The New Inside Skinny on Storage Lockers

This article was written by attorney Robert J. Kossack who was accompanied by Scott Asher on a trip from Las Vegas to San Francisco to argue a case before the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

Cable TV shows like Storage Wars and Storage Kings impress me by all the neat stuff bought for cheap at storage locker auctions. At times those guys make twenty times their investment, and everyone on the show is a winner. It seems all I need do is put some cash together, keep up with the storage foreclosure auctions and get off my duff. After all, you see the guys on the shows score big nearly all the time, and I could pretty much outbid any one of them and buy whatever storage lockers I wanted to buy if I were so inclined.

In this regard, I had an opportunity to interview the host and namesake of the website Scott’s bought more than 500 storage lockers. I also interviewed the manager of the storage locker facility where I rent a couple of storage lockers. It’s one of those national franchise storage locker chains, and I think the manager has a piece of the action.

I found out you can still make money buying storage lockers and selling their contents, but it’s work, and there was much more money to be made before the publicity from the cable TV shows starting bringing fifty people to each auction instead of five. Sometimes there would be only two buyers at an auction with one saying to the other, “How about I take this one and you take the other?” But now an average storage locker is selling for three times the amount it would have sold for just a few years back. That means you’re taking the chance of losing three times more money if you buy a dude.

You would think this would make the manager of the storage facility happy being able to earn extra money toward the unpaid rent with a lot more bidders, but he rather it return to two years ago when the cable TV shows were just coming out, and the bidders were only slightly larger in number. He would rather avoid the present mob of know-nothing saps littering his parking lot, not knowing the rules, crowding up the corridors and giving him a lot of worry and argument. First and foremost, buying storage lockers is work because you have to learn of the sale, go there, run the risk of not making a buy, pay the man, pay the manager a deposit, clean out the locker, haul everything away, have a place to store all the good stuff, have a way of disposing of all the worthless stuff, and then actually sell the good stuff you’ve found.

The storage locker place makes you clean out the locker to freshly swept condition and haul everything away. The manager will hate you otherwise. You would be banned from stepping foot on that self-storage property ever again, and the manager would tell the other storage locker managers about you, put your name on the computer as someone who they should otherwise charge an extra large deposit or trespass on sight.

After you’ve paid for the storage locker itself, the manager makes you pay a deposit that you forfeit if you don’t clean out the storage locker entirely and leave any junk behind. The amount of the deposit is generally between twenty and thirty-five dollars depending on how much effort it would be for the manager to remove and dispose of the worthless junk. A ten foot by thirty foot storage locker filled with car engines and other hard to remove items might merit a deposit as high as $300.00. The manager will raise your deposit considerably if you were ever a problem. If the manager is left with a locker where the high bidder simply made off with the good stuff and left the rest, the manager will likely resale the remaining stuff in the locker privately or to another bidder at another auction. Nothing would require him to send out any additional notice. At that point the manager doesn’t care how much he gets for the locker just so long at the stuff is hauled away.

You can’t use the manager’s dumpster, and you may find it hard to use someone else’s dumpster. The dumpster behind the grocery store near where I live has a sign citing the criminal law you would be violating if you use that dumpster without authorization. So you are stuck filling up trash cans and hauling them to the curb in front of your house or hauling everything to the dump and paying the dump a fee.

The cable TV shows only cover when something neat or valuable is found. You wouldn’t be interested in watching the shows if all you saw was the winning bidder opening up dozens of boxes finding nothing or if the camera stayed on him as he continued unloading the storage locker, loading up his truck and hauling trash to the dump, or even sitting around the swap meet for a day. With the higher prices the lockers are going for now days, the amateurs are being squeezed out. Now you need a bigger, more committed operation. You need your own dumpster. A freelancer has to rely on luck. A pro has a truck, a crew, storage space, disposal facilities and a store where the stuff is going to be sold. Cutting out all middlemen and having an efficiency of scale allows him to make a living. Do you really want to go into the salvage business? Count on tiring, tough work unless you hire other people to supply the muscle to clean the locker of all its contents and move all the items, some to the warehouse and some to the dump.

