Category - Storage Auctions 101

What to Do if You Find Pornography in a Storage Unit

Pornography Bust

With the recent arrest of Tyreek Wilkerson over his discovery of child pornography in a storage unit, many auction hunters may be wondering just what they should do if they find inappropriate materials at their next auction. Pornography of all kinds – including child pornography – tends to show up in storage units pretty often. Learning what to do before you're faced with the actual issue is an important step to keeping yourself safe.


First, if you haven't been following the case, here's what happened to Wilkerson: He purchased a storage unit at an auction and discovered pornographic materials inside. Instead of turning them into the police right away, he chose to throw the materials in the trash and take other items from the unit, including cameras and lighting equipment, back to his home. This was the wrong choice, and it swiftly led to his arrest for obstructing a police investigation.


If you're ever in Wilkerson's shoes and find illegal material of any kind in a storage unit – whether it be pornography, drugs, stolen items or anything else that looks fishy – you need to report it right away. Don't even bring the items out of the unit. Instead, alert the facility manager and the police, and let the cops come check out the unit's contents before you mess with them. You never know when the items in a storage unit might be the crucial evidence in a criminal investigation, and withholding that evidence from the police is a serious offense.


In case you're wondering, this also applies to firearms. Guns are carefully regulated, and the local authorities will want to check that gun against a database to ensure it hasn't been used in any crimes and wasn't procured illegally. Treat any guns you find with caution and assume it will be confiscated; if it's not, you'll be happily surprised, but if it is, you won't be disappointed.


So that explains what to do with illegal materials, but what about regular pornography?


The first option, of course, is to throw this material away. If you're easily offended by such things, it makes sense that you wouldn't want to resell them. If you do choose to go this route, just be careful to dispose of them in a place that curious young eyes can't get hold of them, and get on with your life.


But that's not the most profitable choice. The thing about adult materials like “toys” and pornography is that it can be both difficult to sell and, at times, surprisingly lucrative. If you don't mind doing a bit of research, you might discover that you have an issue or image that holds collector's value. Even if not, many places will buy adult videos and even magazines. Call around some of the “adult” shops in your area to see if anyone is interested in buying.


If all else fails, you can also resell these items over the Internet. You can sell adult-themed items on eBay as long as they're legally obtained. There are also adult-themed websites that can be used for this purpose. If you frequent a lot of storage auctions, it might be in your best interests to get familiarized with a few adult sites or stores so you can make a bit of money from these units.


Are Brick and Mortar Stores Worthwhile for Resellers?

Thrift Store

Eventually, many resellers come to a point where their business has expanded beyond the small-scale business it once was. Although most resellers start by selling their items at flea markets or over the Internet, eventually many begin to gather so many goods that this becomes less feasible. For the full-time reseller, a brick-and-mortar shop can be very appealing – and lucrative.


Before you start your own thrift store, however, there are many things to take into consideration. Moving your small business into a larger scale operation can be exciting and profitable, but it's not the right choice for everyone. Take some time to consider the pros and cons of a store before going to the trouble of opening one.



  • You have access to new customers who might not be shopping online or frequenting the same swap meets or yard sales that you usually sell through.

  • You'll have plenty of space to store merchandise so your home won't get cluttered and you can save money on storage units of your own.

  • You don't have to worry about repeated trips to the post office or calculating shipping for orders the way you would with an eBay store.

  • You can hire staff to help manage the store while you search for more items for sale.

  • People may start coming to you with items they wish to sell, which can help increase your inventory without needing to actively search for things.

  • You can continue running sales through virtual channels or swap meets and use those sales as free advertising for your main store.



  • You need to lease the building, which greatly adds to your overhead.

  • You'll need liability insurance for the business to protect you in case anyone falls or is otherwise injured at your store.

  • If you hire employees, your taxes will become more complicated than if you were running a sole proprietorship.

  • You will also be expected to provide certain wages and benefits to your employees depending on the business's size and your state's laws.

  • Brick-and-mortar resale businesses aren't as flexible as virtual shops, and you'll be tied down to that location for quite some time.


Before you make any decisions about the future of your resale business, you should take a hard look at your profits and talk the choice over with your accountant. He or she can help you decide whether you're ready to expand or if expanding is even a viable option for your business.


Selling Sensitive Items

Nazi Memorabilia

One of the most thrilling parts of storage auctions is digging through the items left behind by their owner. This sort of treasure hunting can connect you with history and culture, and it gives you an interesting insight into the life of a stranger. Sometimes, though, that stranger's life is perhaps more interesting than you'd hoped it would be – and they've left you with sensitive items that you now need to find a way to resell.


