Storage Wars / Auction Hunters

So after the success of Pawn Stars and American Pickers on History Channel, the trend among cable channels seems to be cashing in (zing!) on shows about found items of value. I’d say it’s working, as personally I enjoy watching these little half-hour snippets of treasure hunting. They appeal to the Ebay addict in me, and make me long for the ability to devote time and money to running my own business buying and selling other people’s crap.

Spike TV has Allen Haff and Ton Jones finding high dollar items at storage locker auctions in Auction Hunters. Ton Jones appears to be simply a part-time actor and animal rescue activist who knows a lot about guns, while Allen Haff actually does have some credibility as an antique dealer for over 20 years who owns a business buying and selling antiques and collectibles. Even with that pedigree though, it’s pretty obvious that Auction Hunters is less than honest. There is a brief disclaimer at the start of every show that says they are “recreations” of the pairs greatest finds. I’m skeptical, as I seriously doubt they find as much stuff in one unit as they usually seem to, and I doubt it’s worth as much as they say. I also have my doubts that the two work as a pair that often, I suspect most of what they’re recreating is Allen Haff’s finds over 20-years as a dealer, and just sticking them into storage lockers for effect. Still, it’s fun in the same way as Pawn Stars, lots of varied items and a little history lesson to go with most of them.

Over on A&E, Storage Wars is a whole different animal. The guys on this show don’t work together, they are at odds (usually). With the exception of Barry (the eccentric collector) they have all also been in bunsiness as storage unit auction buyer for many years. They own and operate thrift stores and consignment stores (one of them very large and profitable), and they seem far more “real” then the Auction Hunters guys. They also aren’t afraid to show losers on this show, with every episode usually highlighting a unit that didn’t work out so well for one of the players. Personally I find this show to be more true to the general nature of such a business (it’s always a gamble), though they still glorify it over much. None of these shows will ever show someone buying a string of losing units or hauling hundreds of pounds of someone else’s useless old crap to the dump. They also gloss over the rats, bugs, rotten food and other nasty surprises that await storage unit buyers.

Despite this, I find both shows fairly entertaining if taken with a grain of salt. Sometimes I have to choke down a derisive laugh, such as when the Auction Hunters gleefully proclaimed an old, unboxed Atari 2600 (with no games) to be worth a cool $250. Uh, you guys been on Ebay lately? :-)

Anybody else watching these or similar shows? Anyone share my vicarious treasure hunting jones while watching these, Pawn Stars and American Pickers?

Antiques Roadshow: there can be only one.

I find Storage Wars to be strangely addictive.

The show itself is terrible, in the way that all “reality” television is terrible: the producers try to turn everybody into a personality (that one guy who keeps talking about the “wow factor” every third sentence is the worst offender) and try to manufacture drama about who’s going to buy the storage locker, as if I or anybody watching actually gives a shit. And way too often the show will gloss over fairly important details, like how just because some appraiser says something is worth X amount of dollars, you still have to find somebody who’s willing to, you know, buy it.

But the core of the show - the insane desire to know what potentially crazy people have spirited away in a storage locker - is frighteningly compelling to me.

Love storage wars. Fantastic show.

Totally agree about the compelling nature of the aspect of “finding” stuff in these shows. Auction Hunters plays this up far more than Storage Wars, but both shows have it.

What bothers me I guess about both shows is how they make it look like every unit is a treasure trove and that making money in the business is as easy as showing up at an auction and throwing down $500-$1000 on a unit full of junk. Nowhere in the fun of uncovering $15000 units they paid $500 for do they cover the hauling away of copious amounts of complete trash (some of it filthy and disgusting), nor do they touch on the fact that 9 out of 10 units are probably busts or break-evens at best. The other thing they gloss over is the actual selling of what is found. All these guys (and the Pawn Stars clan) all seem to have assloads of contacts who will appraise stuff for free and offer to buy stuff for top dollar. Good luck building a network like that on your own. Unless you own a thrift or consignment store it’s going to be a huge pain in the ass to unload most of the saleable items you’ll find.

It’s interesting to search around the web a bit on this subject, as it’s littered (pun intended) with stories of people who thought they’d break into the business and ended up eating lockers full of unsaleable items or paying to rent space to store everything while they try to Ebay it all or find buyers at flea markets and such.

We watched a show a couple of months back about a family who ran an actual auction house in PA somewhere. The dad was missing a leg so stayed in the shop while the two guys went out on calls to estate sales and relatives getting rid of loved ones’ crap.

They followed it over a week per episode, with the end segment being an actual auction. One auction isn’t going well because it was pouring rain and had few buyers while the old man was the auctioneer, but then one of the sons took over and that changed the dynamic and they at least made their minimum for the week.

I have no idea what this was called, but then a week or so later we thought we’d found it again, but it was an entirely different auction house with a different crew (and more “character-ey” but in a bad way). Then we never saw it again. I suspect one of these cable networks was burning off pilots that they’d turned down, but I liked the guys in the PA auction house, and seeing what something actually sells for “at auction” is a hell of a lot better than Antiques Roadshow and all these others, where some guy just throws a number out there and people pee themselves.


What you’re looking for is a show called “Auction Packed”. It’s airs on the National Geographic Channel and has another episode airing this Friday night at 6PM EST.

