Carnage: Barneys Overpriced Liquidation Auction

Carnage: Barneys Overpriced Liquidation Auction

I had considered writing an article to advertise this auction, and now I’m so glad I didn’t.

Barneys, the high-end department store in New York, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2019. They had an in-house photography studio, presumably to shoot their products. I was pretty excited for the auction and hoped I’d be able to get some used gear at bargain prices.

Here were the strict rules:

  • A credit card needed to be validated in advance.
  • All sales were final.
  • Payment had to be made the following business day in full.
  • Cashier's check or wire transfer only.
  • Item needs to be picked up ASAP from Queens, NY.
  • Tax at 8.875%.
  • 18% auctioneers fee.

On December 4th, the live auction began. I had pre-bid on a few C-stands, and my bid would be honored until somebody outbid me. Unfortunately, it seems like bidders were getting a little carried away. Here’s the good and the awful deals that took place. Bear in mind that all dollar figures have nearly 30% added on top.

The Bad Deals

My bids versus the winning bids.

I had my eye on these C-Stands. Without a knuckle, they sell for $109 each on B&H. I was perhaps willing to pay $150 for three, but somebody paid $325! That’s only a $2 saving off the retail price, and they still have auctioneer's fees to worry about (so about $385 pre-tax). What’s worse is that other lots of C-Stands sold for less. Somebody got carried away.A bidder paid $550 for a Canon 7D. Not the Mark II, the original. According to LensAuthority and eBay, this should have sold for around $250.

Whoever bought a LowePro backpack for $100 should have checked B&H, where the newer version goes for $10 less.

$525 of somebody’s hard earned money was spent on the original Canon 5D. Did they mistake it for the Mark II? It’s surely worth less than half that, and eBay seems to confirm this.

The Good Deals

Need to clamp one thing to another? “Wimberley The Plamp II” is available on B&H for $43, but somebody got 11 of them for just $100.

In general, the TVs went for a good price. Here’s a 40” Samsung TV that was sold for $70.

Profoto’s D1 AIR 1000 Ws monolight retails for $1,875, but the highest bid on one was $750. Some people got them for as low as $600. That’s such a good deal I feel like I’m missing something.

Brand new, a Manfrotto 475B tripod costs $350. Three of them were sold for $175.

If you got a good deal on Profoto gear, then you might want a case. A bidder picked up two Profoto studio cases for $45, when they sell for $160 each brand new.

My favorite deal is this huge white cyclone wall, which was picked up for $10. A steal, but I hope the winner knew how they were going to pick it up.


Even though there were some gems in there, the vast majority sold for more than it ought to have. Bidders didn’t know the condition of the products they were buying (like the shutter count), and the 18% fee negates most of the deals. If they went to a secondhand market, they’d get a better deal and not need to adhere to auction rules. It seems this was the crossroads between Gear Acquisition Syndrome and panic buying.

Still though, I’m sorry to see Barneys go under. It seems that their other sales haven’t gone so well either. Being a retail icon doesn’t mean you can shake off overpriced products.

Feel free to check out the rest of the photography listings, mixed in with the alterations department. You won’t be able to see the final bid price unless you create an account. If you spot any deals that I missed, post them in the comments below.

Lead image credit: rblfmr via Shutterstock.

Stephen Kampff's picture

Working in broadcasting and digital media, Stephen Kampff brings key advice to shoots and works hard to stay on top of what's going to be important to the industry.

Log in or register to post comments

Damn. Some naive people. 18%fee is enough for me not to even care to try.

Curious if those stickers come off clean or leave a sticky residue

My guess, the people that over paid didn't know the actual value (assumed it was a major discount), and don't know how to do math to factor tax and fees. Happens a lot, I forget which store was inflating their prices by like 3x or 4x, then doing a 50% sale thus making more than the normal price off of people who didn't look to see what others sell it for.

Every store ever?

Oh maybe, i just specifically remember reading about one in particular.

I've seen it frequently on Ebay, people get caught up in winning and over pay.

Caveat Emptor

It's funny to see this post. I'm actually the one who won the Wimberley clamps haha.. The auction was pretty crazy, I ended up getting a nice bit of things in the end but there were some realllllly aggressive purchases being made. The biggest tip for this (and any auction) is understanding the inventory and having a set max. This particular auction had waves of items, ex. Profoto packs would be lot 10-15 and then circle back around at lots 100-110. I believe a lot of people got sucked into those early bidding wars not realizing there were more opportunities coming up later. All in all, it was a good grab. I worked at the Barneys Studios for a time so it was sad to see it end up like that; that's life though. Hopefully, everyone is enjoying the items they brought.

Thanks for sharing!

No worries. If history teaches us anything, they'll be back in business in a few months, and the next "bankruptcy / auction" will be in about a year.