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Auction Hunters Guide: What Awaits You at A Public Storage Auction; Treasure or Trash?

Updated on September 1, 2014

When it comes to public storage auctions, there is little that you cannot find. In fact, you would probably be amazed at what some people leave behind for you to find (I dont just mean the good stuff either). For me, its digging through the contents to find these treasures that excites me the most.

Before I go on to tell you some of the stuff that I have found (and seen others find) in storage units though, I want to let you know that it is not always glam and glory.

Sometimes, you wind up with more than you bargained for, and it can become quite ugly when this happens (I will explain this further later on). So here is my incomplete list of the many types of things that I have personally found in storage units.

Though I have not been quite so lucky, one man found a treasure of gold and silver coins worth half a million dollars in a storage unit (see video below)
Though I have not been quite so lucky, one man found a treasure of gold and silver coins worth half a million dollars in a storage unit (see video below) | Source

The Good

  • bedroom sets/dining room sets
  • antiques
  • motorcycles
  • guns
  • rare coins/money
  • washer/dryer
  • designer clothes, shoes and bags
  • camping equipment/tools/military equipment/woodwork machinery
  • holiday items
  • decorations
  • stoves/grills
  • bikes/toys/exercise equipment
  • TVs/stereos/computers/CDs/speakers
  • china dishes
  • sewing machines
  • typewriters
  • fridges
  • collectibles/train sets
  • couches
  • leather
  • jewelry/gems
  • clocks
  • curtains
  • vases/glass
  • car parts
  • cameras/camcorders
  • baby stuff
  • artwork

As you can see, this is a pretty impressive list, but its far from exhaustive. In one of my better units, which I paid just over $400 for, I found a 6-gallon water jug full of silver coins. I scored just under $1000 on the change alone, and it had a whole house worth of contents in it.

In another unit, one of the first units I ever bought, there were a ton of boxes owned by a small company. They had used the boxes to store their documents. So when I opened the boxes, there were papers and envelopes inside. I was mighty surprised by what I found inside the envelopes.

Apparently the owner of the company was using his storage unit to stash some of his cash. Inside each of the envelopes, there was $300. There were 20 envelopes in total, but I had to dig through about 100 boxes to find them all. So in total, there was $6000 hiding in that unit full of trash. Talk about a real treasure hunt! I paid $60 for the unit.

Thats the thing about storage auction units, sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you dont. Now, if that money had not have been in there, I would have been out $60 and stuck with disposing of a ton of boxes slammed full with junk papers. Being that it was one of the first units I had purchased, I was still unaware of what to look for, and made a mistake by purchasing a unit full of plain boxes. Yet, I was incredibly lucky at the same time. By far, it was my best unit yet.

Now, the bad list below are some of the things that I have found that turned out to be almost completely worthless. You will find allot of this stuff in your units if you are not careful (and sometimes even if you are).


The Bad

  • old, worn-out clothes, shoes and bags
  • broken items
  • dirt
  • rocks
  • fake jewelry
  • non-functioning electronics
  • stolen items
  • expensive furniture that has been written all over by children
  • items that require allot of restoration
  • empty boxes
  • papers and other documents
  • trash

Again, the list is not exhaustive, but you get the point. There is allot of junk to be found. When I wind up with stuff from the bad list, I usually take it to the Salvation Army or Goodwill. This is nothing though, its when you wind up with stuff from the ugly list below, that you really put in some work for your money. It can be frustrating to say the least, but sometimes it can be downright dangerous too.

Nothing but trash...

The Ugly

  • dead rodents
  • live rodents
  • cockaroaches
  • pesticides
  • poisen
  • chemicals
  • drugs/medications
  • used needles
  • used condoms
  • broken glass
  • rusty nails/knives (unprotected)
  • rotten food
  • used toilet paper
  • maggots
  • flies
  • insect eggs (tons of them)
  • spiders, including black widows and brown recluses
  • mold
  • toxic stench

So you can see, its not always nice and fun digging through storage units. You will be surprised what some people pay to keep in storage (and what they dont pay to lose).

While you can almost completely avoid getting allot of the stuff from the ugly list by being careful and knowing what you are looking for (what to look for in a public storage unit auction), it is not completely unavoidable. Some units can look super clean, yet still have that one bag of trash sitting in the corner that reeks of death or worse.


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    • profile image

      Jim Williams 6 years ago

      You can find some auction schedules here: Good luck?

    • daborn7 profile image

      Rosalie 6 years ago from California

      Ann, Thanks for reading! You are absolutely right about one mans trash is anothers treasure. I guess when it comes to the old clothes, if you have something you can do with it, then by all means it would not be a bad find. Making rugs with them is awesome! Unfortunately, Im into quick-turnover with as little effort as possible. I just wouldnt have the time to do it. Still, an excellent and creative idea that im sure could also bring some terrific profit. I look forward to reading your hub telling all about it!

    • AnnRandolph profile image

      AnnRandolph 6 years ago

      This is a great hub. I'm getting ready to write my own - with a slightly different twist because I love to find the old clothes. I use them for rug making. I guess one man's trash is another man's treasure. Happy hunting!