It could be that the storage unit was full of sex toys and pornography. Or perhaps the previous owner was a collector of Nazi or KKK memorabilia. Whatever the case may be, you now are the owner of items that you don't want to keep but aren't too excited about selling at a flea market where everyone knows your name. What can you do?


First, make sure that nothing you've purchased is actually illegal. Drug paraphernalia, child pornography, guns and other such items must be handled by the police, and it's up for them to decide whether you can hold onto them. If in doubt, check with the law first so you don't get in trouble for attempting to re-sell something that's illegal to own.


But assuming that your item isn't illegal, just in poor taste, there are a few methods for selling it. If you're not ashamed of damaging your reputation, of course, you can always resell these items through your usual channels, such as the flea market or yard sales. If you'd rather avoid having your local community question your tastes, however, you'll want to opt for something a bit more discreet. It's also likely that your usual buyers will have little interest in these specialized items, so it's often not worth the risk to alienate them.


Other valid options are eBay & Craigslist. You can buy and sell practically anything on these sites, and they're relatively anonymous. Of course, if you do a lot of your business on eBay already, you may run into the same problems mentioned above – alienating your buyers and damaging your reputation. Additionally, these websites  may prohibit you from posting certain types of items.


If you have a bit of time on your hands, one of the best methods for selling these sensitive items may be to search out potential buyers and contact them directly. There are millions of websites on the Internet, and quite a few of them are devoted to very specific interests. Do a bit of searching to find a community or forum interested in the kind of sensitive items you have for sale, and see if you could convert the members into customers. Maybe you could post an ad on their forum or even email a few likely collectors. It takes some effort, but your odds of making a decent sale improve when you do this.


If you'd rather not have the Nazi memorabilia fall into the hands of a collector, an alternative plan may be to contact a museum. Even if you can't sell it, you can donate the item and get a tax write-off. This will take the item off your hands and leave you feeling good about it in the process.

However you choose to dispose of sensitive items, some discretion can help save you from embarrassment and lost customers without taking a loss on things deemed unsaleable.


Have you or someone you know come across sensitive items in a storage unit? If so, how did get rid of the merchandise?


Top 3 Storage Auction Forums

Storage Auction Forum

Storage Auction Forums are not a dime a dozen. In fact, there are only a few which generate huge traffic by the interest of real life auction hunters.

First let me inform you the difference between a Storage Auction Blog and a Storage Auction Forum.

Currently there are many storage auction blogs which spill the latest news and information on storage auctions.

Blogs may also recap your favorite television storage auction reality series.

Most blogs however are either opinions or factual articles written either by the owner of the website; or the owner hires freelance writers to write for the blog.

A forum is a community that contains a list of “categories” in which forum members may create a post or reply to a post within that category.

That’s the difference.

Here are the Top 3 Storage Forum Communities.

#1 Storage Auction Forums

A true blue storage auction community with 42 categories that includes overseas topics for the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.

Stats currently with 3,016 members with 25,534 posts in 3,348 topics. Of all the forums this makes the top billing because it has the most content.

Most users ever online 586 on March 05, 2013.

Categories include: Noobie Center, Storage Auction Reality Shows, Storage Auction Stories, Treasure Chest, Weird & Wacky Finds, Vehicle Auctions, In the News, Picker’s Find, and much more.

Hottest specific topic currently is “Storage Auction Stories” with 310 topics and 3,932 replies. One topic in this category is “Jackpot in the Safe” with 27,780 views!

#2 Storage Treasures Forum

Pure auction storage chatter with over 60 active categories. Reached 500,000 members in May. They however have only 6,886 posts in the community.

Categories include: Auction Hunters Tips & Tricks, Ask the Experts, Auction Stories, What’s it Worth, Picker’s Corner, Auctioneer’s Podium, Treasure Chest, and much more.

Top tier of the community boards contains a plethora of information, news, stories, and tips.

#3 Auction Zip Forum

They have only 15 categories on their forum with membership at 385,052.  At this writing their stats include 2,421 topics with 19,372 posts.

Categories include: Antiques & Collectibles, Real Estate, Online Bidding, Heavy Equipment, Car Auctions, Farm & Agriculture, Commercial & Business Liquidations, Storage Auctions, Charity, and Appraisals.

Most users ever online were 346 members on April 09, 2010.

Now while they seem to be an auction community for every possible venture, their have only one storage auction category that currently contains 58 topics with 468 posts. I know, you think that’s small beans, but the entire website just hit 1 million unique “views.”

