Saturday, January 29, 2011

One Man's Trash Is Another's Treasure

In my recent post on tv ratings it was interesting to see how many cable tv shows are pulling in viewers in the "trash to treasures" genre.  Pawn Stars, American Pickers, Storage Wars, Auction Kings and Pawn Queens are some of the examples.  Of course, the granddaddy of these shows is the Antiques Roadshow which began airing on PBS in 1997. That show was actually patterned after a BBC show in the United Kingdom that has been airing since 1979.

Although I have never seen any of these shows other than Antiques Roadshow, I understand the appeal.  There is nothing better than a "rags to riches" story.  There is also nothing better than thinking you got a great deal, even if it is done vicariously.  This article in USA Today provides a glimpse behind the popularity of these shows with a detailed look at Storage Wars.

The basic premise behind Storage Wars is a husband and wife auction team auctioning the contents of storage units to bidders who may only peek in the door of the storage locker.  The storage units have been put up for auction after a period (generally 2 to 3 months) of non payment.  No touching, no digging.  That is only done by the winner of the bid.  That is also when the treasure hunt begins.  Is it trash or treasure?

Interesting factoids in the article and in a little additional research I dug up on the topic...

  • There are 2.16 billion square feet of storage space in this country.
    • If you do not believe that we are blessed in this country consider that stat again.  That is the equivalent of 3 Manhattan Islands under roof. This is storage for "things" that people can't find room for in their apartment, house, garage or basement.  A lot of people in the world do not live in a shelter as nice as the average storage locker in the United States.
  • There are 46,000 storage space businesses in the United States.
    • Texas has the most-4,500.
    • How many self storage units did you ever see before the 1970's.  The answer is probably zero because the first self storage units were not built until the late 1960's.
  • In 1973 the average house size in the United States was 1,660 sf. Today it is almost 2,500sf.  
    • Therefore, despite the fact that house sizes increased by 50% we also had to build 46,000 storage units around the country to hold all of our stuff over the last 40 years.
  • "Baseball cards and porn, that's what most lockers have" according to one of the regular bidders in these auctions.
    • Is that a surprise?
  • Less than 1% of storage units typically will need to be auctioned for lack of payment.  
    • The people that rent the units have no doubt it is treasure.
  • According to one survey, one in 11 American households rents self-storage space. 
    • The average lease period is 15 months.
Does this motivate anyone to clean out a few things in the closet?

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