How Does Auction Hunters Measure Up?

Auction HuntersIf we’ve said it once we’ve said it a million times: storage auction shows are addictive, to a lot of different demographics.  Sure, we’ve speculated as to why—the surge of reality TV meets the downfall of the traditional game show, meets the desire to restore the American Dream, where the streets are paved with gold and everyone is making their own way.

And Boom!  Now people want to watch something simple yet complex, something that fuels the imagination while simultaneously informing them about collectables.

Our business here has always been to cover the storage auction scene, in all of its facets.  So, I figured I’d give Auction Hunters a spin and see how it measures up its popular, athletic older brother, Storage Wars. After watching Episode 314, “Dead Aim,” I must say I’m much more pleased by the simplicity and honesty of the spin off than the original.

Excellent Advice and Some Fallacies in Three Lockers

With Auction Hunters, you have two good all-around storage hunters, Ton Jones and Allen Haff, with jovial attitudes, who aren’t malicious towards anonymous bidders, and seem like guys who follow good risk assessment practices in their own bidding—for the most part.  Of course, the hastiness of their resale, always quick and easy for TV purposes, should be taken with a grain of salt.


Unit One: Good Restraint

rubber maid

Ironically, on the first unit up for grabs in Riverside, California, Ton and Allen display the most realistic strategy all the way through, despite not ultimately bidding on the unit.  In a small 5x5 containing a combination of office equipment (not usually worth writing home about, unless it’s a printer/fax) and Rubbermaid containers, the duo only show enthusiasm for the plastic containers, the things unseen.  Plastic containers usually guarantee that they hold items of more value than the rest of the free floating contents, but as there are only two to three in the small locker, the bidding strategy is set to ultra conservative mode.

At $140 only, Allen bows out without even placing a bid.  A general guideline to follow is this: if a unit is equal parts visible and invisible contents, and the visible contents are worth less than 50 percent of the current bid, then it is wise to bow out of a bidding war.  The same principle applies to any ratio.  If the unseen contents make up 70 percent of the unit, then as long as the appraised value of the seen contents is 30 percent or more of the current bid, it is wise to keep bidding until that threshold is reached.


Unit Two: A Solid Investment

Although there are other various knick knacks in unit two which the duo find interesting, the visible presence of a washer and dryer combo to the average storage hunter means money.  Even in Riverside, California, washer/dryers do not come readily available at many auctions.  What’s great is that they are always in demand and can fetch a seller anywhere from $300-$1200, depending on age, condition, and brand.  More importantly, even if they are not running completely up to snuff when you win them, it is often very much worth your while to have the repair cost quoted at a Sears . Or, any local Appliance Repair shop for that matter.  They tend to work with you more on price plans.

This fix-it-up-first rule applies to a lot types of good value finds in units: electronics, computers, TV’s, farm equipment (lawn mowers, weed-wackers) and refrigerators, to name a few.  A lot of times, the reason they are stored to begin with is that the owner did not have the patience to fix something minor nor the patience to junk it themselves.


Unit Three: Overbidding and Saved by a Wild Card Find

auction hunters find motorbike

Focusing on the poor bidding strategy that Ton works on the third unit, let’s follow a simple bidding formula that works well in the auction world only when there is stiff bidding competition on a very promising unit.

Initial Appraisal + 20% of initial appraisal = final bid.


Ton and Allan decide that $800 is their terminal bid on the locker with the “mystery box.”  Add 20 percent to that and you get $960, final, never going over, ever.  Ton gets caught up in a bidding war and splurges $1,165 on it, far exceeding that.

The “I’ve got a feeling” approach cannot be the mentality you take to every large unit.  Once in a while, it is worth gambling and seeing what lies behind the rubble, but it should always be an exception to the rule.

But alas, the boys, with the wealth of the Riverside, California demographic at their back, get lucky and score a mint condition “monocycle,” in perfect condition, tucked inside of a sealed wooden box.

Being paid off for their gamble, the monocycle starts like a dream, and within hours (or is it days, one can never tell with TV editing), they find a rare motorcycle enthusiast to buy it.  Getting back in their truck, richer and happier, the duo peel off to the next auction, getting the best of the bidding crowd and coming out on top.

Be Careful What You Think You See

The takeaway lesson of the episode is this.  Ton and Allen sold the monocycle for $6,000 straight out of the mysterious box, If you just assume for a second that the machine had never been there, or more likely, that it was too weather beaten to be in working condition straight away, then the $6,780 profit that they enjoy would in actuality be, well, $780.  Not to mention, the rare, motorized big wheel came from the unit the duo went well over 20 percent more than their initial unit appraisal on.  Take it out of the picture and they lost big time on the unit, and only turned a small profit on the day.

The message is, even if you are attending auctions with big stacks in your pockets, there’s no way to make them disappear rapidly than to get caught up in a bidding war with an old auction nemesis.  The joke will be on you at the end of the day if you do.

The Takeaway for the Serious Auction Goer

Excluding the feel-good, lucky day-at-the-races feel of this episode of Auction Hunters, there is still plenty to be learned for you from Allan and Ton:

Look for Rubbermaid containers always.  Be willing to travel to more upscale towns or even out of state if you are having crumby luck at the local storage facilities.  Be willing to pass on fifty-fifty units when there are more coming up in the auction.  Be a little late entering into the bidding war, because it throws the competition for a loop.  And by all means, find a specialist to buy rare, modern items in working condition (i.e. the monocycle).

Our job at is to sometimes let you in on the practical elements that these shows may or may not exhibit, to light the path to proper procedure as you continue on your auction hunting path.


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