A storage auction post titled, “Few Questions for Experienced Buyers” currently has only 17 replies yet has 9,140 views!

Storage auction forums, unlike blogs, allow the auction hunter to feel a part of a community. While there are other forums online, these Top 3 storage auction forums hold the most information and generate the most traffic.

Remember, in a forum not every member will post a topic or even post a reply. Many members “lurk” to gather information.

Surf through each forum and see which one is best for you, or join them all.

Why an Auctioneer Will Shut Down Bidding

Auctioneer Stop

Most storage auctions follow a pretty straightforward and familiar format: You arrive, examine the unit, start bidding, and pay for the units you win. Occasionally, though, something might happen to disrupt this flow of events. In some cases, an auctioneer might shut down the bidding without awarding the unit to anyone. This can be frustrating, but understanding why it occurs can help you make sense of things. In general, there are three primary reasons why an auctioneer will shut down bidding mid-auction.


The first reason is that something illegal or dangerous is found in the unit. In most cases, the auctioneer has never seen the inside of the unit before cutting off the locks and opening it for bidding. If something unexpected is found inside, the bidding might be canceled. This can be a disappointment if you see something valuable inside, but it protects the auctioneer, the facility and all of the bidders from legal trouble down the line. Examples of items that could cause bidding to be shut down include human remains, drug paraphernalia, vehicles, guns or stolen items.


If a unit's contents are extremely valuable, a storage facility manager may have set a reserve price on the unit. If auction attendance was low or bids just just didn't reach an amount that the facility manager felt was fair for the unit, the auctioneer may pull the unit from the sale. In a case like this, you always have the option of making a higher offer to the facility manager after the auction has concluded.


The last reason an auctioneer might shut down bidding on a unit is less obvious. In some cases, the auctioneer might halt an auction if the bidding goes higher than expected. This happens because some storage facilities require district manager approval for units that go over a certain dollar amount. We're not exactly sure why this is; however, the most likely explanation is that the that the facility attempt to contact the tenant once more to make payment arrangements. In the event that something particularly valuable is found in the unit, causing its price to jump, the former tenant is more likely to sue the facility for that money, especially if the facility manager did not follow the lien laws to the letter. This is why some auctioneers are super cautious when it comes to pricy auctions.


Not every auctioneer will respond the same way to every situation. You may be accustomed to a certain way of doing things, then be surprised when a different auctioneer makes another judgment call. Try not to get too disappointed when bidding is shut down, though, regardless of what might be found inside the unit. It's better for an auction to be put on hold early on than to get caught up in a legal battle of your own once you buy the items inside.


Public Storage Auctions

Public Storage Auctions

Public storage auctions have been going on for decades, but they were relatively unknown until the last few years. Thanks to the popularity of reality shows like Storage Wars, this once obscure industry has begun to see a tremendous surge in interest. As more people look for ways to start their own businesses, the idea of treasure-hunting among storage units becomes ever more appealing.


A few years ago, before the reality shows made public storage auctions a household name, the only people involved in this business were those who already had experience in resale and auctions. This meant that only a small number of people would attend these auctions, and the communities were often quite tight-knit. Now that they are more commonly known, there is an influx of newcomers. If you're new to the business, here is everything you need to know to get started:


Why Storage Auctions Occur


Public storage auctions occur when a storage facility has tenants who abandon their units or fail to pay the rent for a storage unit. In order to recover the lost income from the abandoned unit and get assistance with emptying the unit of its contents, storage facilities auction the contents of a unit to the highest bidder.


In keeping with a state's lien laws, the storage facility must attempt to contact the tenant several times through every known channel of communication. If this fails, the facility must then post a notice of the sale in a public newspaper and hold the auction in public. These controls are put in place to prevent unscrupulous facilities from stealing a tenant's items. By holding the auction publicly, the facility gives the proper owner of the items ample opportunity to come forward and settle the debt.


At the auction, the auctioneer will allow bidders to look at the unit from the entrance and get an idea for what type of items may be inside. The bidding will then start, and the highest bidder will win that unit. Bidding amounts can vary considerably depending on the contents of the unit, the location of the auction and who is in attendance. Due to the popularity of auctions during recent years, bids tend to be higher than they were several years ago.


Once the public storage auction has concluded, the bidder must clean out the unit within 24 to 48 hours. Any items inside the storage unit become the bidder's property, and he can attempt to sell them at a profit or simply use them in his own home. For many people, storage auctions have become one place to obtain inventory for large-scale resale businesses or internet-based shops.


