHER HAND, WAS AFRAID OF FLYING.

Earhart's mom used some of her inheritance to pay for The Canary. She was a bit of an adventurer herself: the first woman to ever climb Pikes Peak in Colorado.

6. EARHART HAD A LOT OF ODD JOBS.

In addition to volunteering as a nurse's aide, Earhart also worked early jobs as a telephone operator and tutor. Earhart was a social worker at Denison House in Boston when she was invited to fly across the Atlantic for the first time (as a passenger) in 1928. At the height of her career, Earhart spent time making speeches, writing articles, and providing career counseling at Purdue University's Department of Aeronautics. Oh, and flying around the world.

7. SHE WASN'T SURE ABOUT MARRIAGE, BUT SHE DEFINITELY BELIEVED IN PRE-NUPS.

When promoter George Putnam contacted Earhart about flying across the Atlantic Ocean in 1928, it was her first big break ... and the beginning of their love story. The two began a working relationship, which soon turned into attraction. When Putnam's marriage to Dorothy Binney fell apart, he eventually proposed to Earhart. She said yes, albeit reluctantly.

Earhart wasn't worried about safeguarding financial assets so much as she wanted the two of them to maintain separate identities. Earhart asked Putnam to agree to a trial marriage. If they weren't happy after a year, they'd be free to go their separate ways, no hard feelings. He agreed. They lived happily until her disappearance.

8. SHE WROTE ABOUT FLYING FOR COSMOPOLITAN.

In 1928, Earhart was appointed Cosmopolitan's Aviation Editor. Her 16 published articles—among them "Shall You Let Your Daughter Fly?" and "Why Are Women Afraid to Fly?"—recounted her adventures and encouraged other women to fly, even if they just did so commercially. (Commercial flights date back to 1914, but they wouldn't really take off until after World War II.)

9. FIRST LADY ELEANOR ROOSEVELT WAS SO INSPIRED BY EARHART THAT SHE SIGNED UP FOR FLYING LESSONS.

The two became friends in 1932. Roosevelt got a student permit and a physical examination, but never followed through with her plan.

10. EARHART WAS THE FIRST WOMAN TO GET A PILOT'S LICENSE FROM THE NATIONAL AERONAUTIC ASSOCIATION (NAA).

That was in 1923, when pilots and aircrafts weren't legally required to be licensed. Earhart was the sixteenth woman to get licensed by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), which was required to set flight records. Still, the FAI didn't maintain women's records until 1928.

11. SHE ACCOMPLISHED A LOT OF "FIRSTS."

Earhart eventually became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic as a passenger (1928) and then solo (1932) and nonstop from coast to coast (1932) as a pilot. She also set records, period: Earhart was the first person to ever fly solo from Honolulu to Oakland, Los Angeles to Mexico City, and Mexico City to Newark, all in 1935.

What do John Glenn, George H.W. Bush, and Amelia Earhart have in common? They all earned an Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross. But only Earhart was the first woman—and one of few civilians—to do so.

12. SHE WAS ONE OF THE FIRST CELEBRITIES TO LAUNCH A CLOTHING LINE.

Amelia Earhart Fashions were affordable separates sold exclusively at Macy's and Marshall Field's. The line's dresses, blouses, pants, suits, and hats were made of cotton and parachute silk and featured aviation-inspired details, like propeller-shaped buttons. Earhart studied sewing as a girl and actually made her own samples.

13. THE U.S. GOVERNMENT SPENT $4 MILLION SEARCH FOR EARHART.

At the time, it was the most expensive air and sea search in history. Earhart's plane disappeared July 2, 1937. The official search ended a little over two weeks later on July 19. Putnam then financed a private search, chartering boats to the Phoenix Islands, Christmas Island, Fanning Island, the Gilbert Islands, and the Marshall Islands.

14. THE SEARCH ISN'T OVER.

There are several theories about what happened to Earhart's plane during her last flight. Most people believe she ran out of fuel and crashed into the Pacific Ocean. Others believe she landed on an island and died of thirst, starvation, injury, or at the hands of Japanese soldiers in Saipan. In 1970, one man even claimed that Earhart was alive and well and living a secret life in New Jersey.

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) has explored the theory that Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan lived as castaways before dying on Gardner Island, now called Nikumaroro, in the western Pacific. Over the years, they've found a few potential artifacts, including evidence of campfire sites, pieces of Plexiglas, and an empty jar of the brand of freckle cream that Earhart used.

In early July 2017, a photo surfaced that seemed to confirm the theory that Earhart and Noonan crashed and were captured by Japanese soldiers, but that photo was quickly debunked.

15. TODAY, ANOTHER AMELIA EARHART IS MAKING HISTORY.

In 2014, another pilot named Amelia Earhart took to the skies to set a world record. The then-31-year-old California native became the youngest woman to fly 24,300 miles around the world in a single-engine plane. Her namesake never completed the journey, but the younger Earhart landed safely in Oakland on July 11, 2014. We think "Lady Lindy" would be proud.

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