Those who buy and sell the contents of abandoned storage lockers for a living say amateurs influenced by the popular U.S. show Storage Wars are driving up prices.
Stan Gore of Chatham, Ont., has been working the storage locker auction circuit in southern Ontario for 18 years.
Three years ago, the reality show Storage Wars debuted on the U.S. cable network A&E.
“What’s happened is, the prices went up. People, they all think there’s a million dollars in the units. They’re looking for real high end stuff, it isn’t there,” Gore said at an auction in Windsor, Ont, on Tuesday.
Gore buys units in Chatham, Windsor, Sarnia and London. He sells their contents from his home. He doesn’t own a store. But storage lockers are his primary source of income.
“Sometimes you get good [stuff], sometimes you get much out of it,” Gore said. “But we’ve been doing pretty good on it.”
David Giansanti owns Roundabout Treasures, a second hand store in Tecumseh, Ont., just east of Windsor. He’s been buying storage lockers at auction for four years. He’s noticed rising prices, too.
He said just last week he saw a woman “spend a lot of money on a lot of garbage.”
“It’s amazing how much money they throw at these lockers,” Giansanti said. “If they have a fistful of dollars, they’re there to spend it.”
He just hopes they do it quickly.
“You bid them up to get them to spend their money faster. And hopefully they won’t be at the next one,” Giansanti said.
Sandy Venditti and her father Piero Venditti own Walkerville Self Storage in Windsor. They said the crowds are been increasing in size. Auctions that used to average 20 people have seen as many as 80 this year.
“Because of Storage Wars, we have an influx of additional people,” Sandy Venditti said. “The regulars don’t want newcomers because they force the bids up. In the excitement of it, they just start bidding. But it’s good for us.”
The Vendittis auction off lockers after 90 days of no payment and no contact from the owners passes.
“We do auctions to clear the units and recover our losses,” Sandy Venditti said. “Sometimes you get well over $600 on the units.”
“Sometimes, somebody’s lucky and find gold in those boxes,” Piero Venditti said.
Gore and Giansanti have their own celebrated wins.
Gore spent $200 on a locker with four filing cabinets. The cabinets were filled with Christmas and birthday cards, each with cash inside. He ended up with $1,000 in cold, hard cash.
Giansanti moved two couches in a locker and found a go-kart.
Only three lockers were up for auction Tuesday at Walkerville Storage.
John Strahl paid $50 for his and figures he’ll make five times his investment.
“It’s like Christmas time. You can’t go wrong with Christmas time. It’s like a scavenger hunt,” he said. “For $50, you can’t go wrong.”
But, they’re not all winners.
“Forty per cent of it is junk, on average,” Gore said.