Treasure hunting brings crowd to Horry County storage auction

More than a hundred people braved the cold Thursday morning in Horry County hoping to be a modern-day Jacques Cousteau.

Like the hit television shows Storage Wars and Auction Hunters, six storage units filled with boxes and bags containing unknown items were auctioned off at the North State Storage facility.

Storage units are sold to the highest bidder because the renter of the unit has failed to pay the storage fees, and after the renter is given notice of late charges and possible auction, the unit is up for grabs.

"We give the renters 90 days until we have the auctions," said North State Storage Facility Manager Patrick Kennedy.

If the unit is sold for more than what is due, the remaining money is given to the renter. If the unit sells for less than what is due, a collection agency seeks the remaining money from the past due renter.

The storage facility staff does not conduct the auction, instead the day's sales are conducted by an auctioneer who makes a living traveling to different facilities.

"This is one of the first things when they get behind they let go," said auctioneer Butch Evans. "They think they can catch back up, but sometimes they don't. Then they think I'll just get my good stuff out before it gets too bad, and they just get behind and can't do it."

Evans has been an auctioneer since 1972 and in 1992, he moved from conventional auctions to storage auctions.

Units can run from $10 to $800 and more, said Evans.

Those who attend the auction are given a short time to look inside the unit without touching anything inside or stepping inside. Once everyone takes a look, the auction begins.

"It's like coconuts," said Evans. "You get a lot of shells sometimes and not a lot of coconuts. There's a lot of waste you have to throw away to get the good stuff."

Many people hope to find the big catch, but the majority of people at the auction are like Joe Allen from Myrtle Beach - who just like to look.

"I'm just curious to see what's inside," said Allen. He's attended three auctions. He's never scored big because he's yet to even bid.

"It's amazing how much junk people save."

But those who gamble tend to end up like Garden City resident Randy Madden, finding more trash than treasure.

"They say you have to buy a hundred before you find that one," said Madden. "Well I've bought more than a hundred, and I still haven't found that one."

Madden bought one unit Thursday for $125, because one zipped up black bag caught his eye.

"I think it's a card table." Turns out Madden was right.

Though he said he'll make his money back, the poker table wasn't in good of shape as he hoped. The rest of the unit was filled with furniture he'll sell at his LulaBelle's Thrift Shop in Myrtle Beach.

"It's hard to buy a cheap unit anymore since Storage Wars," said Effingham resident David Timmons. He bought a unit for $325 dollars.

Timmons makes a living off of buying units and other odds and ends jobs.

He bought unit with a big-flat-screen television and a smaller television, but once he was inside the unit, he found more.

A dryer, a Nintendo DS and collectable race cars were revealed with each opening of a box.

"This is the best part, the opening up to see what's inside."

It'll take him the rest of the day to clean up the unit that's mostly filled with clothes and trinkets, but he believes the day is worth while and he'll make money when it's all said and done.

"It'll be clothes that I hate," said Timmons, "and Christmas stuff. I hate Christmas stuff."

North State Storage Facilities next auction is scheduled for February 16th.