Based on the website host’s survey of the more than 500 storage lockers he purchased in Las Vegas, ninety percent of all foreclosed storage lockers had some sort of narcotic paraphernalia in them, usually marijuana paraphernalia, which led the website host to the conclusion that a lot more people smoke marijuana than will admit doing so in response to an anonymous survey. But don’t expect to find a bag of weed. It’s already been smoked. You just get enough paraphernalia with enough residue to be guilty of a misdemeanor. It’s probably the first thing you’ll throw away even if you smoke pot yourself.

Also, ninety percent of all storage lockers contain some form of pornography or sex toys. Looks like society is a lot more free and experimental in those areas as well. Of course, the counter-argument could be made that the storage locker statistics prove that people who use dope and crave sex are more likely to be irresponsible and lose their storage lockers to foreclosure. Which conclusion does the storage locker data support; that every household smokes grass and views porn or, as a second conclusion, that people who smoke grass and view porn are irresponsible?

The least desirable thing to find in a storage locker is cremated remains. There’s just something about throwing old granny’s ashes in the trash along with the other junk that gives one the chills. Which led me to question why not take those items which are personal, irreplaceable or involve a hassle to replace, such as cremated remains, the baby’s teeth (yeech), locks of hair, family photographs, birth certificates, old tax returns, driver’s licenses, health cards, divorce decrees, death certificates and the like, put them all in one small box and then try to locate the owner at a later date and sell him back his personal papers and effects? Back on his feet or finally reminded he at one time actually had a storage locker, a man might be willing to pay considerable money to get back the photograph of his great, great, great grandmother.

I found out that’s definitely a bad idea. Don’t try to do any favors for or make any money from the prior owner of the storage locker. One of the website host’s friends did that; he convinced the storage facility manager to give him the last owner’s address and took the box of personal effects out to the prior owner to give it to him for free. For his trouble, he ended up being screamed at by the entire white-trash family for buying all their stuff and taking all they had, and he was almost physically assaulted before he was able to get back in his car and speed away from the ingrates. He was just trying to be a nice guy. I hate to think of the family’s reaction if he tried to sell them back their personal stuff. It’s best to just shred the documents and throw everything in the trash, and tell no one what you did with any of it. That’s why the storage locker manager isn’t suppose to tell you the name and address of the prior owner, but that information can sometimes be found in the personal papers left in the locker. The manager especially will not tell a person who bought their locker so the person who lost their stuff can hassle the person who bought their stuff for some of their stuff back. Don’t ask about or concern yourself with the personal affairs of loss of the prior owner or try to help the prior owner. No good deed goes unpunished in this arena.

About one-half the time you should make a profit from a locker if you put in the time to sale everything of any value. But what is the cost and the value of your time? How many hours will you have to sit around the swap meet to sell that basket of sex toys? Do you want to wear gloves when you handle them? How many hours will it take you to photograph some of the items found and write a description of them for sale on Ebay or at an auction? Do you value having any garage space left at your house? Is it okay if your entire house fills with clutter you someday hope to sell? Each year, with more people watch the cable TV shows with most of the lockers yielding valuable or historically interesting stuff. They then go down and bid up the price of storage lockers beyond what they would be if only the bidders knew how a majority of lockers turn out to be a bust. With each new bidder, the ability to make a decent hourly wage buying storage lockers at auction and selling their contents becomes less and less. There is also the possibility of the storage locker manager being a crook. You have to make sure you see the prior owner’s lock being cut off the locker. If the lock is already off, then the manager had a chance to loot the locker of its valuables before it went up for sale. But what’s to stop a manager from looting the locker and then putting on a new lock which he cuts off in front of the auction buyers just for show? This is not a common practice, but how is one to know? It’s against the law, but how are you going to prove it?

