Source of secondhand equipment
There are a number of beekeeping auctions that are held in the U.K. Many are long standing affairs that attract a lot of interest and are firmly part of the local beekeeping calendar.
The West Sussex BKA auction has been run continuously since 1975 and is one of the largest in the south of England, if not the whole country. As of 2015 I have attended each one and been the auctioneer for over 20 years. I can tell a few amusing tales! The highest number of lots I have ever sold was 468, but the current organisers try to keep to a more manageable 300 lots if possible. Some are much smaller affairs that are run by the smaller BKAs.
I know little about other auctions or how they are run. Some may have professional auctioneers, but we tried that a couple of times and found it a problem because a non - beekeeper couldn't explain the item for sale. I am not a professional auctioneer, but as an experienced beekeeper I can often explain the use of some of the lesser known lots and perhaps some of their history.
There is usually quite a lot of banter at our sale, but a jovial atmosphere certainly helps make the event more enjoyable.
I have inspected the live bees every year since we started and always with an audience, so that potential buyers can see what they are getting. If there is a relevant point, both good and bad, I will indicate it. Someone else takes notes, which are repeated at the sale, so if the queen is clipped and marked, the colony has chalk brood or the combs are poor the buyers are aware. We insist that bees for sale have been inspected by a Bee Inspector within 2 weeks of the sale. They initial each frame, so I know they have been inspected.
At our auction there is a wide variety of lots and in varying conditions too. Buyers should inspect the lots they are interested in fully to make sure they are sound and suit their purpose. If not, then the amount bid should reflect that. As with other auctions the prices that are fetched vary considerably with some second hand items fetching more than the new price. In general, I find that good sound equipment that is machine made usually fetches around half catalogue price, if it is in poor condition or home made, then about a quarter.
I am always willing to advise beekeepers on the suitability of lots, but I don't know what happens elsewhere. To avoid any possible contamination it is advisable to take the usual precautions you would with any second hand beekeeping equipment.
Auctions are good fun, even if you don't end up buying anything. There is always a chance to chat with other beekeepers, perhaps from outside your area.