If you’ve never heard of A&E’s Storage Wars, you’ve probably been living under a rock. The show is one of the highest-rated programs in the network’s history, with five seasons under its belt and a sixth in the making. Those unfamiliar with the show might find the premise to be a bit on the dull side. Storage Wars follows a group of men and women who bid on abandoned storage lockers in California. There, as in most states, it’s common practice for storage units to be auctioned off if the renter misses three consecutive payments.
The catch is that the buyers only have five minutes to look around the unit without actually stepping foot into it. They use what little they’re able to see from outside to decide if the storage unit is worth bidding on. There is something inexplicably exciting about watching these folks throw money at a complete crapshoot. The buyers could spend thousands of dollars on a storage unit filled with mysterious sealed boxes containing worthless junk rather than priceless treasure, but sometimes they come out on top. Way on top. Take a look at some of the biggest finds in Storage Wars history.
The sweet sound of $11,625 (Season 1, Episode 4)
Barry Weiss, who recently left the show to film his own spin-off series Barry’d Treasure, had never been interested in bidding on storage units until his friend approached him about appearing on Storage Wars. Though he was not very experienced, Weiss hit it big early in the first season after bidding $275 on a unit filled with salon supplies. What at first appeared to be a bust actually turned into a major victory when Weiss dug a model grand piano out of the mess. He turned a nice $11,625 profit, which likely contributed to him staying with the show for so long.
$89,000 worth of good news (Season 1, Episode 7)
Past Storage Wars regular Dave Hester (he was fired just after the third season) was the buyer everyone loved to hate. He was known for driving up prices of storage units if he knew a fellow buyer was eyeing it and was confrontational in general. Much to his competition’s dismay, Hester was a pretty lucky buyer. Case in point: in the first season, Hester bid $750 on a storage unit filled with old newspapers. It doesn’t sound like a jackpot, but they turned out to be limited-edition Elvis Presley newspapers, valued at around $90,000. Have mercy.
Toying around with $13,000 (Season 1, Episode 8)
Brandi Passante and Jarrod Schulz are the rookies of Storage Wars. More often than not, they end up losing more money than they gain, but that wasn’t the case later in the first season. After they expressed interest in a particular storage unit, bully Dave Hester drove the price way up, knowing that the couple didn’t have much to spend. Their persistence paid off, though. After spending $1,700 on the unit, Brandi and Jarrod uncovered a collection of classic toys that netted them a $12,800 profit. Not bad for the underdogs.
Playing dirty for $27,650 (Season 2, Episode 2)
Another big find for Hester came when he employed his acting skills to discourage anyone else from bidding on a unit he felt good about. A cursory glance revealed that the locker was filled with old, broken vending machines, but Hester spotted brand new ones in the back. He ranted about how worthless the unit was until the other buyers lost interest. He snagged it for $1,300 and sold the new machines for a nearly $28,000 profit.
$300,000 worth of art (Season 3, Episode 26)
Season 3’s finale saw the show’s biggest find to date. Darrell Sheets, known to the public as “the gambler,” bid $3,600 on a locker because he liked the looks of some of the artwork inside. After a little research, the artwork turned out to be original paintings by Frank Gutierrez. Much to everyone’s disbelief, the lot turned out to be valued at more than $300,000. Despite the skepticism, Sheets said he spoke with Gutierrez, who actually owned the storage unit, and was nice enough to return some of the artist’s personal items…just not the thousands of dollars worth of artwork.
Hogging $10,000 worth of profits (Season 4, Episode 1)
Season 4’s opener was a happy one for Barry Weiss, who wouldn’t return to Storage Wars for the fifth season. He dropped $1,700 on a shabby storage unit filled with car and motorcycle parts, but his find netted him just over $10,000 worth of profits. That’s one way of starting off the season with a bang.
$500,000 pirate booty
The most compelling Storage Wars-related find took place back in 2011 when a private buyer used Dan and Laura Dotson’s American Auctioneer’s service—the same one the show uses—to bid $1,000 on a unit without having any idea what was inside. Upon investigation, the buyer came across a box that was so heavy it took three people to move it out of the unit. Inside, he found what was described as “Pieces of Eight Spanish Gold,” dating back to the 16th and 19th centuries. Upon appraisal, the cache was said to be valued at just over $500,000. Quite a profit! His findings weren’t aired on television as he wished to remain anonymous, but you can imagine how envious the show’s regular buyers must have been.
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