The website host had found his share of goodies and “wow factor” stuff such as an antique music box, an autographed Anne Nichol Smith calendar, two thousand dollars of cash in a sock, but he gave up buying storage lockers. Too much moving, too much hauling, too much time selling, decreasing sales prices on Ebay because of the recession combined with three times the purchase price of the abandoned storage locker from what it was a few years ago, and the easy profit has been squeezed out. This is what my economics teacher taught me to expect. When there are excessive profits in any one area of the economy, increased competition will be attracted, in this case more buyers at each auction, and the increased competition will squeeze out the excess profits, until those previously kicking back counting their easy money become mere working stiffs surviving through hard work and increased efficiency rather than because of an exclusive market share. The days of easy money buying storage lockers has come to an end, and it’s time to find a new racket. Guess I’ll keep my day job.

Get Access to Storage Auction Expert’s Step-By-Step Plan That Earns Him $5,000 – $10,000 Monthly

How To Make Money With Storage Auctions – Even Paper Collectibles Can Yield Nice Profits

Dave Espino again with a new storage auction tip of the day!

A lot of people buy storage units at auction and often don’t realize how many items in the storage unit could potentially be collectible.

So I’d like to share a true story of one of the storage units that I bought.

We bought a storage unit several years ago and some of the paper items that were in the unit were just sort of set aside and never really put up on eBay. They were never really researched or sold.

That’s because we had so much stuff that we made money on with that storage unit (we made more than $4,400 on that unit) and we never really thought about these extra little paper items that were in the unit.

So, one of the paper items that came from that unit included a ticket to the 1967 rose bowl game. (it’s a football game that’s held every year on New Year’s Day)

So I thought, “Wow, this is interesting.” So I went ahead and put this ticket up and I thought: “I’ll just list it on eBay and see what happens”.

So I listed it and for most of the week it sat at about $30 and I was thinking, “Wow, that’s pretty good.” That’s 30 dollars that I didn’t know I had, just lying around in the garage!

So at the very end, I didn’t think very much about it. I didn’t even look at or track the auction until after the auction had closed.

Well, when the auction had closed, I came back and checked my eBay listings and I realized that ticket had sold for $180 and some change and I was just blown away!

Now, I had no idea why this ticket sold for $180, so I actually emailed the winning bidder after he had paid (and he paid right away) and I asked him “Hey, can you tell me why this ticket sold for so much?” And he said, “Oh, no reason. I was just at that game (in 1967) and I wanted a souvenir of the game that I attended.”

So that got me excited and I found these other Rose Bowl tickets that had come from the same storage unit and decided to list them, as well. (these other tickets were from different years. (from the late ‘70s to the late ‘80s)

Now, these tickets were a little different. The ticket that had sold for $180 was a complete and unused ticket, in great condition. The other tickets that I had lying around, (I had five of them) these were used tickets that had the stub cut off and they were also laminated, which is a big no – no. That just takes a lot off of the value. But again, these were laminated, so I thought: “Let me just put these up, one-by-oneand see how much they sell for”.

Each of those 5 tickets sold for $9.49. So, altogether, if you take the $180 plus about $50 total for the other 5 tickets, that’s $230 worth of just these paper items that I had never even thought of as being collectible or having a lot of value!

Originally, I had paid $375 for that storage unit, so about ¾ of the money that I paid for that unit was made back in just these little paper items that I had long since forgotten about. (this $230 just added to the $4,400 I had already made on that unit years ago!)

So the lesson of this success story is to always research every item that may or may not be collectible.

Because you just never know the kind of people that are out there who collect these – like sports memorabilia or other items. You just never know when something is going to be collectible and will be worth $180!

It’s funny to think that I’ve had $180 just sitting in my garage for years, from this one storage auction that we bought and just made our money and we moved on. As it turned out, we had an extra $230 just sitting there, until we went ahead and put them up on eBay!

So when I see some of these guys on the storage auction shows throwing boxes out and manhandling stuff, I have to laugh because you never know, there may be paper items in there that could be very collectible.

You’ve got to look through the stuff very carefully.

So that’s our storage auctions tip of the day. For more helpful tips,

How To Make Money With Storage Auctions – Buying Storage Lockers Is A Business! NOT A Competition!

