• Image about Dave Hester
Illustrations by Gluekit

“I’ve been collecting stuff for over 40 years: cars, motorcycles, vintage trailers, furniture, advertising memorabilia, all kinds of things,” he says. “If it’s cool, I keep it. I’m not really in this for the money per se.”

Between bites of a burrito, Weiss echoes estimates of his cast mates, who claim that roughly 10 percent of lockers produce big-ticket profits — all but Weiss claim they turn over product to the break-even point in one to two weeks. So, how is it a winning recipe?

“This show is selling hope,” explains Sheets, sitting in his Huntington Beach, Calif., office the day after the taping. Elegantly appointed from top to bottom with storage finds — from four Rita Ackermann paintings found in a supermodel’s locker to a trove of knickknacks that once belonged to Hollywood producer Jon Peters — it screams “to the victor go the spoils.”

And he’s right: Storage Wars is selling hope — but it’s very existence is dashing it, too. While Jones argues the higher prices prevent corrupt groups from “running the facility” or colluding (aka brother-in-lawing) and preventing any bids from going high, Dotson says the average price for lockers at his auctions has gone up 300 percent (or $150 to $425) in the last five years. And whereas a packed auction might have meant a dozen bidders, in Gardena, the halls are now packed with dozens of hangers-on mugging for the camera, hawking homemade beef jerky or simply auditioning.

Despite how annoying this might seem, though, according to Lance Watkins, Storage Outlet CEO and board member on the Self Storage Association’s Large Owners Council, “From an economic perspective [the shows] are a good thing, because people have started paying their bills,” he says, estimating only one percent of units go up for auction each month. “We don’t ever want to sell a unit, and that’s why the industry was and is so scared of [the shows].”

Scared or not, the toothpaste is out of the tube, and bidders are multiplying like a contagion, even though the Storage Wars cast may be the last true stars of the business. Schulz and Passante had to move because too many people were coming to their home, but their shop is now a must-see destination for Disneyland tourists. Hester has a new auction house in the works and a forthcoming series of e-books, and Sheets is writing a memoir tentatively set to hit shelves next Christmas. Meanwhile, the Dotsons and Beers are working on a show about estate sales. And Barry … well, he’s still just Barry.