From precious records to rockets, there is a huge list of things that were recovered from abandoned storage units. According to a recent report from the commercial real estate publication REJournals, there are more self-storage facilities in America than there are McDonald’s restaurants. Each storage facility can have hundreds of small units that allow people to safeguard their valuable possessions. However, not everyone keeps track of their rented units, and sometimes when people pass away, family members are not aware of them.
When rent goes unpaid, the owners of storage units set up auctions to retain the lost wages. During those auctions, interested parties make bids for a storage unit that they believe may be of great value. The highest bidder wins the auction as well as the contents of the storage unit. While most purchases don’t earn them much revenue, there have been cases where people have discovered stacks of money, unique finds and possessions worth millions. Here, we are listing 10 such cases where people discovered some unusual things in storage units.
1. James Bond’s Submarine Car
In 1989, a wealthy Long Island contractor paid less than $100 to buy a storage container. The very next day, the man, accompanied by his brother, came to sift through the container he had purchased. While lifting some blankets, they happened to discover a rare kind of car with fins in the place of wheels. The astonished brothers loaded the car into a semi truck and started driving home, when other truckers witnessed the car being hauled and got in touch with them with the help of their CB radio. During the interactive session, the contractor was asked whether the car was the original from the James Bond movie series, The Spy Who Loved Me. The brothers had never seen a James Bond movie until then but decided to rent the movie so they could see why all the truckers were making such a big deal about it.
After watching the movie, the brothers realized how valuable their possession was. What the brothers had bought for a mere $100 was a modified Lotus Esprit that was originally used during the movie’s underwater scene. The wealthy contractor immediately hired an expert to have the car restored, repaired and branded, after which the car was set up for auction. At the time, the car was valued somewhere around $100,000, but during the auction, it sold for $997,000. The buyer was none other than philanthropist and billionaire Elon Musk, who informed them that he hoped to create a working version of the same vintage car. (source)
2. The First Superman Comic
In 2011, a man bought the contents of a storage locker in the San Fernando Valley and found Action Comics No. 1, the first Superman comic, inside. Surprised at the content, he contacted collectibles expert Mark Balelo in order to sell it. His plan was haulted however, when he found that his newly-purchased locker had been stolen from the house of actor and comic book fan Nicolas Cage in 2000. Cage had purchased the comic for around $1 million in the year 1995. Half a decade later, he filed an insurance claim after it had been robbed from his home. When informed that the comic book had been recovered, Cage stated that it was an act of “divine providence”.
3. A Burglar
Mr. Ronald Dennis of St. Joseph, Missouri made a bad choice when he decided to break into a local storage unit. He thought that the unit would be a quick and easy target. On a weekend night, Dennis decided to make his move. He cut the lock and broke into the unit with ease. He was quickly disappointed though, as he was unable to find the jewels that he suspected to be there. As he attempted to leave empty handed, the door jammed, trapping him inside.
The next morning when the security guard began making his rounds, he noticed some noises coming from the unit. He contacted the police, who arrived shortly. After Dennis was freed from the enclosed unit, the police immediately arrested him. Dennis is the first burglar ever to be found locked inside a storage unit that he was attempting to rob.
4. Never Before Released Michael Jackson Tunes
When Joe Jackson, father of Michael Jackson, rented a storage unit, it ended up bringing the world over 250 original songs by the forever iconic star Michael Jackson. The discovery turned out to be a treasure in the music industry. One of the songs was recorded with Tina Turner, however, she had no legal claim to it as it was between contracts Michael already signed. It was reportedly worth millions of dollars and made the storage unit a larger than life find for the fortunate buyer.
5. Old Space Equipment
In 2011, Allen Haff and Clinton Jones, auction hunters from the hit show on Spike TV, decided to bid $1,500 for the contents of a storage unit near to Florida’s Cape Canaveral. After putting in the winning bid, they loaded the contents into a truck to be sorted at a later time. As they began combing through their items, they were awe struck, as they discovered a NASA rocket and countdown clock. Haff and Jones then met with a space memorabilia expert to authorize the items, before putting them up for sale. The equipment was found to be stored in the unit after the space project was discontinued by NASA.
6. A $250,000.00 Lamborghini
Matt Van Horn, vice president of Cutting Edge Self Storage Management In Port St. Lucie, FL, began to sift through the contents of an abandoned unit. To his surprised, he discovered a less than a three year old orange Lamborghini inside. The makers of the luxury sports car brand actually sent representatives out to inspect the $250,000.00 car, to make sure it met their company hallmark. After the company finalized the inspection, Matt said, “I don’t know who insured it but I know the insurance cost was around $5,000 per month”. He also stated that it was the most expensive thing he have ever seen in storage.
7. 42 Snakes
In 2017, a man purchased a storage unit in Arroyo Grand, California, only to discover 42 snakes inside. Fearing for his safety and for the safety of others, he immediately called animal services. Upon arrival, they discovered that they were ball pythons and other venomous snake. “It’s not normal for us to encounter and for the storage facility something unusual for them, they don’t allow animals in the units,” says Eric Anderson, Animal Services Manager with San Luis Obispo Animal Services. Animal services are still investigating the owner’s whereabouts. Since the snakes are tropical and not native to the area, they are not up for adoption. (source)
8. Guy Fieri’s Stolen Lamborghini
In 2011, Guy Fieri’s $200,000 Lamborghini was stolen in a daring heist. For over a year, the culprit and the sports car remained at large. However, in late 2012, authorities were investigating a 17-year-old for several crimes and decided to check the storage unit that he owned. Inside the unit, they came across the missing car, along with a motorcycle and other evidence that linked the 17-year-old to multiple crimes; adding additional charges to the initial theft. (source)
9. Millions of Dollars in Cash
A man who had the highest bid of $500 in a storage unit auction, found a mysterious safe inside. After bringing in two people, the second was able to successfully opened the safe. Fully expecting it to be empty, the man was astonished to find a whopping $7.5 million in cash inside. It was a potential life changing discovery for the man, however, thoughts came to his mind of the person who had just lost the money. Fortunately, the story had a happy ending for everyone involved, as the original owners were able to be tracked down. The man who purchased the storage unit for a mere $500 was offered $600,000 from the original owners. In the end, they ultimately decided to gift him $1.2 million as a reward for his honesty. Without a second thought, the man accepted it as a fair deal, as he as he ended up a millionaire on a casual $500 investment.
10. Breaking Bad-Style Laboratory
Steve and Ken Bohannon often bought storage units to find goods to resell. They were extremely delighted when they purchased an unit in Rancho Cordova, California for a mere $80 where. Unfortunately for them, they found a rare discovery that they never could have imagined. While evaluating the contents of the unit, they stumbled across boxes that had “danger” and “poison” written on them. Curiously, they peeked inside where they saw pipes, beakers, and gas masks. After informing the authorities, the police arrived and began to examine the unit. After examining the boxes, they found them to contain hazardous, outdated equipment that was used to manufacture contraband. The material was extremely toxic, so hazmat specialists were called for further evaluation. In addition to the lab equipment, the team also discovered a 20-liter (5 gal) drum that was half full of the contraband itself. It was unknown as to whether these labs were once operational inside the actual storage unit.