If you’re used to seeing the storage auction TV shows and that’s the only exposure you’ve had to storage auctions, you may not realize this, but it’s not really a competitive environment.

Yes, it is an auction and yes, you are bidding against other bidders, but in the TV shows, they really play up the dramatic aspect of the competition more than it really is.

In reality, most people are not really playing head games and are not trying to “drive a room up”.

They’re not trying to “drop a room on you” or that kind of thing.

In reality, everybody pretty much acts as a business person and that’s what you need to do.

So, if your only exposure to storage auctions so far has been from watching the storage auction TV shows, (which I love, by the way) then I want to give you a different view of the storage auction world – a more realistic view.

Here’s the realistic view…

This is a business; it’s not a competition.

So, you are not out there competing with the different bidders.

You’re not there to try to win the unit “at all costs”.

You’re there to make a good buying decision – a wise investment in merchandise.

What I mean by this is that you’ve got to mentally set your bidding limit at about 50% of what you can get for the items that are visible to you during your preview of the unit.

When you’re previewing the unit, add up the items that you can see and then cut that dollar figure in half. This should be your maximum bidding limit for that unit.

Now, you might give allowances for additional cool things that you see in there, additional collectible items or things that hint at a possibility of maybe better stuff in there.

You may give allowances and maybe raise your bidding limit a little for that. (Each unit has its own “vibe” that tells you there may be better items lurking inside) But in general you want to stick to that maximum bidding limit.

If somebody wants to be ridiculous and go much higher than what your bidding limit is, let them, because they’re in it as a competition. They may not be in it to make money.

If they’re bidding recklessly, then they’re technically in it to lose money!

So be sure that you stick to your principles.

I teach you all about these kinds of principles in my new video course.

I show you how to develop a maximum bidding limit and a solid bidding strategy, how to bid on only the right storage units and how to profile the profitable units.

You can learn more about my new video course and also get a copy of my FREE eBook: “Storage Auction Secrets” by visiting the link

How To Buy At Storage Auctions For Very Little Money

If you’re looking to get started buying at storage unit auctions, you might be asking yourself:

“Am I the right type of person to make money with storage auctions?”

You know, with the hit popularity of the TV shows “Storage Wars” and “Auction Hunters”, and all these other TV shows like “American Pickers” and “Pawn Stars” (all these shows that have to do with collectibles and antiques) a lot of people are getting excited about treasure hunting at storage auctions. If you consider yourself a treasure hunter, then there’s no better business, in my opinion, than the storage auction business for you.

If you like the idea of going to yard sales, garage sales, flea markets, (especially antique flea markets) where you see some of the cool old items and artifacts from days gone by…

If you like going to auctions, antique malls and antique stores…

If you like the thrill of the hunt…

If you’re a collector at heart…

If you like the idea of finding cool stuff in a room that you bought and suddenly you own, (and that you can turn into some quick money) then you’re the right kind of person for storage auction success.

Do you need a lot of money to get started in the Storage Auctions business?

Many people wonder if you need a lot of money to get started in storage auctions – and the truth is, you don’t. However, most of the TV shows profile the more costly units.

Now, ideally it would be great if you could just bring as much money as possible to a storage auction and that’s what I recommend, once you get up to speed and once you really get going at it.

But initially, when you first get started in the storage auctions business, you can literally get started for $50 or $100. That’s because often, the storage units that come up for auction are smaller units. They might be by 5’ by 5’, or they might be even smaller than that. I’ve seen little “cubbies” that are no bigger than 3’ by 5’ filled with stuff that you can win for $10, $20, or $30.

So, I just want to refute the misconception that you need to have a thousand dollars, two thousand dollars, three thousand dollars just to compete.

Well the truth is, storage auctions are not a competition; storage auctions are a business, and you’ve got to treat it that way.

The best way to do it is to just get started – get out there and look at some of these smaller units, and start bidding on these smaller units.
Then, take the profits from that and redirect those profits back into your business and start buying larger and larger units. That’s called pyramiding your profits – taking your profits, re-investing them and building them into a bigger business. Pretty soon you’ll be looking back at those days and laughing because you’re making so much money on some of the bigger units that you can now afford.

