Trash or Treasure: Tips from Charlotte's storage scavengers

Trash or Treasure: Tips from Charlotte's storage scavengers


by DION LIM / NBC Charlotte

Posted on February 19, 2013 at 12:38 AM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 19 at 11:27 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Despite a chilly, 30 degree morning, the folks gathered at a nondescript storage facility in west Charlotte just can't stay away.

The facility is playing host to the Queen City's very own storage scavenger hunt where what's inside the metal sheds could be treasures. Or at least, that's the hope.

The storage business is a $22 billion per year industry.  What former unit renters leave behind could be your next score.

"We've found motorcycles, cars, gold rings, and all sorts of things. We found a 55 Chevvy from a unit out there," said Butch Evans.

Evans runs the show and has been since 1973. Nowadays, he runs auctions several times a week all over North Carolina.  The rules of his game are: cash only, no touching or going inside the unit. He says for those intrigued to try bidding, do one thing.

"You gotta come out and do it.  Come out and get your feet wet and jump in," Evans said.

It's hard to believe, but the dozens upon dozens of folks who crowd the unit space are from all walks of life.  Some whisper of secret millionaires among the crowd.  Most though, are here for one reason.

"Lots have stores.  Lots work from home and they have yard sales.  They buy and sell and try and make a profit. There's been a lot of hard times in Charlotte, and all around the country, so that's created (the need for) a lot of sales."

The quiet and suspense-filled tension in the air is broken as the first locker is revealed. 

Inside?  Scattered boxes and what appears to be an overturned sofa. 

Armed with the tools of the trade, like flashlights and binoculars (after all, you can't go inside to check out the goods), bidders peer inside and shake their heads and it's on to the second locker. This one is much more impressive.

After some more peering and visual prodding, the starting bid begins and $500. 

Before we know it, the bidding is over.

“Ten-and-a-half, 1,025 dollars, thank you sir. Good deal! Good deal,” cried Evans.

Inside is what looks to be an antique manicure desk.  The real wood is a tip to experienced buyers that this locker has some valuables.

Locker three is a doozy.  Clothes and boxes are strewn everywhere.  A bad sign according to the regulars.

"That one looks like a bomb went off in it.  When you see this, it means it's been picked through," whispered one bidder.

Despite this, to each his or her own, and the winner finds his own treasure.

"Pretty good tires in there.  Good condition," he said.

BMW tires, to be exact.

So in the end, a bit of disappointment with defeat.

"Yeah, we lost.  My max is $425 and it sold for $450."

Also, an unexpected surprise--a bag filled with items so scandalous it solicits a few yelps from bystanders!.

But as with all storage unit scavengers, there is always the next one.

Visit these web pages for more information on auctions in your area.