9 Strategies for Private Unit Investigation (Part 2 of 2)

Sherlock HolmesWelcome back, storage warriors.  Yesterday’s blog was the first five items on a list about honing your methods during your precious preliminary moments of viewing a unit up for auction.  In the spirit of the NCAA Tournament, let’s “march” on to the Final Four.

4. Does the Rubbermaid Meet the Road?

If the owner’s carriage is visible, of what class is it?  Rubbermaid containers are built for durability and protection against the elements.  Boxes from the liquor store usually suggest haste and lack of care.  Even if these Rubbermaid containers were “cherry picked” before the owner decided to leave the rest for dead, there is very low probability that they upturned each and every one of them to view the remaining contents on the bottom: out of sight, out of mind.

3. A Little Profiling

When it’s your turn to scan the unit, one of the first things you might check and jot down on a notepad is any visible information about the owner scrolled on boxes.

What is the most affluent neighborhood in your town or city, and does this owner live there?  What is the second most well-to-do, the third?

If the owner was affluent, even if they cleared the unit of the most valuable items before hitting the road, there could be number of pieces of furniture, portraits, or trinkets that they never bothered to learn the value of.  Your chances of hitting it big increase with this demographic knowledge, which is why this tip nears the tip-top of our list.

2. A Patent Chart

Almost to number one…but first, the patent chart. Some items maybe have large and visible patent numbers.  Machine made items like guns and typewriters may be better for this.  Most likely, you are going to have to learn what an antique table or spinning wheel actually looks like before relying on scanning frantically for a patent number without touching the item, as are the preliminary rules for an auction.

Looking for the patent number may be more like an “icing on the cake” maneuver once you have won a unit that looks good, but a good flashlight and magnifying glass could gain you this key number even at first glance.

Check and print off the chart by click “A Patent Chart” above.  The patent number will correspond with the year the antique was made. It could range in appearance from this to this:

110 – 545 (1837)
OR THIS
1,013,095-1,049,325 (year 1912)

1. The Smart Phone

It’s just like the old riddle: “there’s a stove, a fire place, and candle, and a gas burner in a dark room.  Which do you light first?”

Answer: A match.

The smart phone can ignite your on-the-fly inquiries about items you take an immediate interest in and want to know more about now.  What if millionaire contestants got a Phone-a-Friend on every question?  Wouldn’t they probably go all the way most of the time?  That’s why a smart phone can put you on a higher plateau than the competition.

Create “Favorite” pages of sites with pertinent information, such as the patent chart, MapQuest, or websites that feature most often found collectibles in storage auctions.  Use  it as a “phone a friend,” if the auctioneer will allow.  Get experts on your contact list and get them to do the appraisal price research for you, on the fly.  Find out what the previous owner did for a living with LinkedIn, Facebook, or a general Google Search.  Were they a decorator, a collector, or an investment banker?

Of course, becoming erudite in antiques and collectibles would be the best option here.  However, nobody is going to know everything under the sun, so perhaps you can use your Android or IPhone as an on the job training resource instead of a modern day crutch.  Also, remember your etiquette and of course ask the auctioneer if they will allow you such a resource.

I suppose it’s nice to be surprised.  After blindly purchasing a unit, worn your back out from scouring through a mountain of junk, and chewed through your lower lip to keep from crying at your own misfortune, the gods throw you a bone.  You happen to stumble on something lucrative, a diamond in the rough tucked in the corner, a prohibition era sign or a Lexington side table from nineteen sixty eight.

Or, maybe that’s not a game plan that’s going to keep you adrift in the storage unit world very long.  So, let’s snap on some gloves, grab the flashlight, and stop being the victim to chance.