Industry: The Surplus Kings

The cigar-chomping kings of a somewhat mysterious industry gathered in the New York Trade Show Building last week, unrolled their duffel bags, and pulled out what was possibly the most overwhelming assortment of white elephants ever assembled under one roof. There were old ammunition cans and "slightly used" jungle shorts, cordless electric blankets and rubber ripple mats, as well as powder horns from Germany and inflatable snakes from Japan. The occasion: the 15th Trade Show of the Institute of Surplus Dealers.

Essentially scavengers, the dealers—who supply 9,000 surplus stores from coast to...

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