How to Find Storage Auctions


If you're interested in finding a public self storage auction to attend, there are several options:


  • Check the local newspapers for announcements. In addition to the main paper in your city, you may want to check the paper for outlying cities as well. Running an ad in a small local paper is often cheaper, which means many facilities will choose to advertise in these venues whenever possible.
  • Follow local auctioneers. There are usually only a few auctioneers that handle a good amount of the auctions in a city. Once you figure out which auctioneers usually handle public storage auctions, you can check their websites to get an idea for the upcoming auction schedules.
  • Call the storage facilities. You can contact storage facilities directly to figure out what their auction schedules are and which auctioneers they usually use. Many facilities run their auctions on regular schedules, so you can update your calendar accordingly. Just be aware that storage facility managers tend to be very busy and can get impatient with constant inquiries; do your best to figure out the schedules on your own before calling with questions.
  • Check an online listing. There are several websites devoted to offering schedules for public storage auctions. Some of the national listings may not be very thorough, but local listings can often give you access to more auctions than you might have found on your own. If you live in Texas, our own service at Texas Storage Auction Schedules & News can provide you with the most thorough listing of auctions for the major cities in Texas.


Whether you run a resale business or just want a few new items to outfit your house, public storage auctions are a great way to find low-priced second-hand goods. By knowing where and how the auctions occur and how to get more information about them, you can prepare yourself for auction-hunting success.

How to Efficiently Clean Out a Storage Unit

Clean Storage Unit

Cleaning storage units is one of the least enjoyable aspects of the auction-hunting business, but it's a necessary step. Failure to clean the unit within 24 to 48 hours of the purchase is a sure-fire way to get yourself un-invited from future auctions. For storage facilities, one of the primary purposes of holding a storage auction is to empty out the abandoned unit, and buyers who leave behind their trash and unwanted items are swiftly black-listed.

As important as cleaning is, you don't want to be stuck wasting time on it. Every moment you spend throwing away trash or sweeping out the unit is time you can't spend on more lucrative endeavors, like selling items or attending more auctions. By learning how to economize your time, you can get the cleaning out of the way quickly and easily.

Here are a few tips for cleaning storage units:

  • Avoid messy units. The easiest way to cut down on cleaning time is to avoid bidding on units that will take a long time to clean. Well-organized, tidy units tend to have higher-quality items in them, anyway, and you'll save yourself a lot of hassles by avoiding units that are clearly filled with trash.
  • Bring a partner. Even if you attend auctions by yourself, you should bring along a partner or two to help sort items, load them in your truck and haul trash away to the dump. If you don't have a business partner, see if you can recruit a friend or family member.
  • Have dump fees handy. No matter how careful you are with picking your storage units, you'll still find a lot of trash or unusable items. You can't use the dumpsters at the storage facility, and unauthorized dumping in any other private dumpster is illegal. If you have large items that won't fit in your own home trash can, you'll need to haul them to the landfill or recycling center – and you may need to pay a fee to leave things at the dump. Figure out how much it will be in advance so you can plan accordingly.

Having a place to store the items you wish to keep will make it easy to sort them apart from the things you'll be throwing away, recycling or donating. A little bit of organization will help make cleaning storage units an easy task.

Appearances Can Be Deceiving

Hush through the crowd. Storage door opens. Flashlights up. Flashlights down. Auction hunters shake their heads and move on to the next unit.

Hold your horses!

Don’t always take a storage unit’s appearance at face value. You may believe that if a unit stacked to the ceiling with boxes you will cash out.

Brandi and Jarrod from Storage Wars had such a thought once. Boxes however contained a surplus of new blankets. Both agreed to donate. Everyone hot to bid up that unit because it appeared full of hidden treasures.

Barry from Storage Wars bought a unit for $2.50. No one wanted it so he just shouted out a bid. Inside the unit an old dresser and baby items. The unit looked sad, really.

Barry however laughed all the way to the bank. Inside the top drawer of the dresser were several antique fly bottles appraised at $2,000!

Candy and Courtney from Storage Wars: New York bought a unit that had one pathetic box. No one wanted the unit. Inside the box a fur coat! Wham, bam, thank you Ma’am.

I know what you’re thinking… the producers placed those items to sensationalize Barry’s lost cause of a room and C&C’s pitiful unit. I cannot confirm nor refute. But what if they didn’t?

Types of rooms passed over.

  • Box or two inside
  • Inexpensive furniture
  • Garbage bags
  • Sparse items

Did you see the episode on Auction Hunters where Allen ripped open garbage bags and found money? Not just pocket change but paper money too.

