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5 Best Finds In Abandoned Self-Storage Units

You’ve probably seen, or at least heard of Storage Wars, a show where people buy storage units at auctions in the hopes of finding treasures. That’s because sometimes treasures are what you can actually find. Last month, we talked about illegal items people had found in abandoned storage units. This month, let’s take a look at some of the finds that are much more satisfying or amusing.

1. Just A Ton of Cash

the briefcase from pulp fiction
“Well, look at that.”

In San Jose, some lucky John Doe paid $1100 for a storage shed. He didn’t know how lucky he was at the time. On first opening the unit, it seemed to just have a bunch of useless, every day junk in it. Not one to be dissuaded, he decided to search through it anyway. That’s when he found an innocuous blue Rubbermaid container. Inside was a literal treasure: a fortune in rare coins, and gold and silver ingots. The total value of the find was worth more than half a million dollars. Now that’s a lucky find!

2. Aretha Franklin’s Wardrobe

When self-storage units are sold on auction, clothes are a common find. A lot of people store clothes in them. So, when one buyer found a whole bunch of clothes in his unit, he didn’t think much of it at first. Then he found out that the clothes belonged to Music Legend, Aretha Franklin. It turns out, there’d been a fire at her home and she put some of her stuff into storage while her home was being repaired. She then completely forgot about it and, after someone managing her finances decided the storage unit wasn’t worth paying for, it went on auction. No word on how valuable it actually was, but the story amuses me, so I’m sharing it.

3. Michael Jackson’s Missing Hits

Michael Jackson was a super prolific song-writer. He not only wrote his own songs, he diligently recorded them and kept copies archived by date written. According to one story, he managed to prove he hadn’t violated a copyright claim because his archive showed he’d developed the song months before the person claiming he’d stolen the song released their record. How much of his archive was never released? We’ll probably never know for sure, but we definitely do know that we haven’t heard all of it.

One lucky fellow bought a storage unit on auction and found over 250 recordings. It turns out, the unit had belonged to MJ’s father before he went past due on payments. The recordings were worth millions and, because he’d recorded them at a time when he was between record companies, no one in the music industry owned any rights to them.

4. Nicholas Cage’s Superman Comic

Action comics #1, a copy of which belong to Nicholas Cage and was found in a self-storage unitNicholas Cage has a reputation for being a bit odd. Whether it’s drinking a whole cup of jelly beans, or referring to milking a llama as “handling the boobs,” he’s practically a human internet meme (also, possibly a vampire).  Some of his possessions are quite valuable though. He owned a copy of Action Comics #1.  This volume is famous for being the debut of Superman and single-handedly kicking off the speculator bubble of the 90s that nearly destroyed the entire industry. This issue at the time was worth almost $1 million and is certainly worth more now. As you can probably imagine, he was pretty pissed when it was stolen.

Well, in 2011, a man found it in an abandoned storage unit he bought at auction. He was so thrilled and immediately tried to put it up for sale. The exact details haven’t been released, but it was found to be Nick’s missing copy and he was thrilled to have it returned to him.

5. James Bond’s Submarine Car

It’s amazing what movie studios misplace. In 1989, a Long Island man paid $100 for a self-storage unit. Inside under some blankets was the submarine car from The Spy Who Loved Me, possibly the best Roger Moore era Bond movie (also possibly the only good; I have opinions). The interesting part was the man who got it hadn’t ever seen a Bond movie and didn’t know what it was. It was the truckers he hired to take the car out who recognized it and asked him if it was the real movie prop.

After a bit of research, the lucky buyer found out it was the actual original prop and immediately put it up for auction. The notorious Thomas Edison wannabe, Elon Musk, won that auction, paying almost $1 million for it. When asked why, he claimed that he wanted to try and make a working copy. Since that was all the way back in 2013 and submarine cars haven’t yet hit the market, I’m going to assume he never figured it out.  At least somebody profited from the discovery.

The Common Thread

The common thread of stories like this is always the same: someone put something in storage, then forgot about it. After they stopped paying the rent, the unit goes on auction and some lucky fellow discovers he’s now the owner of something worth thousands or even millions of dollars. While amazing finds like these aren’t the most common finds, it’s still profitable enough that people are willing to risk buying storage units they’ve never seen on auction.

Obviously, the people who put those valuables in storage aren’t getting the best use out of their rented storage space.

a crowded storage shed packed up for long term storage

How Can I Avoid This Costly Mistake?

You don’t want to be the person who forgets they’ve put something valuable in storage and then finds it sold on auction for a tiny fraction of it value. The average person isn’t likely to own something as valuable as any of the items on this list, but value is found in more than just money. We own a lot of stuff in the US. As much as we may value our possessions, sometimes we don’t have space for it in our homes. If we can’t bear to part with them, we sometimes put them in storage. Once they’re out of sight, however, it’s very easy to forget about them.

Vernon Storage, a self-storage facility in Summit County, recommends seasonal storage. This is a practice where you only put things you aren’t using for the season into a storage unit and switch out the contents when the seasons change. The advantage of this is that it forces you to go through your storage unit at least twice every year. That way, you’re always checking in and always know what you’ve got in storage. You can improve your chances by keeping a list of the items you have in storage so you don’t have to actually go there to know.

Don’t Put Valuables in Storage

The other good piece of advice is this: never put anything valuable in rented storage. If it means something to you, or is just worth a lot of money, you should keep it in your home, where you can’t accidentally forget about it long enough for someone to put it up for auction. If you really can’t bear to part with it, then don’t.