Storage Wars

A&E enters, sort of, the growing number of collecting shows with Storage Wars.

Billed as “the new original real-life series” (apparently so as not to be confused with “reality shows”), the show follows four professionals who attend auctions to bid on and buy the contents of repossessed storage units auctioned off by Dan and Laura Dotson.

In some ways, it’s not fair to call it a television show for collectors. The four main cast members lead their teams to buy, and then later sell, the contents of storage units; the buyers are simply there for the profits, whether the storage unit contains antiques and collectibles or not. But, like many of the other shows I’ve been reviewing here at Inherited Values, there’s something for many collectors to identify with.  …And that thing is the addictive gambling part of it all.

Darrell Sheets, “The Gambler,” talks about this, naturally enough. He talks about the The Wow Factor. The big scores. Like the four Picassos and the world’s most lucrative comic book collection that he’s scored through storage auctions. And how those finds keep him coming back for more.

Even if you’re a collector who’s not planning on selling, you have to admit you know the thrills of finding something in a stack of what others might call nothing. And how you’re rather addicted to it too.

Only on Storage Wars, it’s not only finding an antique needle in a haystack of used stuff — it’s far more of an intense rush.

In these storage units here are some collectibles (modern space-age furniture, baseball cards, German Micro-cars), but really, no body knows what they will find… Used clothes (awesome when they were the personal property of Suge Knight; not so much when it’s the average non-storage-unit-rent-paying Joe), restaurant equipment, knock-off jewelry — endless, really. And, again, no one knows what they’ll all get.

Because there’s something unique to this sort of auction: there’s no preview time.

Buyers are limited to only looking through the doorway of the storage locker to spot and guess at the contents. They may not open any boxes until/unless they have won the auction. But once the auction ends, another is about to start, so the winner doesn’t waste time looking at what he’s won; he puts his own lock on the unit and moves onto the next storage unit up for auction. He takes another gamble.

This limited ability to see inside, amazingly, prompts Barry Weiss, “The Collector,” to show up at the next auction with stilts (to see what may be hiding in the back of the storage locker), night-vision goggles (to see in the darkness), and his “secret weapon,” a little person named Jay, to assist with spotting.

I don’t know whether to applaud or cringe at the levels lengths Weiss will go to.

This not-knowing alone amps up the auction adrenaline of the show. And then Storage Wars builds on it. Unlike other shows which start with the objects and reveal the price, on Storage Wars the action starts with the nearly blind auction action, moves towards the reveal of the items themselves, then their values — including the obligatory meetings with experts to help appraise (and I think we can assume those experts might handle some of the resale transactions too).

Somewhat misleading is the evaluation of the episode’s Winner. The price of the unit is compared to the resale value of the items inside (or at least the biggest ticket items). However, some of the teams clearly have a much higher over-head; more trucks, more employees, etc. So without an accounting of actual profits, I don’t know how far that final evaluation is.

Dave Hester, “The Mogul,” has the largest overhead. He also has the deepest pockets — but that doesn’t make him magic. He, like everyone else, is still at the mercy of what he sees, what he knows, and what he can sell for profit. We witness him get burned on an organ; but he redeems himself with profits on the rest of the unit’s contents.

The guys may not always seem so likable; they are profiting off of the repossessed belongings of others and they are often impatient, if not rude, even when they are dealing with experts who are not their competition.  But this isn’t a Miss Congeniality competition; this is business. Something that’s made quite explicit when we meet Jarrod Schulz, “The Young Gun.”

Schulz isn’t only the buyer with the least experience; he’s the more intuitive and/or impulsive buyer.  He says he needs to find a storage unit “that feels good to me.” So far, he hasn’t won a lot “storage wars,” something that worries Brandi, his wife and co-owner of his shop, the Now & Then Second Hand Store.  Even if he doesn’t win the “wars,” he’s supposed to be out finding inventory to turn for a profit at the shop; but, well, sometimes what he buys are flops.

This prompts Brandi to join her husband at an auction where she sees first-hand his spontaneous and even sentimental bidding.  Most of the other buyers eschew this particular unit because it’s just a bunch of boxes, but “The Young Gun” has to bid. “I see mystyery in there; I’ve got to see what’s in the rest of the unit.” He places the winning bid, much to the chagrin of Brandi. Did I say chagrin? She’s actually furious.

And she’s right; the highlight of this storage unit is a fake designer watch.

I don’t mention this to pick on Jarrod — or even to defend Brandi from those, like A&E, who call her “hard-nosed, sharp-tongued.” (Why is the wife always to blame?)  I mention this  because he, Brandi, and the rest of the cast are characters. Not only characters on Storage Wars, but the kind of folks you’ll find at any auction or flea market. Or family dinner, for that matter. *wink*

Storage Wars can be seen Wednesdays, 10/9C, on A&E.

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Deanna is the founder of Inherited Values, among other sites. She is also an antique dealer.

3 thoughts on “Storage Wars”

  1. Both this show and Spike TV’s “Auction Hunters” have hugely increased the amount of interest in storage auctions lately. We started publishing storage auction listings to a few folks at about a year ago, but traffic has been through the roof in December. Happy hunting, everyone, and if you’re a storage customer, don’t forget to pay your bill… we wouldn’t want it to be your stuff that ends on getting sold on TV!

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