Storage Auctions 101 – What Do People Really Store in Self Storage Units?


The answers to these questions are as broad as the horizon. You can find anything that you would normally find in a home or a business in a storage unit. So, you have seen Storage Wars and Auction Hunters and you’re wondering if the shows are staged. Can you actually find items like the ones found on the storage reality shows? I have read several question and answer blogs about this very subject and there seems to be a great deal of debate. Before I answer this question, please allow me to tell you a little about myself.

In the last 6 months, I have purchased over 100 storage units at auction in Houston, Texas. Within this period of time, I have bought units that contained rifles, shotguns, pistols, mint proof sets, tools, stamp collections, coin collections, sports card collections, motorcycles, an antique Coke machine, high-end appliances, over 5K in new Gucci and Versace shoes, luxurious furniture and antiques. What really got me hooked was the third unit I ever bought contained a classic guitar and a safe which contained gold, silver, cash, WWII and Civil War memorabilia, an antique revolver and an antique pocket watch collection. There was no looking back from that point on. So obviously the answer yes, you can find some amazing and quite valuable items in storage units.

Are the storage reality shows staged? Auction Hunters is a little far-fetched, they show some incredible finds in almost every episode. Not that you couldn’t find items similar to what they have found, it just doesn’t happen quite that often. Storage Wars is a little more believable, although the drama lately is getting a little thick. Keep in mind that these shows must be entertaining otherwise they will not be on the air for long. They are showing their best finds and who knows how many storage units they had to purchase before they found one worthy to be put on television.

If there isn’t treasure in every storage unit, what does a typical storage unit contain? Most storage units contain household items like cookware, dishware, decorations, pictures, all types of furniture, bedding, clothing, accessories, books, electronics, collectibles, personal hygiene items or sometimes the remnants of a failed business. The good news is that there is a demand for all of these typical items, especially in a recession.

Some people will say that others don’t store valuable items like gold, cash, jewelry and guns in storage units. I can’t argue with this statement, most people don’t. Items like this are usually kept at their home. Answering the following question will reveal the answer to this one. Why do people store their property at self storage facilities? Some people just need extra space around their home, although you have to consider that a lot of people who store their property at self storage facilities are in transition.

This being said, let’s look at the primary reasons that storage units are sold at public auctions. Some people go to jail. If they already have their property in a storage unit, it is difficult to make a payment from behind bars. If they went to jail and had a relative or friend move their property from their home into storage and the relative or friend gets behind on the payment, their property is unknowingly sold. Some people die and their family members are not aware that the deceased had property in a storage unit. Others lose their jobs or become ill and fall behind on their payments. It only takes a few months before the costs really add up and some people just can’t afford to get current.

In other less tragic scenarios, a person may get a job offer and have to relocate on short notice. They pack in a hurry and everything but the essentials go into storage. Over time these items become less important and the cost to transport them to another state is overwhelming so they just relinquish the property to the facility or quit making payments. Also, when people relocate, their addresses and phone numbers change. If there is a problem with their credit card and the facility is unable to reach the tenant, notices are placed in the newspaper and then their property is sold.

Now that you know why people use storage facilities and why people lose their property in storage auctions, it is easier to believe that you can find some valuable items in these units. In the last 6 months I have found gold in storage units four times. The first time, I hit the jackpot. There was a safe that contained 5 jewelry boxes full of gold jewelry among other things. Two of the times I found a single piece of gold jewelry and another time, I found a small jewelry box with about seven gold rings in it.

In the same 6 month period, I found 2 shotguns, a rifle and an antique pistol from the 1880’s. I have found some cash a few times but in most cases it was less than $300. I have spoken with people who have found larger sums of cash in storage units that contained illegal drugs. I have even spoken with someone who found a skeleton in an ice chest. In situations like these I recommend getting the proper authorities involved.

The moral of the story is that you never know exactly what you are going to get and that you have to take the good with the bad. But, if you are persistent, you can acquire some incredible possessions and at the some time make a healthy profit reselling items purchased at auctions.


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