If you’ve ever watched the show Storage Wars, or have ever been to a storage unit auction, you’ll have some idea of the excitement that comes when the lock on the unit is busted open and the expectant buyers get to take a look inside. Anything can be hidden away in one of those little garages, from straight garbage to solid gold and everything in between. For your entertainment, I’ve sifted through some of the luckiest and most surprising things ever found in storage units, some of which were worth a lot of money. Let’s take a look.
10. Classic Games
If you’re anything like me, you’ll have quite a few old console games stashed away somewhere, waiting for a rainy day. Well, that rainy day could actually turn out to be payday as one fortunate storage hunter called Rene found out in the first episode of Storage Wars’s 10th season. Rene bought the vintage-looking unit for a cool $1500. When he started digging around in the back, he uncovered a huge dusty treasure trove of vintage electronics, including a Super NES Game Genie code book, a Coleco Pong-style dedicated machine, a Sega Master System game and a Sega Saturn disc.
Rene brings in an expert to help him evaluate the enormous mass mainly made up of game cartridges. After some extensive cataloguing, the expert estimates that the unit could be worth around $45-50,000 in total. Judging by the size of the collection, it could take a long time to sell, but that’s a serious amount of cash for some old pieces of no-longer-used gaming equipment.
9. Gold, Silver, and French Wine
In the UK in 2017, three friends put some money together to buy a mystery storage locker in Middlesbrough. The container cost £260 and ended up holding some surprising objects. It included a vintage bottle of French wine, made in 1943 when the Nazis still occupied the country, a handwritten court log which appears to be from Suffolk in the 1720s, and a didgeridoo.
They found countless other rarities and antiques, including Royal Doulton and Wedgewood, along with a treasure trove of gold, silver tableware and brass. In total, they busted open 16 storage containers using bolt cutters, with around 100 people bidding at the event at Magnum, Haverton Hill. One even contained a car while others contained furniture, medical equipment, kitchens, car engines and tools. The eventual price of the container is actually unknown, but early estimates were in the high tens of thousands of pounds. Not bad for a £260 container!
8. Michael Jordan Recruitment Letters
A storage locker bought by a man in North Carolina seemed unassuming at first, until he found some unique documents related to basketball legend Michael Jordan hiding in its contents. The locker contained two of Jordan’s recruitment letters, including one from assistant Bill Guthridge and another from coach Dean Smith. The documents, which had changed hands twice, Goldin Auctions founder Ken Goldin says, were some of the personal items Jordan gave to “Michael Jordan’s 23,” a restaurant that opened in Chapel Hill, N.C., in 1999.
In his previous auction, which ended in November, Goldin sold a game-used jersey formerly owned by entertainer Penny Marshall for $51,518. Last month, Grey Flannel Auctions sold the pair of shoes Jordan wore in his famous “flu game” for $104,765. Later, they auctioned off and sold the recruitment documents for more than $50,000. $50,000 for recruitment letters! I wonder how much I can get for all my rejection letters…
7. Frank Gutierrez Art
Storage Wars star Darrell Sheets, also known as “The Gambler”, took a huge gamble on a locker priced at $3,600. But his punt paid off when he found the storage unit contained a lot of original art by Frank Gutierrez. Estimates put the collection of art at $300,000. Many Critics say that the art is not nearly worth that much. There isn’t even a Wikipedia page for Frank Guttierez, so it’s difficult to say whether the collection holds that value. However, that storage unit find is still a lot of money even if you knock a third off from that price. Guttierez’s art is wild and wacky, so I don’t know if it’s going to be for everyone – but hey, at least Darrell can get into the art game now!
6. Pirate Chest
In 2011, on another episode of Storage Wars, Dan and Laura Dotson came across a strange looking chest in the back of a foreclosed storage unit they’d bought at an auction in Contra Costa County, California. Soon a mystery buyer offered the Dotsons a quick-fire offer – $1000 cash for the chest, then and there. The couple, who were unable to open the chest, agreed.
It took three people to lift the chest out of the unit, which should have been a sign that there was something important in it. And there was. The chest was at least 200 years old and contained around $500,000 dollars in gold doubloons. A treasure expert described the treasure as “Pieces of Eight Spanish Gold”, dating anywhere between the 16th and 19th centuries. Looks like Dan and Laura made a pretty huge blunder agreeing to the quick sale – who knows if they’ll ever get luck like that again?