If you spend anywhere from $1 to $20 for a storage unit that no one wants, isn’t it fair to say you could possibly sell the contents for a slight profit at a flea market, swap meet or even a garage sale?

One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

How can you lose if you spend so little? That dresser Barry discarded could probably sell for $20 at a flea market. The unwanted clothes Allen tossed out from the garage bags may have sold for a decent return at a swap meet.

Those unwanted storage units that appear be trash might be the jack pot you seek. You spend $5-$20 (or more) on junk food a week without blinking an eye. No return there (except the spare tire around your waist). Spend $1-$20 on a storage unit that no one wants and take the chance you’ll find something valuable.

What you see is not always what you get.

White Elephants To Avoid At Storage Auctions

White Elephant

Sometimes it’s just not worth it, unless you’re buying a unit for particular items and you’re willing to deal with whatever comes along for the ride. White elephants to avoid at storage auctions include:

1. big, old office photocopiers,

2. huge TVs (digital or analog),

3. used mattresses and box springs,

5. funeral coffins and urns,

6. used tires,

7. partially-full paint cans,

8. medical supplies,

9. 55 gallon drums labeled (or should be labeled) HAZMAT, and

10. a whole lot of anything you are unfamiliar with, and have no idea where to re-sell.

This list is just a sample, of course. But it should serve to clear your head and jog your memory whenever you’re tempted to go ahead and take on one or more white elephants in order to get some good stuff, too. Hopefully, the thought of dragging a huge TV or a vintage photocopier around in your truck for several weeks will trigger a flashing red light, complete with alarm buzzer now.

My simple advice is – JUST DON’T DO IT. Don’t take on the problems in the first place.

It’s easy to lose track of your time spent trying to sell and then give away the white elephants of the storage auction world. Worse yet, your trips to the dump will cost you even more time and also some money in the form of solid waste disposal fees. Not only will you lose out on anticipated profit, but you go in the hole on the items just to get rid of them.

To avoid a lose/lose proposition, stop and ask yourself if a particular risk is worth a big investment of your time. If you can see cumbersome, old items that will be a royal bother to move, store and re-sell, resist the urge to acquire the rest of the unit. Take a pass and move on to the next unit up for bid. Let somebody else take on the white elephants, because they will.

Getting the Most from Donated Items

When you spend time in the auction business, you quickly discover that not every item you find can be sold at a profit. Fortunately, there are a few ways to recover some of your investment on items that you can't or don't wish to sell. One of the most valuable things to consider is donating your items for a tax deduction. There are a lot of taxes associated with running your own resale business, and finding ways to reduce the impact of those taxes can be extremely beneficial in the long-term.

The concept of getting a tax deduction for donations is fairly straightforward. You simply gather up the items you don't wish to sell and deliver them to a tax-deductible non-profit organization like Goodwill or Salvation Army. Some of these organizations will even come pick up items from your house if you make arrangements in advance, which can cut down on the time and hassles associated with getting rid of merchandise. Once the items are donated, you'll receive a blank receipt. It's up for you to determine how much the item was worth when it comes time to claim your taxes.

For small donations under $500 or so, the IRS will usually trust your calculations as long as nothing else seems suspicious on your return. For larger donations, you will need more paperwork to prove the value of your items. You'll need to document how you got the item and how you derived its value. For very pricy items, the IRS will require an appraisal of the item.

The trick, then, to getting the most out of your donations is understanding exactly how these items are valued and how to get the most for the donations you make while keeping good records to back up those valuations. There are a few tools you can use to complete this:

When valuing an item, it's also important to realize that the deduction is limited to the lower figure of either the basis (what you paid for the item) or its fair market value. This means that if you bought an item at auction for $100 and later found out that it's worth $1,500, you can only claim $100 in value for its donation.

One other thing to bear in mind: You can only claim donations of up to 50% of your adjusted gross income. The remainder can be carried over and applied to the next year's taxes. Your AGI is the amount of income you have left over after business expenses, half of your self-employment tax, IRA contributions, alimony payments, etc. This means that if your business runs with extremely tight profit margins – or if you nickel and dime your expenses – you may run into problems with high donations.

You also can't double-deduct: If you already deducted the price of buying a locker as a business expense, you cannot then deduct the value of the items in that locker as a charitable donation. Tax law can be tricky, and it's always a good idea to run this buy your accountant to prevent yourself from audits. By keeping careful records and being mindful of your options, you can maximize your deductions without getting in trouble with the IRS.