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Making Money With Storage Locker Auctions

by Skip McGrath

Storage locker auctions have been around a long time. Flea market and second-hand store dealers have used them as a source of profits and eBay sellers jumped on them shortly after eBay was founded.

In my latest book, The Virtual Peddler, one of the chapters dealt with Storage Locker Auctions. I think that chapter generated the most email and questions. I was about to go back and revise the book, when I got an email from my good friend Steve Lindhorst. Steve has just released The Quick & Dirty Guide to Storage Locker Auctions. He sent me a review copy and I was blown away. Even though I have bought the contents of storage lockers before, I had no idea there was so much to learn about them.

The Quick & Dirty Guide to Storage Locker Auctions book is 75-pages long and packed with the wisdom and techniques from his years of experience buying from these auctions. If this subject interests you, then you definitely need his guide.

How Storage Locker Auctions Work

If you don't know about storage locker auctions, here are the basics: When people fail to pay their monthly rent, the owners of storage lockers are forced to sell the goods in a public auction. Sometimes the locker operators do the auction themselves, but it is more common for a hired auctioneer to be brought in. In some states the auction is conducted by a county sheriff.

The way the auctions work is you stand outside the door. The auctioneer cuts the lock off and gives you a couple of minutes to look inside. You may not enter. You have to look in from the door. Most of them are not lighted or poorly lighted, so you want to carry a flashlight.

After a couple of minutes, the bidding starts. Storage lockers can go from anywhere from $50 up to over $500. By far most of them fall in the $100 to $300 level. If you win the bidding, you now own the contents and typically you have 24 hours to remove them. Son one of the things you need besides a flashlight is a lock to place on the locker while you get your truck and move the stuff. Or you can rent the locker for one month (typically about $25-$30) while you sort and sell the goods inside.

How To Make Money With Storage Locker Goods

Steve's system is a little different than mine, but here is what I do.

I sort the goods into four piles:

  • Valuable small items I can sell on eBay
  • Hard-to-ship valuable items I can sell on Craigslist
  • Semi-good items that I can sell to a flea market operator or owner of a secondhand store or donate to a thrift shop for the tax deduction
  • Trash

Obviously the trash goes to the dump. I like to do that first so I have room to work and sort. Next I dispose of the semi-good stuff. I like to sell small, easily shippable items on eBay. Larger items that I don't want to ship, I list on Craigslist and sell them locally. I don' t get as much for them that way, but I just don't like the hassle of shipping large items.

What You Can Find at Storage Locker Auctions

The bonus that comes with purchasing storage locker contents, is every once in a while you will come upon something really valuable. I once found a collection of 78-RPM Jazz records from the 1950's. I was too lazy to list them all on eBay, so I sold them to a local dealer for over $600.

Another time I bought a storage locker for under $300 that contained a collectible Fender guitar worth over $2,000 and a box of old candy machines that I sold on eBay individually for a total of $360. I also sold several other nice items in the locker for another $200.

Over the years I have found old football and baseball cards, collectible art glass, depression glass, a complete eight-piece setting of Liberty Blue dinnerware, silverware, old ironware platters, a trunk full of WWII memorabilia and an M-1 Rifle, and a box of mountain climbing rope, climbing shoes, and karabiners worth about $400.

One locker I passed up when the bidding went over $300 was bought by a local secondhand storeowner in our town whom I know fairly well. When I saw him the following week, he showed me the stamp collection he found in one of the boxes. He sent it to s large stamp buyer in New York City who offered him over $14,000.

So take a look at Steve's book, The Quick & Dirty Guide to Storage Locker Auctions. It will really open your eyes to a profitable way to source goods to sell.

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