Ramblings: Storage Unit Stories

You may have seen the story about the lawsuit in New York involving a storage unit which supposedly held $11 million in sports memorabilia and was purchased by a man, sight unseen, for $400,000.  He’s now suing because he says after putting down a $100,000 down payment and gaining access, he realized the unit’s contents weren’t worth much of anything.

Rich Ramblings 2014I’m sure many of you have seen Storage Wars or heard about items left in storage units that were bought by collectors or dealers.  Sometimes the deals are great; other times it’s sort of a gamble if you don’t know exactly what you’re getting into.

storage unitPersonally, I have had only one experience (and that was as a third-party negotiator) with a storage unit full of cards. I was about to begin work at a new position back in 2010 but still had about three weeks before the training began so the call came in about going to South Dallas to look at a storage unit.  The seller had put an ad on Craigslist and stated the cards dated back to the 1950’s.  He had posted photos of what he said were some of the better cards.

The first thing we did was look at the unit as best we could (there were a lot of boxes).  The story was that the seller’s father had owned a car dealership and during the boom years of the hobby, he like many other people, would go and purchase cards from collectors. The only difference was he always had a good stream of potential sellers since he owned a dealership and thus was almost always guaranteed walk-in traffic and conversation.  Needless to say, if you were buying cards during that period, you very quickly accumulated a lot of stuff just because the interest level was so high and everyone could turn over their cards with rapidity.  Supposedly, the seller’s father never sold a card.  He just kept putting them away.

1955 Topps Jackie RobinsonWe looked around the storage unit and then drove back to the seller’s apartment/town house where he had the few cards he had pulled out for the photos as well as a few other cards he thought were better. The one card I remember was a lower grade 1955 Topps Jackie Robinson card as well as some signed cards from the 1996 Leaf Signature Series set.  There were some Topps Tiffany stars and some lesser grade 1970s stars as well.  Now I’m sure there were a few other cards of greater value somewhere in the stash but we had to work with what we knew.

We then went back and forth with the negotiation and the numbers came between about $1200 which the buyer wanted to pay and the $1800 the seller was willing to settle for.  I put an estimate of $700 on what we knew existed and because the boxes I looked at seemed to be unsearched, I thought there was going to be some additional value.

As discovered during the negotiation, the seller did not like face to face contact with buyers and primarily sold CD’s through Amazon.  Of course, today, I could point out even more there are plenty of online avenues where you could sell cards without having to actually deal with people in person—even beyond eBay.  However, some of those weren’t available four years ago.  So the seller held firm and the buyer wasn’t convinced he could go much higher so this deal was missed over a few hundred dollars.  In retrospect, I still think the buyer missed a good deal but one that would have taken a little time to work through.

Do any of you have good stories about finding about collections in storage unites, garage sales, estate sales, third parties or the like?   We’d love to hear about them so please send them to the address at the bottom of this story and be sure to tell me where you’re from.