Buy Lost Mail


November 25, 2022

Have you ever wondered what happens to lost mail? How does the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) handle them?

USPS can help customers locate their lost mail through their search service and can process insurance claims filed no later than 60 days from the date of mailing.

The post office considers most pieces of mail officially lost if you cannot track their location by the seventh day since you sent it. 

Once you place a search request, USPS runs a search for up to three months from the filing of your request. 

Did you know that the government postal service also safeguards unclaimed mail and packages for the same length of time and puts these items to good use after 90 days?

After the holding period, USPS discards items that do not meet their retention guidelines, such as food and materials made of paper and metal. The rest of the mail and parcels go to charitable organizations or USPS’s Georgia auction site.

In 2021, a TikTok user (a social media app) garnered a lot of attention for her videos of unboxing the 100 items she bought from these auctions. 

However, Stephanie Grime (@caloriequeen14) bought these unclaimed mail from a local swap meet in Las Vegas, not at the USPS auction complex. She got 47.1 million views for her first video alone.

Some of Grime’s packages, each worth $1, were virtually worthless, like toenail clippings, dead crickets, and potatoes. 

However, the social media star also had some surprising finds, including gift cards, a pair of Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses, and a Polaroid camera.

How do you start buying unclaimed mail items, and where do these items go on sale? What are the tips for buying such objects safely? 

In this article, you can find out about USPS’s auction process and other places where you can buy unclaimed packages.

You can learn more about the various services of USPS by visiting The site also lists the locations of its 31,330 post offices nationwide. Visit the site to find the post office nearest you or your loved one.

How to Buy Unclaimed Mail 

The USPS has two venues for auctioning off its undeliverable mail and packages. 

The postal office holds regular auctions at their Mail Recovery Center (MRC) in Georgia and through their online marketplace GovDeals. 

Yes, You Can Legally Buy Unclaimed MailWe Will Explain How

You can view the auction dates of USPS at MRC’s Atlanta Surplus Center by visiting their website

These sales events are open to the public, and USPS announces schedules ahead of time.

Besides visiting the surplus center, you can also buy these items online. GovDeals is an online marketplace that works with USPS. 

The various item categories are available on GovDeals’ homepage. You need to create an account before you can place a bid and buy. 

Each set of items has an auction end date, minimum bid price, and starting bid. You can pay through any major credit card, PayPal, or wire transfer. 

USPS does not send off the items, so buyers should pick up their GovDeals purchases at the MRC.

Where Do You Buy Unclaimed Mail? 

The USPS is just one of the organizations that auction off unclaimed packages. Large retailers such as Amazon, Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, and Home Depot can also experience challenges in finding their clients’ addresses.

When Amazon packages and other orders fail to reach customers for one reason or another, the unclaimed packages go on auction. features all these retailers and lets you buy products that had shipped out but did not reach their intended recipients. You can choose which retailer to buy auctioned items from. 

However, the shipping cost for the items can be $100 and above, depending on the product’s weight.

Places to Buy Lost, Unclaimed, and Returned Mail

Some people resell what they find during auctions at MRC’s Surplus Center, GovDeals, or other online marketplaces. 

Below are other auction sites where you can find undelivered, returned, and missing mail packages for sale.

Check These Websites to Find Auctions for Unclaimed Packages

You can view the sites below to check out sales and events involving undelivered mail, packages, and freight:

Swap Madness 

Swap Madness lists flea markets and other venues where sellers and collectors meet to trade or exchange items that interest them.

You can click on the map on the homepage to discover the swap events in each state. The site displays the venue, address, and schedule of swap meets after you click the location. 

Etsy and eBay

If you want to have fun and collect “mystery boxes” of unclaimed mail, you may want to visit Etsy and eBay.

Some of the popular contents inside these packages include assorted electronics, beauty items, and stuffed toys.

Auctions Near Me

The Unclaimed Freight Auctions Near Me page is a site worth exploring if you are eyeing larger items—including truckloads of items— from Amazon and other companies. 

Some auctions offer whole containers of merchandise, while others sell the unclaimed container’s contents. 

Unclaimed containers refer to those that arrive at a dock and go unclaimed for 30 days. The shipping company declares the container “abandoned” and auctions off the items.

How Is the Unclaimed Mail Delivered?

You must go to MRC to claim the items that you bid and won on GovDeals. 

This pick-up policy is in place due to high shipping costs. Loading the item onto a pallet and truck delivery can cost more than the item auctioned off.

Do the Items Arrive in Good Condition?

You should expect slight damage as these unclaimed items underwent boxing and handling by the courier or retailer. 

However, the products should generally be in good condition since they had an intended recipient.

What Happens to Packages When They Get Lost or Go Unclaimed?

The USPS office assists the public in locating their missing mail and packages. The postal office also holds undelivered items at the MRC for three months. 

Staff can open packages to find the recipient’s address information if there is none outside the envelope or package. 

This process gives their delivery personnel a chance to return or deliver the mail.

At the end of the 90-day holding period, the USPS sends food items, cardboard, paper, and metal-based products to recyclers and trash collectors. 

Meanwhile, the post office sells off auctionable items online and at the MRC’s Atlanta Surplus Cente.

