Friday, June 3, 2011

Units 9 - 12: Good Stuff

One Saturday, about 3 weeks ago, my brother, RC, his friend, BW, and I went to a moving company auction in an affluent town nearby. I was very interested in this auction because there were over 30 vaults up for sale, so I figured we'd find some items worth buying.

Unlike a regular storage unit auction where they cut the lock and open the unit a few minutes before the bidding begins so you get only a few moments to review the contents, all the vaults were open and viewable when we arrived for registration. The furniture was pretty much all wrapped up in moving pads, though, so information was still limited. The up close review got a little too up in some cases ... One vault entirely filled with boxes had actually had a few opened by attendees! One contained Christmas stuff, which you find in most lockers, but the other, tantatlizingly, had a baseball card collection inside.

We bought 4 vaults, and we're on our way to making a profit overall on them. The last unit contained only a dining room table and 6 chairs. We brought these to the furniture consignment shop we use and they sold it almost right away. Unfortunately, we disagreed with the price they listed it for, thinking it should be higher. Since they wouldn't raise the price, we were going to pick it up and sell it ourselves on Craigslist, but, until we were able to pick it up, I let them keep it actively listed. So, that resulted in a net loss for that unit. The second vault was jammed with furniture that was wrapped, so we really only a got a good look at the first piece. It was a lovely, antique dresser that suggested the rest of the furniture would be equally lovely. D'oh! All the rest was sort of junky, laminated office furniture and couple of 20-year old office side chairs. We've got the dresser in for an auction and are listing the rest of the items on craigslist. We're trying to stay away from the consignment shop since we're developing other routes for selling furniture that don't involve having half the sale going to the shop.

The third unit was mostly visible before the auction so we went in with eyes wide open. It contained 5 wicker chairs, a nice patio table, a new Toto toilet in boxes and 3 shelving units still in boxes. Additionally, we discovered in the very back, wrapped in protective paper, a 3' x 5' glass table top without a base. This glass is 3/4" thick and has a special edging design. Looking online, similar table tops sell brand new for over $400. We haven't listed it yet, but expect to get decent money for this little bonus. Everything else in the unit sold quickly, except for the patio table, which we decided to keep for ourselves.

The first unit we bought turns out to have the greatest profit potential. From what we could see, we knew it contained a dining room set but weren't sure if there was anything else in there, since there were a ton of wrapped items. It turned out to contain the heaviest furniture RC and BW ever had to schlepp anywhere! It contained all the pieces of another dining room set: table with 3 leaves, 6 chairs, sideboard and china cabinet that sits on top of the sideboard. (Photos at top of post.)

Because the garage was so jammed with stuff, we had to cram in the dining room set and didn't really have a chance to examine it in great detail. First and foremost, we had to repair the seats on the chairs. One seat was missing entirely and some of the others were pretty stained. RC is taking the lead on that, and is almost done with the work. Since we haven't been able to advertise the dining room set yet, combined with the garage cramming, I hadn't yet investigated the set to find the manufacturer. Yesterday, we moved some of the furniture, including the table, sideboard and china cabinet over to a storage unit I've rented and got to examine the furniture more closely. We found in the sideboard a manufacturer's mark. Turns out the set was made by Bassett Furniture, which is a high-quality company. We're still investigating the exact Bassett collection, since it's discontinued, but using prices from a similar collection on the Bassett website, this probably cost about $6,000 new! I'm hoping we can get $1,000 or so for this set.

One interesting feature of these auctions that finally crystallized for me here: boxes are like catnip to buyers. These vaults were relatively small and very few contained a lot of boxes. Most of them contained furniture. The vaults that had the most interest and went for the most money were the ones that were just boxes! The one that had the two open boxes I mentioned went for over $700, more than double what I would have paid for it. Furniture is heavy and not so easy to deal with for most people. Boxes are a big mystery and might contain the elusive high-value items that we all hope to find. I like boxes too, but having gone through many that contained a lot of junk, I'm pretty skeptical about them now.


  1. Looking through the contents of a storage unit you've just purchased must be like Christmas morning –– in a really weird family. I had fun just reading about it; particularly since I didn't have to move any of the furniture!

  2. Zoomer - there certainly is an element of mystery like opening Christmas presents, especially when you're plowing through the first few boxes. After a while, if the stuff isn't so great, the mystery turns to drudgery.

    - Cranky (there's something wrong with comments and I can't get it to recognize me)