WOODSTOCK – Morning coffee in hand, Bill Hobson wandered through the McHenry County Fairgrounds on Saturday, looking at what area municipalities had for auction.
Around a hundred bicycles were lined up in two rows, along with a stroller and a wheelchair. Surplus trucks and old police cars sat in a field near a lawnmower and tires. One of the barns that usually holds livestock during the county fair had tools, an Xbox 360 with a box full of games, car stereos and old Polaroid cameras laid out. Lawn figurines of a dog and a squirrel sat along a wall opposite two office printers.
“Do I think I’m going to buy anything today?” Hobson said. “Depending on price. I have a lot of grandchildren. I used to buy a lot of bicycles, but they’re getting now into the car stuff, so bicycles are gone. Now it’s just whatever suits my need.”
The McHenry resident is a regular at Gordon Stade’s auctions.
Stade, the owner of Gordon Stade Auctions, has been in the auction business around 55 years, and since marrying him in 1995, his wife, Karen, has been in the business, too.
“I unpack, and you never know what you’re going to find in those bags,” she said. “The cops are supposed to go through it, but we’re all human; we all miss stuff. Usually when the county is here, I have a lot of fun because they always help me. We had a lot of fun out there going and looking at that stuff.”
One time they auctioned off a gold grill, a piece that fits over teeth, she said. She didn’t think it would sell, but it did.
“I can’t remember what exactly was embedded on it, but it was gold,” Karen Stade said. “It looked like teeth, and it had something fancy on it. And we just laughed at that.”
Saturday’s auction was hosted by the McHenry County Council of Governments. The items came from McHenry County’s municipalities, surplus office equipment and vehicles, things the police department has seized as part of investigations or lost items that were never claimed.
Deborah Abraham, as the property control officer, handles the lost property that comes into the Crystal Lake Police Department.
She gets about five or so items a month, mostly bicycles, purses, wallets, tools and sunglasses.
Sometimes they’ll get stranger things.
Harvard Deputy Chief Mark Krause gets “a lot of run-of-the-mill stuff.”
“We get some stuff that I would think would be refuse or garbage, especially with the Metra station: bags, travel items, whole suitcases with clothes in them,” he said.
The department has to inventory every item, and if there’s a lead, something traceable such as an ID or serial number, it tries to track down the owner, he said.
“I would say maybe 5 percent of what we have submitted actually gets returned to an owner because usually people who lose the stuff that we get don’t bother calling and asking about it, whereas the people who do call inquiring if we have anything of theirs, we don’t,” Abraham said. “That’s always the unfortunate part.”
The department keeps the items for about six months and then sells off the items such as bicycles and tools through an online auction site, she said. Personal items such as IDs or pictures will get shredded.
Police departments aren’t the only entities reuniting people with lost items.
Facebook played a crucial role with reuniting Shea Anderluh with her iPod.
The Arlington Heights girl had been diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma in August 2008 when she was 14 years old. She was on her way to New York for experimental treatment when she left her iPod and Bose headphones at O’Hare International Airport.
“They were supercomfy actually,” her father, John Anderluh, said of the headphones.
“And noise canceling,” added her mother, Liz Anderluh. “They were great for her when she was in treatment because she could sort of zone out and block out the world.”
On the plane, Shea realized they were missing, and so once they arrived in New York, John Anderluh looked around for a place to buy a new iPod and Liz Anderluh got on the phone.
Frustrated with her lack of success, she turned to Facebook, asking in a post if anyone knew someone who worked for the airline or at the airport.
The mother of a Barrington Hills girl with whom Shea’s sister went horseback riding messaged Liz Anderluh, saying she had a stepdaughter who worked at O’Hare – and she was able to hunt down the missing iPod and headphones.
“It had been a huge, big, miraculous thing for me, but to her, it was probably no big deal,” Liz Anderluh said.
Shea Anderluh was a “huge music aficionado,” her mother said. “She had all these different playlists and listened to all this different stuff.”
She died in July 2012 at the age of 18.
Her older sister, Jamie, listens to the iPod now, and her younger sister, Megan, has the headphones.