Last week bargain shoppers with an eye for luxury goods weren’t perusing Vestiaire Collective for a Birkin bag or Bob’s Watches for their next Rolex—they were converging on France’s Finance Ministry in Paris.
The French government had partnered with the auction house Drouot last Friday to sell off 350 lots of luxury goods seized by customs officials as contraband. More than 3,000 signed up to participate in the auction via its online portal with another 700 attending the in-person event. In total, the auction brought in more than $1 million, exceeding initial estimates.
The items hitting the block—all confiscated from passengers passing through Paris and Nice airports—ranged from Prada handbags to Louis Vuitton luggage to a Volkswagen GTI to a white gold Rolex Sky-Dweller. While there were plenty of high-end pieces to bid on, the auction also had a selection of oddities, like 14 1-kg bars of platinum, piles of random pieces of gold jewelry, entire semi-trucks with the trailer and a collection of boxes filled with 100 bottles of cheap blended scotch.
Of course, those looking for screaming deals on the hottest items may have come away disappointed. A Birkin size 40 was estimated to go for $9,700, but fetched $11,400 and that Rolex Sky-Dweller sold for $31,000, besting its $25,000 estimate. And there was also a Rolex GMT-Master II “Batman” model that sold four times its estimate, bringing in $17,500.
Prior to the sale, Alain Caumeil, who overseen all operation for the event for the French Finance Ministry, told Bloomberg News that state was using the sale not just to bring in money, but as a deterrent to people attempting to break customs laws in the future, by showing that the government will go through with selling off seized property.
“The goal of this sale aims to show that if anybody breaks the law, the sanctions can be severe,” Caumeil said.