Wanna read more?

How To Buy Storage Units – Do You Know The Storage Auctions Oath?

In this article, I’d like to talk a little bit how doctors relate to storage auctions.

You see, doctors have an oath they take when they become a doctor – it’s called the Hippocratic Oath.

The Hippocratic Oath is very simple:

First, do no harm…

In other words, if a doctor arrives at an accident scene, and there are people lying around and they’re hurt and they’re in terrible shape, the Number 1 rule for that doctor is to not do any harm. In other words – do not make the situation worse for the injured people on the ground.

And so I have a similar oath for Storage Auction Buying, and it’s equally simple! It is:

First, lose no money…

So, when you arrive on the scene at a storage auction, the Number 1 goal and the Number 1 rule is to not lose money. You want to play your cards “close to the vest” and you want to be very conservative and very careful with how you invest your money at the auction.

Now this flies in the face of what you might see on TV, because on TV, they make everything dramatic, and interesting and really exciting right?

But the truth is most storage units are not million dollar units. Most storage units are not going to make you 20, 30, 50 thousand dollars. Now the average good unit (if you choose it right) will make you 2, 3, 5 thousand dollars, and the above average units will do even better than that.

So the Number 1 goal is to be careful, be conservative with the units that you buy!

Don’t buy junk units… Take your time… Sift and sort the units that you do buy and be careful.

Now if you want more storage auction information, I’d love to share it with you.

Wanna read more? 

Dirk McFergus goes to war!

I was talking to Dirk yesterday and he vowed to take these guys down whatever the cost!

Dear Sirs,
Thank you for your prompt response to DMCA Infringement Notice, however I must further comment. Wow, quite a little scam you’re running. “We DO NOT host any files on our servers – they’re on someone else’s server – go find them and good luck – HA HA HA!” 667,000 or so members at $5 a month is a mere $3.3 million per month and anyone looking at the files “promoted on (your) website” can see they’re copyright protected, ie the film “Alice in Wonderland,”Gorillaz, Plastic Beach,” and the video game “Call of Duty, World at War,” three titles that show up for download along side your DMCA page. Oh you must just laugh every day at the fact that your site, for all intents and purpose is facilitating the infringement of multiple copyright holders for your company’s benefit. Additionally, it must seem hilarious that anyone claiming copyright infringement has to pay you to take down copyright from “filesharers,” the real bad guys (not Share Master!) because the person claiming infringement cannot determine the location of the infringing file particularly since the files available for download all begin with the top level domain “”.

So here’s my offer to you since I believe your claim that you DO NOT host files on your servers but you DO promote those infringing files within your search engine. Remove all instances of my work, “From Garage Sale to Financial Freedom in Five Steps,” from your search engine or I will be involving a lawyer and contacting every company with a potential copyright infringement claim to begin a class action suit against your company. I’m sure there’s a federal court judge who would just love to hear about your profits from “promoting” copyright infringement and how the infringement is really from the users.

Have a great day,
Dirk McFergus

More coming soon, I promise you!

Winning Storage Auction Strategies .99 Cents

Dirk and Susan McFergus released their book today, “Winning Storage Auction Strategies” exclusively on Amazon Kindle with an introductory price of only 99 cents.  I asked why he wasn’t selling the book for $20, he told me that they want to expand their audience across the Amazon platform and he was hoping that a (nearly free) offer would inspire people to buy, send them to friends and write reviews on  Dirk sent me a complimentary copy and to my surprise he dedicated the book to me, another first for me.   During the two week trial period, Dirk has also reduced the price on the Amazon Kindle and paperback versions of his first book, “From Garage Sale to Financial Freedom in Five Steps”  which I can tell you that not only do I have the first copy of the book, but it is destined to be a cult classic.  If you’re looking for the “real deal” in this crazy storage auction business, you need to check these titles out.