5. Harley Davidson 8 Valve
This 1927 Harley-Davidson 8-valve racer with sidecar had been languishing in a Melbourne, Australia storage unit for 50 years before being rediscovered in the spring of 2015. Harley Davidson motorcycles from the early 20th century are rare enough items in themselves, but when one surfaces that was uncommon even when new, you know that you probably have an exceptionally scarce item on your hands. They actually found this particular bike, a circa-1927 FHA 8-Valve V-Twin racer complete with its scramble-type sidecar in a barn. It was one of fewer than 50 ever built. The antique Harley went on to sell for an impressive $424,000 when it came up for auction later that year. That’s a lot of dough.
This also reminds me of a find in Storage Wars where two new, pristine Harleys surfaced.
Estimates put the price around $80,000 each. Critics say that you’d be lucky to get $40,000. This is quite a good example of how Storage Wars often inflates the expected prices to build drama. But hey, that’s showbiz baby! And, you know, just biz.
4. Disney Memorabilia
Back in 2011, a staggering 40,000-piece collection of motion picture and TV memorabilia was found in an abandoned storage locker near the town of Orange in California. The prior owners of the collection were motion picture industry executives; they had amassed a trove of Hollywood memorabilia over several years. But when the rent in their storage unit fell seriously into arrears, they deemed the contents of locker as “abandoned” and sent it to storage locker auction. At the auction, two lucky hunters bagged the storage unit find.
The contents included movie memorabilia, props, costumes, posters, scripts and other ephemera such as; Disney and Bollywood movie production items, thousands of Disney animation production cells, original Tim Burton art, unreleased publicity photos, and many autographed theatrical posters, prints and artworks. The collection in its entirety is thought to be worth more than $1m dollars. The exact price will probably vary as each individual item is auctioned off separately.
3. 1937 Bugatti
In 2009, a car was found in the garage of an eccentric doctor who was also a compulsive hoarder. Dr Harold Carr had kept the 1937 Bugatti Type 57S in storage in his garage amid piles of medical machinery, 1,500 beer steins, thousands of receipts and even a World War Two spy drone. After Dr Carr’s death, his family found the dusty old vehicle and decided to see what they could get for it at auction. When it was finally bought by a telephone bidder at the Bonham’s Retromobile car show in Paris, the price came to more than £3m pounds, or $3.7m dollars.
It was one of only 17 of its kind ever made, and it was originally able to reach 130mph when other cars were only able to do about 50. The car was originally bought by Dr Carrin 1955 for £895 – the equivalent of £15,500or $19,190 today. That’s one heck of a buy whichever way you look at it, and while it’s sad that this family had to lose their grandfather, at least they get a cool £3m out of it.
2. Action Comics Number 1
Action Comics 1 is the comic in which Superman first appeared and is renowned as the most expensive comic book of all time. Approximately 100 copies of Action Comics 1 remain in existence, and one of those belonged to Nicholas Cage. That is, until it was stolen from his home in Los Angeles in 2000. Cage bought the comic for $150,000 dollars in 1997 and thought it was lost forever before a lucky storage hunter found the comic in an abandoned storage locker in Southern California.
Cage opted to sell the found comic in 2011 and netted 2.16 million dollars as a result. Certified Guaranty Company, the leading grader of the quality of collectible comics, assigned Cage’s copy a grade of 9.0, making it the highest publicly-graded copy of Action Comics Number 1. Another copy, however, was sold in 2014 for $3.2m dollars, making it the only comic book to have sold for more than $3m for a single copy.
1. $7.5m Cash
In 2018, Dan Dotson took part in yet another quick sale that cost him money. But this time it cost him big. Dotson sold a unit to a man for $500 dollars, but he had just unknowingly unloaded the most valuable locker he’s ever sold. A week or so after the sale, a woman approached Dotson and told him that her husband works with the guy who had bought the unit. She then told him that the man had found a safe at the back of the unit, which required a locksmith to get open. When they finally got it open, they found that it contained $7.5m dollars in cash.
Things got complicated when an attorney representing the former owners contacted the new owners, offering a $600,000 reward in exchange for the cash. The new owners declined the initial offer before settling on $1.2 million to return the remaining $6.3 million. Personally, I might have kept the money, what about you?
The Dotsons’ co-star, Bargain Hunters Thrift Store owner Rene Nezhoda, said the cash most likely belonged to the mafia or drug cartel. He added, “If you find money like that, there’s probably a reason it isn’t in the bank.” It’s sound advice not to run away with cartel drug money, so I’d say that’s a good deal. What I wouldn’t do for $7.5m in cold hard cash…
Well, there we have it, some of the luckiest storage unit finds in modern times. Have you ever participated in a storage unit auction? Would you give it a go now? Let me know in the comments section below. As always, thanks for reading!