There are a lot of shows in this vein. I admit they’re guilty pleasures. Even as I mentally rip on them and how fake most of them are, I often enjoy them.

Some of them (including some already mentioned):

Antiques Roadshow: Appraisals only. Odd old items, heavy on art type stuff. Seems real, though it would probably be difficult to actually sell many of these things at the quoted prices/ranges.

American Pickers: Two guys hunt for antique-y treasure in old farmers’ barns (basically). Seems fairly real, if a bit unglamorous.

Pawn Stars: People who are likely largely found by the shows producers bring odd historical things in to a pawn shop. Deeply fake, IMO, but enjoyable.

Hardcore Pawn: Large Detroit area pawnshop interacts with heavily black, poor clientele. Seems to focus more on actual items that would likely be bought, sold, pawned. More about the people than the items.

Auction Hunters: Self-storage auctions. As the OP indicated, seems quite fake/acted.

Storage Wars: Also self-storage auctions. Unlike the OP, I view this one as also heavily fake.

(Note that when I think a show is fake, it’s not so much that the participants haven’t been in the business being shown, but rather, the scenes as captured and shown on TV seem very unreal - likely heavily structured by the TV producers.)

Brian the Fortune Seller (that’s roughly the name): Guy who does tag sales - i.e. Selling off the contents of someone’s house, for various reasons. Seems fairly fake. The sales themselves are probably somewhat real, but they seem dressed up with numerous fake dramas of various sorts.

Some auction show in Atlanta region (can’t remember the name): An auction house where people bring things, then they conduct periodic auctions. Seemed fairly real to me, if a bit dry.

Different auction show in Missouri: Much like the Atlanta show. Only a pilot has aired, I think.


Some of the above I’ve read about a bit online, which in some cases has colored my view as to how real/fake various shows are. But really, if you watch these shows, and are reasonably familiar with reality shows in general, the fake-itude of many of them comes through pretty strongly. It doesn’t help that Pawn Stars makes their Subway plugs so blatant you half-expect Jarrod to walk into the pawn shop any minute to try to pawn a Subway foot-long BMT.

Still, I like at least some of these shows, some of the time. And Pawn Stars, as much as it makes me cringe sometimes, is particularly enjoyable.

If you like this kind of thing, there’s also a whole bunch of shows on HGTV about buying and selling real estate that tap into the same vibe, loosely. The HGTV stuff seems generally to be rather more realistic.

I wish there was a good show about a small-time car buyer/seller. That said, those of you who like this kind of thing might enjoy the articles of Steven Lang over on The Truth About Cars.

He mainly writes about his experiences as a small time car buyer/seller/renter. Pretty interesting…

I enjoy Storage Wars. I understand complaints that it seems somewhat artificial. I don’t think it feels staged, so much as produced. They usually only show 1 unit for each buyer, which in some cases is clearly not everything they would have bought that day. So, I think it’s more editing via omission than any kind of staged event.

But the core of Storage wars is solid. It’s textbook cheap drama when the locker door rolls up, and they know how to play that. I also don’t mind the omission of the sales aspect, mostly because they all run thrift stores. They’re purchasing inventory, not making sales. It’s clear (or should be) that they’re in a unique position relative to the average Joe.

The only other one I’ve watched is Pawn Stars, which I find upsetting and unethical, but that’s just the nature of the pawn business.

I love the characters on storage wars more than the thrill of the treasure hunt itself.

Yeah, that’s it! The fact that it’s normally on at 6pm is the reason I’ve never seen it again. We only watch this sort of thing when whatever we were watching for the evening (either a movie or DVR’d shows) gets over with and we’re not ready to go to bed but we’re not willing to commit to another movie.

I would watch that again.

I’ve actually driven past Rags & Riches, the Hester’s consignment store, countless times and didn’t know about it or them until the show.

All the auctions seem to be in Southern California, and I keep wanting to go to one, if only to be in the background of the filming, but the wife won’t let me, as I do want to bid on a unit, just for the hell of it.

If you go, be sure to dress up like a real scumbag. They’ll accept you as one of their own.

Storage Wars is the only show of this type I enjoy. For me it’s because of the cast, I like the ‘wow factor’ guy. In fact I even like Dave.

One thing I don’t understand about people against Dave, sure he bids up prices but he still has to pay like everyone else. So if a locker is “a $100 locker” and he bids it up to $800 let him buy it. He’ll be the one down $700. That’s a good thing isn’t it? So what they’re really saying is “I want to buy that locker for $100 and Dave won’t let me, WAHHH!”- crybabies.

They show A LOT of crap in those units and they show the buyers using large trucks to haul loads of crap away. There is definitely no ‘easy’ money here in my opinion. It’s obvious that to even consider doing this on a regular basis(for profit) you need three things. One, a place to sell the crap. Two, a large vehicle to haul the crap. Three, minions to help you haul and sort the crap. Having capital to spend buying the crap goes without saying.

Even the most successful of them, Dave, looks like he’s on a treadmill. Yeah he makes the most but it looks like he has way more overhead to cover too. And he has to bid a hell of a lot more on average. They mentioned more than once it’s taken him 25 years to get to this point too.