Where to get cheap secondhand treasures from the state government.

Down a country road in Verona, Wis., lies one of the state’s busiest recycling efforts, a small warehouse where surplus and unneeded furniture, computers and other equipment arrive from across the state. The truckloads come from UW universities and colleges, state government, municipal governments and some technical colleges, to be sold off by the SWAP (Surplus with a Purpose) program, which is administered by UW-Madison.

Whatever can’t be reused in a public agency goes up for sale in either the warehouse’s store or online, where anyone can bid on items and set maximum, “proxy” bids. While there are no returns allowed, the computers have been tested to make sure they’re operational, and both Macs and PCs go up for sale at low prices. This fall, a series of iMacs from the late-aughts were listed at $75 each.

Twenty tons of stuff passes through the agency annually; online, SWAP sells about 2,700 items a year, says program manager Matthew Thies.

The inventory is constantly changing, and recently included an Olympus lab microscope ($30), a sound isolation booth currently located in Beaver Dam ($25), a pair of well-worn Frye women’s leather boots ($3), a women’s Badgers jersey ($15) and two old Badger-red scoreboards ($101). Used exercise equipment and office furniture account for much of the inventory and are often priced to sell: Thies says the average price for a desk is about $30.


From time to time, an item with some serious provenance lands in SWAP. According to Thies, these include the chairs of legislators who have passed on. And a few years ago, SWAP sold segments of the old Kohl Center floor, with letters of authenticity. ◆

RELATED  Why Won't Milwaukee Drivers Yield to Pedestrians?

‘Yard Sale’ appears in the November 2017 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning October 30, or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

Be the first to get every new issue. Subscribe.