Greasby’s: the South London auction house selling lost items and police evidence

Salvaged bikes giving new meaning to recycling.

Surrounded by cabinets full of Glenmorangie, Rolex watches and second-hand dining sets, I feel like I’ve stepped into some illicit version of The Antiques Roadshow, or an ultra-hip speakeasy of the South London.

In fact, I’m in Greasby’s auction house in Tooting – where everything from unclaimed luggage to police evidence appears for bargain-hungry Londoners to bid on.

A cupboard full of booze
Moet in Moschino…great place for Christmas shopping

Greasby’s has been in the same location since it was founded by Henrietta Greasby in 1919, and remains a family business, now owned by Christine Sachet. What distinguishes this auction house from the 300 or so others in the capital is its trade in lost and unclaimed items. If you’ve ever left your phone on the tube, chances are it’ll end up in the Greasby books, but only after TfL has kept it for three months and makes attempts to reunite you.

A sign explaining that only card payments up to £100 are accepted
We told you.

The glass cases are crammed with devices ranging from iPads to cameras to plastic bags full of chargers – which sell for around 20% of typical resale value. All devices are erased before being put on sale, while personal data such as IDs or bank cards are destroyed. Countless lots are made up of misplaced paraphernalia; Oyster cards, phone cases, stacks of empty wallets.

A yard full of boxes
Greasby’s is no ordinary auction house.

As a licensed waste disposal hauler, Greasby’s has longstanding links with TfL, as well as mmuseum and railway lost property offices, the Met Police and Heathrow. In the event of lost luggage, owners are advised to contact their airline and report their misplaced suitcase on line. But after three months, most of Heathrow’s 200 unclaimed cases will materialize at the auction house.

Lucky Baggage Dip

Shelves filled with old suitcases
New home for old luggage.

Once all electronics or high-end items have been removed to be auctioned separately, the bag is registered as men’s, women’s, or children’s clothing, and given a lot number on which bid seekers can bid. The catch with these bundles is that you won’t know the contents of the case until you pay and pop the clasp. It’s a stroke of luck for the luggage.

I spoke to a bargain navigator, Abdul Laher (51) from Norbury who said he liked the element of surprise: “You never know what you’re going to find here, it’s exciting.

A load of images in frames
Probably no original Van Gogh here, but then who knows

“Once I paid £28 for a suitcase, inside were Moschino jeans and lots of Zara tops that fit my wife.”

However, another suitcase revealed mostly the finest, unwashed socks from Primark – so now Abdul prefers to bid on what he can see.

“I bought records, a laptop, golf clubs, a grill, all from here. It’s better than eBay!” said Laher.

Various pieces of stone fountain in a courtyard
lost and fountain

The viewing room is a treasure trove of diversity, with tailors’ mannequins placed next to paintings and an assortment of chainsaws. There’s also a wall filled with a selection of liquor Threshers would envy, labeled alongside designer sneakers and chic handbags.

Paintings, posters and more
I don’t know if this fire extinguisher is up for grabs or not…

In Greasby’s unassuming courtyard stands a plethora of garden fountains alongside rows of bicycles. This is most likely police evidence, as property seized by law is sent to auction if it is not. recovered. Items include stolen property, property seized in connection with criminal investigations and items found. Depending on the force, the evidence is kept between 28 days and six months after the case is closed, before being shipped off to find a new forever home.

“If they didn’t come here, we would have to throw them away”

A pile of boxes, a bicycle and an old air conditioner
Air conditioner anyone?

Grabbing a bargain facilitated by someone else’s misfortune might seem opportunistic, but the alternative is that these articles go to the dump, as Greasby administrator Victoria Morbey explains to me: “With every salvaged item we sell,” she says, “someone has tried to reunite that item with its owner. People who deal with this sort of thing in lost and found offices have to register items, update their databases, do research and pay for space, which is a lot of work and expense.

“After 90 days these companies just can’t afford to keep the items, they can’t store them indefinitely, so if they didn’t send them up for auction they would just have to be thrown away.”

A room full of old clothes, bicycles and armchairs.
These bikes really go everywhere…

Victoria, who is the owner’s daughter and has worked at Greasby for many years, tells me that advances in technology such as tracking and “find my phone” apps mean far fewer people lose their belongings these days, but sometimes the owners are simply nowhere to be found. Finding these items in new homes means they aren’t wasted, reduces manufacturing emissions and yes, gives Londoners the chance to score a great bargain.

A room full of chairs, tables, sideboards.
You can outfit an entire property with the furniture here – some people do.

Auctions take place fortnightly and since Covid, take place exclusively online, with hopeful patrons placing their bids by 5pm the day before. Victoria explains that as General Auctioneer, police auctions and lost property sales are only a small part of their portfolio: “We work a lot with probate lawyers and clearances. house, if a family is reduced or if someone has died.

boxes of old records
A place in London where vinyl doesn’t cost the earth.

“We also clear a lot of stuff for local authorities. We’re general auctioneers, so we sell everything from suitcases to sofas.”

This explains the panoply of household items; even the most distracted Londoner would struggle to leave his piano on the night bus. There are many lots of boxes that are clearly swept from inside a household cupboard, overflowing with calculators and coasters.

A box full of cups and saucers
Lots of house clearance lots.

Rajaan Sajay (49) from Clapham is looking for new furniture for one of the properties he rents. He tells me he has completely outfitted another apartment with Greasby’s offerings.

“In 2018 I bought everything for the place, got a full three room suite for £68, and a dining room set and two bed frames for under £100. I even bought a box that was full of cleaning products, almost full,” says Sajay.

Panoramic shot of the various cabinets filled with alcohol, shoes, etc.
An Aladdin’s cave of forgotten treasures.

Curious to know what might be hiding in the bundles, I rummage through a box overflowing with old mugs, batteries, and a tantalizing collection of old board games, including a rather elegant chess set. Luckily, I don’t come across any dentures, which seem to pop up frequently amid the bric-a-brac.

While sourcing from Greasby’s will take significantly longer than an Amazon order, there’s a thrill to traveling into the viewing room unknown. From air conditioners to absinthe, desks to bracelets, anything you’re looking for will likely be stocked. You don’t know where, exactly.