Undeliverable mail or package, which typically results from a missing recipient or sender information, goes to the MRC. This lost and found department was once called the “Dead Letter Office.”

How Does Unclaimed Mail in the U.S. Get Sold?

USPS finds a way to deliver or return items that are worth $25 and higher if their personnel find a valid address during the search. 

Otherwise, the company puts up the packages and parcels for disposal, recycling, donation, or auction.

USPS sells unclaimed items in lots and offers catalogs of these items for a small fee on auction day. 

What You Should Know About Unclaimed UPS and FedEx Packages 

According to FedEx’s statement on Atlanta’s 11Alive news site, the courier uses exhaustive customer research and advanced technology to find recipients of lost packages.

However, if the company could not match the shipment to any recipient, it would dispose of the package depending on the shipper’s instructions and their policies, including the option to offer on auction.

FedEx reportedly contracts the auction site and Salt Lake City-based Bulward Auctions to sell its unclaimed goods.

Some Reddit (a social media website) users claim that UPS has a warehouse in Texas for its unclaimed goods. However, the shipper has no statement about its abandoned packages.

Should I Have Ethical or Legal Concerns About Buying Unclaimed Mail?

Placing and winning bids for unclaimed mail on GovDeals and going to the USPS Atlanta Surplus Center to join auctions are legitimate transactions. 

Outside of these two venues, checking online reviews about a seller or website before making a transaction is advisable.

Who Purchases Unclaimed Mail?

Unclaimed mail can attract social media influencers on sites like Tiktok and YouTube who buy these products and unbox them for video content.

Other people may want to buy lost mail as they intend to donate the items to charity. 

Meanwhile, other buyers of these unclaimed packages are businesses that want to make a profit out of these products.  

How Much Does Unclaimed Mail Cost?

Unclaimed mail in small packages can typically cost $1 to $2 on auctions, while larger parcels can range from $5 to $10 a box. 

Meanwhile, larger packages containing appliances or furniture will naturally have a higher starting bid at GovDeals.

Finding Lost and Unclaimed Mail for Sale 

Lost and unclaimed mail and packages sent for auctioning pertain to items:

  • Whose labels suffered damage during transit, preventing delivery personnel from determining the recipient’s address
  • That the buyer refused and that the seller declined to accept when shipped back to them
  • With extensive damage that the sender or shipper no longer proceeded with their delivery

What Can You Buy in Unclaimed Mail?

USPS and retailers typically leave the content of unclaimed mail hidden. Thus, buying these items comes with an element of surprise or almost a gamble.

The postal service excludes actual letters from auctions for security reasons and destroys them after the holding period.

Other Unclaimed Items for Sale

Grimes’ TikTok videos of opening unclaimed USPS packages have inspired other social media content creators to make similar purchases and share their experiences. 

As a result, mystery boxes have become more popular among retailers.

Mystery Boxes: You Never Know What You Are Going to Get 

You can often find mystery boxes or smaller parcels in swap meets and online auctions like eBay and Etsy. 

The main appeal of these mystery packages is how they could put buyers in a treasure hunt mode. 

Although some items may be useless and go straight to the trash can, you may want to keep on going until you find something of worth, which you can use or gift to someone else.

TSA and Security Confiscations

Lost airline luggage that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has declared “unclaimed baggage” gets sold to businesses that can repurpose them. 

After the TSA completes 90 days of tracing the owner of abandoned suitcases, they sell off the bags to companies such as Unclaimed Baggage in Alabama.

The company has purchasing agreements with domestic carriers and travel firms covering unclaimed bags. 

The Unclaimed Baggage team sorts the bags and contents into three categories: recycle, resell, and repurpose. The staff sends all the clothing to their high-capacity laundry-drying system, while electronics undergo testing.

The company’s retail team then appraises the value of the items before they go on sale. Ultimately, the products go to the store, where prices can go up to 80% below the market value.

Is It Worth Buying Unclaimed Mail?

Buying unclaimed mail can be worth it if you can resell the items. 

As auction places sell these items in bulk, the chances of getting many items you will have to discard are high. You will also need space to hold such packages.

Look Out for Scams and Avoid Theft

To avoid being ripped off, check if the sellers are legitimate businesses by going to the Better Business Bureau website and reading customer reviews. 

You can also view their social media channels to see if any complaints appear.

Moreover, remember that the contents of unclaimed mail or packages are not brand new or clean—establishments such as USPS have kept them for around three months. 

However, if the auction place is a trusted vendor, it will unlikely tamper with the goods it sells. 

Shop from a store or event that is near you so you can take home your purchase with you instead of spending on shipping.

Do Not Let Your Mail Become Unclaimed

USPS has online tools you can use to help you avoid missing your mail or packages. See the following tools:

  • Informed Delivery: a free notification service for residential P.O. boxes that allows consumers to preview their letter-sized mail and manage their packages arriving soon
  • The website lets you track your package’s status by first registering with the portal
  • USPS Text Tracking that you can use by entering your tracking as the content of the message and sending it to 28777
  • USPS Mobile app for iPhone and Android


  1. Find Missing Mail
  2. USPS Lost Package
  3. What is the USPS Mail Recovery Center?
  4. Lost and Found
  5. USPS Lost Package
  6. USPS Tracking® – The Basics