TV Treasure Hunters Turn their Sights on Storage Units

Posted on Oct 25 2010 - 8:55pm by John Stevens

What’s behind door number one? How about door number two? These doors aren’t part of a game show; they belong to storage units. Auctioning off stuff packed inside abandoned storage units is becoming an exciting trend. A purchaser could either have acquired a gold mine or a dud during an auction. Either way, each abandoned storage unit is a sort of time capsule. Some have not been opened since they were initially abandoned 15 or 20 years ago.

The practice has even made its way to the air ways. On Nov. 9, Spike TV’s Auction Hunters will premier its first show of the new season based on the auctioning of storage units. More than 10,000 storage units are put up for auction each day throughout the country. The premise of all of the show’s half-hour episodes, which focus on different forms of auctioning, is for Clinton “Ton” Jones and Allen Haff to acquire abandoned treasure and sell it for profit. The first show puts them in the heart of L.A. In one storage unit Allen finds a rare 1910 copper cash register and Ton unearths a mint condition 1970’s German H&K P7 pistol.

It is suspenseful to watch as treasure seekers open a storage unit and sort through all the antiques, books, jewelry, and more. Sometimes as audiences watch an auctioned-off storage unit being opened, they can get a bit over-excited.

“Everybody thinks it’s going to be their big break, and they overreact and over dramatize things,” Mr. Jones said in a recent New York Times article. “It makes me want to cut out my eye with a hot soldering iron.”

The two attended an auction in Queens, paying about $200 for five storage units. Apparently it is storage industry norm for the auctioneer to flash a glimpse of the pile of loot in the storage units before the auction has ended. The two did acquire a cookie jar shaped like a kitten on a beehive, tapered spice bottles, and a 1938 autograph album from Harlem middle school which the stars of the show decided to return to the school.

It is always exciting when antiques show up in storage units, as their value is estimated while the enraptured audience looks on. Cable shows about vintage objects are popping up like dandelions. One such show is Antique Warriors, which takes the viewer inside stores under construction in SoHo and Sturbridge, Mass.

What started the antique trend on TV was, of course, PBS’s “Antiques Roadshow,” which has been aired since 1997. The show’s executive producer, Marsha Bemko, said she looked forward to the new shows and hoped they would remind people to investigate their possessions before giving them up by selling them for a few bucks at a tag sale or leaving them for waste in an abandoned storage unit. “What is nice to see is this great appreciation and enthusiasm for old things,” Bemko said recently in The New York Times. “If we’ve helped spread that passion, great.”

Sources used:

MacIntyre, April. “What’s in Your Storage Unit? Spike  TV’s ‘Auction Hunters’ Premiere on Nov. 9.” M&C TV. Oct. 22, 2010.

Kahn, Eve M. “’Auction Hunters’ and other Buy-and-Sell TV.” The New York Times. Oct. 21, 2010.