Government Surplus

A few tales about government surplus...

Origin unknown, perhaps from the AP

POCATELLO, Idaho--At Frontier Car Corral, proprietor Tom Johansen is offering a 1972 Ambassador sedan, a 1975 Sportscoach motor home, and the major components of a nuclear reprocessing plant to make bomb-grade plutonium.

High-ranking Federal officials in Washington fear that Mr. Johansen's determination to sell nuclear hardware could damage national security. But the awkward fact is, Mr. Johansen bought the stuff from the federal government in the first place. Through a private contractor, the government sold $10 million worth of nuclear material to Mr. Johansen for $153,999.99.

From: (Albert G. Boulanger)
Date: Fri, 5 Aug 94 17:59:21 EDT

I witnessed something like this first hand:

A surplus dealer in Miami gets tons of stuff from the Cape in the early 70's. Among the goodies is a ballast disc for a missile. It turns out that the ballast was made out of a really dense metal called Uranium. The surplus owner proceeds to demonstrate the properties of Uranium my making showers of sparks by scraping his pocket knife on the disc to the press. NASA people pay him a visit and they buy back the disc. The radiation form the disc was not enough to cause worry.

PS: This guy was making vehicles out of surplus jet engines that he had bought.

From: (Jeannine Mosely)
Date: Mon, 8 Aug 1994 10:06:38 +0500

In the late 70's, when most of our nuclear arsenal was converted from liquid to solid fuel, the U.S. Government auctioned off a number of obsolete missile silos and their contents. Mostly the silos got bought by local farmers who converted them for grain storage. I only know what happened to one of the missiles. It was offered at sealed bid auction and a friend of mine, Russell Seitz, bought it. When you bid on something like this, you have to send in a check for 10% of your bid as a deposit. He looked at his bank account, and figured he could spare about $300 that month, so that's what he sent. When he discovered that he'd won the bid, he had to scrounge up the rest. Now the buyer must pick up the goods himself, but he can request that his purchase be delivered, at government expense, to the nearest military base. Being an undergraduate at M.I.T. at the time, he had the missile shipped to Hanscom Airforce Base, about 12 miles away. He then arranged for a truck, and donated the missile to a local modern art museum (I forget which one). Tax laws were a little different in those days, and if you donated something to an art museum, you could deduct not the just the purchase price, but the original value of the object, which was considerable. Income averaging allowed him to spread the ``loss'' out over a number of years so that he didn't have to pay taxes for a long time! He was legendary at M.I.T. for quite a while, and acquired the nickname ``Missile'' Seitz.

(I didn't know Russell at the time, I heard the story from members of the MITSFS, and later from Russell himself. My apologies if I have garbled any of the details. Having seen some of the other artifacts he collects, I have no reason to doubt his story. I believe he may also have donated the ``gavel'' to the MITSFS.)

WoS Edited and converted to HTML by Dan Bornstein,