But are there enough e-commerce remains to attract and sustain other liquidators? Heather Dougherty, an analyst with Jupiter Media Metrix in New York, says no, not right now and probably not ever. Several online liquidators have tried to enter the market and have folded over the past year; one of the most recent victims was Andy's Garage Sale, an affiliate of Fingerhut. "Online liquidators will continue to be successful as long as they're not relying on defunct dot-coms to keep their business going," Dougherty says. "It helped Overstock.com jump-start its business into profitability and allowed them to attract customers and obtain compelling inventory, but it's not an endless supply."

True, says Dave Marchick, vice president of business development at Bid4 Assets, a mostly online auction house in Silver Spring, Maryland. But for now, he says, dismantling the carcasses of e-businesses is a solid strategy. Bid4Assets actively pursues distressed dot-coms for office furnishings, computers, telephone systems, even domain names. During the last quarter of 2000, the company auctioned assets from 25 online businesses, including Valueamerica.com, Civiczone.com, and British fashion site Boo.com.

Marchick predicts the dot-com world will continue to supply liquidators and auction sites for another 18 months, saying, "If you look at the history of distressed sectors, it's usually a two-year cycle."

In late winter, Bid4Assets was preparing for a busy year by hiring two additional employees just to keep tabs on dot-coms, which accounted for 15 percent to 20 percent of the firm's business in the last quarter of 2000. "We have a list of over 70 Internet companies that we're going to target," Marchick says. "Back in September we were talking to three to four companies a week; now it's closer to 20 a week."