At about a quarter to noon Friday, the curious and the hopeful gathered at Durose Storage in Craig.
Some milled around the door that marked unit AA29 while others took shade nearby from the warm September sun.
What lay beyond AA29’s door … well, that was anyone’s guess.
“There might be valuables in there,” said Mike Harding, a Steamboat Springs resident.
His voice dropped to a whisper as he said the words.
But, his next sentence belied a pragmatism learned through disappointment, a common hazard in this business.
“There could also be somebody else’s junk in there that they didn’t want to haul off,” he said, laughing. “But, you don’t know unless you look.”
Harding is a modern treasure hunter — one of the people who attend live auctions on repossessed storage units in the hopes of making big profits.
The rules at Friday’s auction were simple: You can’t go inside the unit before the sale, and the winning bidder takes all.
Harding has been going to storage auctions for about a year, but he hasn’t put down money at any of them. In his opinion, the items he’s seen in those units contained “nothing worth hauling off,” he said.
A little farther away stood Betty Gorbet, of Craig. She’d never to been to one of the auctions before, unless watching the popular A&E series “Storage Wars” counts, that is.
She, like numerous others who attended the auction, had an idea of what she wanted to find in the abandoned rental unit.
“Antiques, coins — anything of value,” she said. “I mean, that’s what we’re all here for.”
Although bidders are prohibited from poking around in the unit, there are clues to what lies inside, unseen.
If the boxes are neatly stacked, that’s a good sign, Gorbet said. It suggests the owner cared enough about the contents to arrange them, meaning there could be something valuable inside.
“But, if it’s all just thrown in there and sloppy — that’s 50-50 there,” she added.
Noon came, and the door opened. The crowd pressed in, taking turns to get a glimpse inside.
Judging by the standards Gorbet described, there wasn’t much hope for a big payout.
Boxes lay helter-skelter. Clothes and old newspapers littered the floor, which was covered in a thick layer of dust.
The bidding started. Auctioneer Chad Green elicited bids from the crowd, pausing once to say, “There’s a treasure in the back, I’m sure.”
The price escalated—$150, $175, $200 …
Then, the unit was sold for $240 to Greg Webb and his business partner, Dennis Shamshuryn, both of Avon.
The pair has been buying repossessed storage units in Colorado for a little more than six months, Webb said. So far, they’ve been lucky.
“We’ve found some good units so we’ve made our money back … and then some,” Webb said.
In one unit, they found a cache of collectable Broncos items, he said. Another was filled with tile, tile saws and construction equipment.
“You know anybody that wants to buy some tile, let me know,” Webb said.
He estimated they’ve grossed more than $30,000 overall.
After the crowd ambled away, Webb and Shamshuryn stayed behind to pick through what they’d bought. There were no collectables, no expensive tools, and no forgotten jewels or coins.
“Sometimes we’ll buy one and go straight to the dump with it,” Webb said, digging through a box that contained, among other things, a letter, a few rocks and some kosher salt.
And, it looked like that’s where most of the unit’s contents were headed, too, he added.
But, there are always other auctions, other chances to find something of value hidden in the detritus of other lives.
“It’s exciting,” Webb said. “You never know what you’re going to get. You hope for a treasure in the back.”
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