I remember the first time I found out about storage unit auctions. A friend of mine told me that his brother had gone to a storage auction and had scored some really good things such as a diamond ring worth over $5000. He only paid $250 for the unit! I could not believe this, so I decide to check this out for myself. I called the local storage unit facilities in my area, but all of their auctions were over for the month. I asked to be put on their mailing list, and then I started getting emails about the upcoming months auctions.
My first auction was in February of 2005. I got to the storage facility early and signed in. There was nobody there yet and I thought I was going to be the only person bidding on units. But people began to show up, little by little, and eventually there were about 25 people by the time the auction was ready to begin. The first unit was a 10×20, and it looked good. I could see some nice furniture, and some boxes. I was one of the first of the few to bid, but eventually the bids started to exceed $700 and I decided that was too high for me. I think the winning bid ended up above $800. I do not know what was actually in the unit, but I did hear some sort of excitement coming from the two people who won the unit later on in the day when I walked past the unit. I think they ended up doing pretty well from the sounds of it.
The second unit that was up for bid was a 5×5 unit. It was small, but it had boxes stacked all the way up to the ceiling. The first bid started out at $35, and I bid up to $200, then I backed off because people started bidding up the price of the unit. They seemed to like the way the unit was packed neatly, and the boxes all looked fresh and clean. That unit eventually sold for $650. I didn’t get a chance to walk by that unit, but from the nice appearance of the contents, hopefully the person who bought the unit did well.
The third and last unit of the day was a 10×10 unit. The unit looked a little messy. There was a lawnmower and some gardening tool out in the open, but they did not seem like they would really be worth more than $50. There was what looked like a few boxes and some junky looking items under a tarp in the very rear of the storage unit. Nobody seemed interested in it. I was not really interested in it either, but once the bidding began, the only bid was $25. I bid $30, then the other bidder countered with a $35 bid. I upped his bid with a $45 bid, and after we went back and forth a couple of more times, I ended up winning the unit with a $55 bid. I closed the unit and put a lock on it, and then I went to the office and paid the money for the unit. After that, I went and got my truck and pulled up to the unit. I opened the door and started checking out the lawn mower. It was a Craftsman 4.5 HP self propelled lawn mower, and it was actually in pretty good condition. It just had a lot of dried up grass all over it, but it actually cleaned up quite well, and it ran great, and was in excellent mechanical condition. I ended up selling the lawn mower for $125, so I was ahead of the game. I was now curious as to what was under those tarps, so I went over and pulled the tarps off to see what kind of junk I was stuck with. Immediately after I pulled off the tarps, I saw an engine mounted on an engine stand. It looked really nice, as if it had just been rebuilt. I knew it was worth something, but I had no clue as to what it’s value was. Having been around cars all of my life, I knew it would probably be worth more than $500 for a quick sale if it was in really good condition.
I rummaged through all of the boxes and most of the stuff I found was pretty much worthless, but I did find in one of the boxes a huge wooden bowl with coins that somebody was collecting.
There were no rare coins, just everyday coins in the bowl that someone was emptying their pockets into each day. I took the bowl to the bank and after they ran the coins through the coin sorter, I ended up getting $48. After I loaded everything up, I ran by the parts store where my friend works and had him take a look at the engine. Right off the bat, he knew it was a Ford 289 engine, most likely out of an old Mustang from the 60’s. He started looking at the engine a little more closer, and then he saw that it had some high performance accessories on it. He determined that it was a 289 Hipo motor for a K Code, or Shelby Mustang. That made this motor very valuable, and after doing some research, we found that complete motors like this were going for over $10,000 if they were rebuilt, and in good condition with all of the accessories. I ended up selling the motor for a quick sale on craigslist for $9500. A few car people I knew told me I sold it too cheap, and that I could have actually sold it for more.
So, my first storage unit auction was a huge success for me. This does not happen often, so don’t expect to go out there and do as good as I did. Who knows, you could get lucky and do just as well as me, or better. It’s just luck. I have had other successful auctions as well, and I will share my experiences in future articles.