Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs If you’ve ever watched even half an episode of "Storage Wars" on the A&E network, you know what a glamorous life professional storage unit prospectors lead.
One never knows when a piece of antique Chinese jade will emerge from a moldy gym bag, or when a treasure trove of 1960s Fender guitars worth $20,000 will show up stashed behind a ping pong table at the back of a storage locker.
Thirsting for adventure this week, I cruised over to a couple of auctions being conducted by Central Park Management near Downhill Drive in Steamboat Springs. I learned that while there isn’t an antique in every locker, there definitely can be some pleasant surprises.
The Steamboat auctions went just the way they do on TV but without the ornery banter among bidders. Auctioneer John Fisher explained the rules, and when the little garage door on the storage unit was raised, everyone was allowed a close look, but no one was allowed to enter the unit nor could they reach in and touch anything.
Fisher, who typically works benefit gigs, was having a difficult time Thursday drumming up much interest in a small locker that was dominated by a box spring and mattress. But Fisher kept his sense of humor.
“I can see the excitement you’re feeling on this one,” Fisher told a gaggle of about 25 people that included no more than about five contenders.
“Let’s start it off at $25. Alright $10, who will give me $10? I’ve got $10 now who will give me $15? That backpack might have gold bars in it!”
Ultimately, an anonymous man in dark shades grabbed the locker for $25. When the crowd had cleared out, he wasted no time unzipping a decent Lowe Pro daypack that sat on the floor of the locker. He pulled out a camouflage hunting shirt and a pair of camo pants. And after that, out popped a spendy Arc’Teryx jacket in good condition.
New, the jacket easily would have retailed for $300 to $400. Score!
And there also were a couple of perfectly good fishing rods in the locker.
Central Park’s Casey Anderson told me Thursday that instead of the planned three auctions, only two would be held because one of the tenants had paid the past-due rent.
“That’s the best thing that can happen,” Anderson said.
Of course, the auction of a storage unit is most often a marker of financial difficulties on the part of the tenant and not something to celebrate. A Colorado law revised in 2011 allows the owners of storage unit facilities to notify the renter in writing of their intent to place a lien on the contents of the locker and auction it. Next, they must advertise the auction in a periodical at least twice in the two weeks before going forward with an auction where at least three legitimate bidders are in attendance.
Anderson said this week that her company usually waits 60 to 90 days before conducting an auction and makes repeated efforts to contact the renter and bring him or her current with the rent.
Fisher implores bidders at each auction to carefully sort through the contents of any unit they acquire and should they encounter personal items — an album of wedding photos or a birth certificate — deliver them to the management company. I like that touch.
There was another auction Thursday for a larger locker that contained a white leather couch, some decent steel lawn furniture and a set of tall bookshelves that appeared to be laminated with teak.
Fisher opened the bidding, and one man boldly raised his hand and offered $5.
“Oh, the senator from Missouri has bid $5!” the auctioneer quipped. “How about $50? Can I get $50?”
Three people quickly bid the locker up to $180. Fisher had barely pronounced, “Going once,” when he was interrupted, and two bids later the final bid was $190. Jake Willis, of Moxie Home Consignments and Design, walked away with the prize, pointing out that all of the value in the locker was in the nice set of bookshelves.
Now all he needs are some good used books. Do I hear $25?
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com