Secrets of finding treasure in others’ trash

Posted on Friday, August 15, 2014 at 9:00 am

 

Tripp Walton’s favorite pastime is bidding at storage unit auctions.  It’s tough work, but Walton has found quite the treasure trove from other people’s forgotten castoffs, such as this cabinet.

Tripp Walton’s favorite pastime is bidding at storage unit auctions. It’s tough work, but Walton has found quite the treasure trove from other people’s forgotten castoffs, such as this cabinet.

Christmas doesn’t just happen once a year for Bumpass native Tripp Walton, it happens almost every month. And the presents he gets can’t fit under a tree. Heck, they could barely fit into a room.

That’s because for the past three years, Walton has delved into the world of storage unit auctions, where bidders gather for the public sale of units that have gone unclaimed for extended periods of time.

“I’m addicted to it,” Walton said, as he points out the plethora of objects in his house that he has found over the past few years. “You have to be addicted to it.”

Nearly once a month, Walton and his father-in-law, Irvin Johnson, jump into Walton’s pickup truck, hitch up a trailer and head to nearby counties for the auctions. Glamorized in shows such as the A&E Channel’s “Storage Wars,” Walton said the events are as adrenaline-packed as advertised, with a lot of work behind-the-scenes.

“It’s a lot of hauling, a lot of lifting, and a lot of dirty work,” Walton said.

And it was through those very shows that Walton got hooked on the trade. After returning home from the War in Afghanistan back in 2011, Walton caught a glimpse of a few episodes of “Storage Wars.” Intrigued, Walton soon found himself at an auction a few months later in Charlottesville. Not only that, he found himself bidding.

“My wife and I checked it out,” Walton said. “We bid on a unit and got it for $320. I said, ‘OK, let’s see what treasures we have.’ Sure enough, it was full of nothing but good stuff!”

Since then, Walton estimates he has attended around 20 auctions. This year, he’s already attended six.

During the past three years, Walton has also familiarized himself with the culture of the “unit bidder” community. Though often low-key, most storage unit auctions operate under a few universal, stringent sets of rules.

State law allows only cash payments in paying for the storage units, which are available to be sold after 90 days of delinquency due to unpaid rent. Bidders are allowed to look into the unit before the bidding starts, but are forbidden to enter it.

To read the entire story, see the Aug. 14 edition of The Central Virginian.

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