Product Description

What do bags of dryer lint, sex toys, $20,000 in cash, gold and 100,000 expired Trojan condoms have in common? All were purchased at delinquent storage unit auctions in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Veteran storage unit auction buyers, Dirk and Susan McFergus outline a comprehensive guide to successfully navigating the minefields of mini storage unit auctions. They dispel the myths promoted in storage auction reality television programs along with inside tips and strategies for all levels of storage auction buyers. Learn how to locate storage auctions in your vicinity, spot what units to buy and what to avoid. Also learn how to prevent your ego from purchasing a losing storage unit. Essential tips and funny personal stories from professional storage auction buyers formerly in the trenches. If you’re even contemplating buying a delinquent storage unit auction, you cannot afford not to have these insiders’ perspective on the game.

Storage Wars

Premiering in 2010, Storage Wars is a non-fiction television series found on the cable TV Network, A&E. On the program, auctioneer Dan Dotson sells the contents of storage lockers that go unpaid in California for three months. Bargain hunters on the auction show include Dave Hester, Barry Weiss, Jarod Shultz, Darrel Sheets and Jarrod Shulz. The professional buyers are only allowed five minutes to inspect the contents of the storage units and they can’t enter the units when the door opens. These buyers can only stand from the outside and peer in. Winners bidders in the auction hope to make a profit on the items found within the storage unit.

While the program primarily takes place in Southern California, two episodes from Season One of Storage Wars were filmed in Las Vegas, Nevada. These episodes were among the most popular. One TV critic called the show “strangely uplifting”.

The first episode of the series brought in 2.1 million audience members. This achievement led the show to become A&E’s number one rated reality TV program in 2010. Because of its success, A&E renewed Storage Wars for another season. You may think a TV program about storage auctions cannot sustain itself, but the program has been praised for its superb storytelling and unforgettable character development. These accolades have led the show to surpass other popular TV programs in viewership for the same timeslot on the same day that Storage Wars airs.

Some may think the contents of the storage units are faked to increase the dramatic emotion of the auctions depicted. But, producers say there isn’t any staging involved. The contents of the units are uncovered as is and are completely genuine.

Others may wonder if making money is really possible with storage auctions. Look at these numbers. Dave Hester spent $750 dollars on the contents of one storage unit in one episode of Storage Wars and made a profit of $89,250. On another episode, Hester spent $1,800 for the contents of a storage unit and made a profit of $9,203.

Unless you think Dave Hester is the only one, check out these success stories. Jarrod Shulz and Brandi Passanti paid $1,700 on the contents of one unit and they made a profit of $12,800. Darrell Sheets spent $400 and made $5,832 profit. Barry Weiss spent $340 and made a profit of $9,000.

Three out of four of these teams had losses on some purchases, but over the course of the entire season, every one of them earned a profit by re-selling the contents of the units in the storage bins they won in auction. The least successful profit earned for every dollar spent is $2.86. Making money with storage auction is easy if you have a keen intuition on what might sell in the storage bin you are looking at, and then you have to have good business sense to turn a profit on what you are selling.

How to become a collectibles dealer

Dirk, loved the book! I bought a couple of storage auctions like you suggested and found some rare toys and other collectibles. My ebay account is on fire – thanks! I would like to focus my attention on selling collectibles. Where do I find more??


Hi Kelly: Bonus points for reading my book. That’s the first step in taking charge of your personal economy. I am a big fan of collectibles too. Here’s what I’ve discovered – collectors are a unique group of people. They have a passion or obsession to collect whatever they collect. Some will collect anything collectible – others are very specific. They also tend to spend on their collections regardless of the economy. That’s why your ebay account is doing so well – collectors know that they can get their fix on ebay. Here are some suggestions to focus your buying on collectibles.

