The list is wild and slightly bizarre, comprising more than 200 items of such diversity that anyone attending Saturday’s auction at the George Town Police Station cannot help find something worth owning.
Seeking a headless mannequin? A painting of Marilyn Monroe? A pre-owned silver wedding band? Maybe you are looking for blue coveralls or a black T-shirt? A red umbrella and a plastic lunch pack container?
Alternatively, bidders might want to look at the array of Blackberry, Nokia and other cell phones, the assortment of power tools and accessories, the handmade Greek teacups and saucers, or the eclectic range of jewellery.
The event kicks off at 10am and the auctioneer, in an inescapable, almost wild, irony is retired police officer and Security Centre executive Mike Cansell – “Yes, it’s true,” he said. “Can sell. People have been making comments since I left school. Clearly I should have gone into sales instead of policing.”
Mr. Cansell and his police colleague Chief Inspector Patrick Beersingh hope the name presages the outcome of Saturday’s public auction: selling everything on the list.
“We’re hoping it will lead to great things,” Officer Beersingh said. Proceeds from the sale, mandated as a regular event by the Police Law, go to the Police Welfare Fund, benefitting the force at large – helping to acquire safety equipment, for example – or officers who may need assistance with personal matters, family members, illness, even travel.
“The police are not in it for profit,” he said, explaining that the Welfare Fund is generally disbursed in the form of loans, meaning the more it is used, the larger it grows.
The eclectic 218-item list of objects for sale is an accumulated collection of property found during the course of a year by police officers and the public, Mr. Beersingh said.
It comprises “whatever we cannot identify. The public will turn it over to the police, for example, and we keep it for a certain period of time. The law says six months, but there are multiple items that we have had much longer.
“When they come in, we try to find the owners. If we can’t, we go back to the finder. Sometimes we can’t find the finder, who has lost interest or has moved on,” he said.
Items seized in the course of investigations, Chief Inspector Beersingh said, are not normally auctioned. Often used in evidence, they ultimately are returned to their owner or are disposed of ”in regulated fashion”.
Saturday’s sale prices are determined in a couple of ways. Objects that appear to have significant value, such as jewellery or motor vehicles, Officer Beersingh said, are assessed by outside professionals. Mr. Cansell said his pre-police practice as a professional auctioneer enables him to set fair prices with some accuracy.
“We want to set a fair value,” Officer Beersingh said, while Mr. Cansell observed “everyone likes to get a bargain”. While unusual, said the Chief Inspector, sometimes “a $10,000 ring can be sold for $10, but sometimes the objects have a more recognisable value”.
Mr. Cansell said his priority is that “everything must sell”.
“Other auctions will often set a reserve price, but not here,” he said. “It’s often done on the fly, so to speak. The items are not registered like other places. The idea is to move forward.
“I can recognise hallmarks on many things, but a gold band, for instance, with not much stamped on it, will be sold as is. There are always jewellers who go to these shows because they know what things are worth.”
No motor vehicles, motorcycles or even bicycles are on this year’s list, but have appeared in the past. The organisers hope to raise at least several hundred dollars, if not several thousand.
Mr. Cansell, who has been running the police auction for years, said he has sold as much as $2,000 and $3,000 previously, even hitting the $4,000 mark at some point.
“I’ve sold boat engines, electronics, power tools, bicycles, all kinds of wild and wonderful things, sometimes diamond rings. I have sold pieces of jewellery for $500”, he said, hastening to add that police go through the list beforehand to ensure nothing illegal or dangerous is offered.
Like any good showman, Mr. Cansell said, it’s imperative to work the crowd, get a feel for what they want, play on their excitement and interest, build a sense of anticipation.
“It’s a performance,” he says, displaying some of his own enthusiasm. “You feel out the crowd, have a couple of laughs, get some excitement going.”
He added, “I’ve been in Cayman since 1994 and you get a good cross-section of society that shows up. Some come down and might not even bid, but after a while, you get to know pretty early who the real bidders are.”