Chapter 6: What To Do When Your Locker Is a Bust

It is going to happen no matter how careful you are. You misread a unit, get carried away in the bidding, or just stumble upon bad luck. Next thing you know, your forgotten riches is looking more like hard- earned cash going up in smoke.

  • First, take a deep breath. This happens to everyone, even the stars of the storage auction. Try not to get dragged down. You are going to need your wits about you to try and regain the upper financial hand on this unit. There will be time later, and you will need to do this, to figure out where you went wrong. Right now, you need to start making a dent into that red line.
  • Go through the unit again. Look for anything you might have missed. Did you open every box and bag? Just because 99% of them have turned out nothing but old newspapers, it doesn’t mean that last bag will be the same. It might be the one holding a treasure. Or at least something you can get some cash for. Check the back of every picture frame. Leaf through every book. People often hide cash in between the pages of books. Look for first editions and first printings on books.
  • If there’s anything that you are not 100% sure on, take it home with you for further investigation. You might be convinced the jewellery is costume jewellery, but you might be wrong. Or maybe after looking into it, you find that someone on eBay is willing to buy costume jewellery for $50. It might not be the $5000 you would get if they were real diamonds, but it is a dent into your losses.
  • Do you remember who else was bidding? You might be able to quickly unload your locker to a fellow bidder. This is especially true if you noticed a store owner wanted the unit. They have the means and ability to make a profit where you might not. Try to approach them and offer to hand them the unit. You won’t get all your money back, but it could seriously decrease your losses. It would also rid you of the burden of trying to salvage what you can from the unit. Don’t let pride stand in the way of you lessening your losses.

If you’ve tried all this and you’re still looking at a massive bust, here’s a few tips:

Scrap Metal

In today’s economy, scrap metal is worth money. Go through your unit and separate any metal that could be resold. Broken gold jewellery is an obvious one, but copper wiring is also worth money. Brass, copper and aluminum are worth trying to cash in. You won’t make a lot of money, but at this point, every penny helps.


Glass, plastic, and aluminum bottles can all be returned for cash. Sure one pop can is only worth a few cents, but don’t toss them aside. Gather them up and you might be surprised how quickly a few cents can turn into $20. It all helps when you need to make your money back.

Charitable Donations

Gather up used clothing and household items that you won’t be able to resell easily and donate them to a charity. Ask for a tax receipt and you might be able to help a charity out while saving yourself some money.

Group Sell Items

Selling smaller dollar items as lots can be a good way to turn otherwise unsellable items into cash in your pocket. Try to take goods such as clothing and sell them as a box of t-shirts as opposed to just one.


Yes, even cardboard can be returned for cash in some jurisdictions. Check your local area to find out if there’s money in those beat up packing boxes.

When you have gone through your busted unit and milked every penny you can out of the dud you landed, take some time to review what happened. Where did you make your mistake?

If it was in the bidding process, think of who your fellow bidders were. Try to remember if there was someone who might have been trying to run your bids up. If so, note who it was and be wary next time they’re bidding against you. Were the other bidders a different buyer than you (ie. you’re a store owner and the other bidders were mainly treasure hunters)? Next time pay more attention to whose bidding and why. Did you get carried away and spend more than you knew you should have? Let this be a lesson that there is a reason you set a bidding limit and you should stick to it as much as possible.

Maybe it went wrong before you even started bidding. Did you misread the unit? Despite all your hard work, you might have thought it was a unit you needed to bid on when it wasn’t. Go back in your mind and remember what the signals were for you to bid on the locker. Was it an antique looking lamp that turned out to be a replica? A packed unit that turned out to be full of garbage? Sometimes you are going to be wrong despite your best efforts. If there was an obvious mistake learn from it. If it was just bad luck, add up your losses and try again.

Finding forgotten riches at storage locker auctions takes hard work, patience, and risk. But if you keep at it, learn from your mistakes, and improve your strategies, you will be turning other peoples forgotten items in your own personal riches!