1. Know your market – research is key. We have several books and guides regarding collectibles. I suggest you get yourself a copy of Miller’s Guide to Collectibles:

Spend your free time familiarizing your self with the different types of collectibles and the prices suggested in the book. The pricing is just a guide – it’s not the true price – the true price is what someone is willing to pay for the item. But you can suggest the price and if you reference the book in an ad, at least you have a suggested price. The Miller’s Guide is broad and will help you to “train your eye” to spot collectibles in any buying situation. For instance, I was in a buying situation where I had the opportunity to pick up several “vintage” die cast cars at a great price. I had memorized the book and the particular brand, Brooklin models, were not discussed in the book – but I could tell from the quality and feel of the items that they were special. We put them on eBay and found that Brooklin models are very rare and command a high price at auction for even broken models. I wouldn’t have bought them if I weren’t aware of the market for vintage die cast model cars.

2. Armed with some knowledge – start searching for collectibles everywhere. Search craigslist, go to garage sales, estate sales, auctions, flea markets, swap meets, and thrift stores. You’re going to sort through lots of crap to find the hidden gems – you’re looking for the seller that doesn’t know what they have or the seller that is desperate for cash.

3. Have fun and don’t set your expectations too high. It can take awhile to find your treasure. I am determined to find them so I eventually do but I look through a lot of stuff that doesn’t qualify. This is a numbers game. But when you do find something promising, you’ve got to pull the trigger. You can’t be a seller without buying so you always have to be ready to take a chance. Armed with superior knowledge, persistence and patience, you can be a successful dealer of collectibles. You always have to be perfecting your knowledge of buying and selling. It sounds like you’re off to a good start – keep up the good work and let me know if I can help you in any way.
Dirk McFergus

Who’ this Dirk? Read about Dirk

How Can I Tell if Jewelry is Real or Fake?

Question from Dean in Chicago:

Dirk, I took your advice and bought a storage unit. There was a really nice box of jewelry. It looks to have some gold, silver and diamonds. I don’t know how to tell if any of it is real. Help!


Dean, congrats on scoring some jewelry – it’s great to open a little treasure chest isn’t it. Ok, second hand jewelry is almost it’s own specialty. There are many people that just trade jewelry, making a great living. I’m going to give you some tips to get the best price you can for it. First, you need a magnifying glass or loupe. You need to inspect each piece for markings. You’re looking for the amount of karat for gold or the marking sterling or 925 for silver. The higher the karat, the more pure the gold. With silver, the marking “sterling” or 925 indicates that it is .925 percent pure silver. Then you need to do some internet research on what the going price for gold and silver is, it fluctuates on a moment to moment basis. This is just so you know what you have. If it’s not marked, take a strong magnet and run it just over the piece, if it has no magnetic pull whatsoever, it’s a precious metal. If there’s some magnetic pull, it’s plated. Plated jewelry is worth much less – it’s about the artistry of the piece at that point. There are acid tests that you can buy to determine the purity of the metal but you shouldn’t need to go that far – you just want to get top dollar for it so I’ll give you some ideas how to go about that.

Take a piece that you think has some value to a pawn shop or jeweler that “buys” jewelry. In a matter of 30 seconds or less, they’ll tell you if it is real or not. They may even give you an offer but you’re not going to take their offer. They will offer you a third or less of what they think they can sell it for. You’re not a sucker so you don’t accept their offer, but now you know you have something of value. If they offer you $50 for the piece, take four photographs of the item and list the item for sale on craigslist at 4 times the pawn shop offer. If you get a call within 30 minutes from your ad, you under-priced it. Tell them you already sold it and put it away for a couple weeks and re-list it at a higher price or go pay for an appraisal of the piece. If you get a call later in the day of your ad or the next day, you probably are close to the best price you can get. If you get no calls, re-list it a week later less $50 or whatever and try again. If you don’t like selling on craigslist, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t, list the item on ebay at the pawn shop’s offer and let the auction do it’s thing.

If you have gold and silver that doesn’t have precious stones, consider trying We sent off a package of body piercings and got a check for $900 in the mail a couple weeks later. This method is not top dollar, it’s scrap value and you’re taking a chance on being swindled but it worked for us.
If you think you have real diamonds or really like selling second hand jewelry, there’s an easy way to tell if the stone is real or not. All you need is the electronic diamond detector which works surprisingly well and is less than $100. It’s a great tool in your arsenal.

I hope this helps and thanks for the question.

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