Storage unit auctions became popularized with the TV show Storage Wars. Of course, there were so many crazy weird things that were shown on Storage Wars, but having grown up in a family business that depended on the contents of storage units and estate sales, I saw the reality of this business model.
Here are the top 10 weird and wonky things found in actual storage units in a small conservative community in Oregon. For every odd and bizarre item you discover, you’ll find a dozen units of trash and everyday household goods. So let’s jump into the fun.
Related: Top 10 Hoarders Who Were Killed By Their Own Hoard
10 Pet and Human Remains—Usually Cremated
Time passes, and everyone dies, but it’s tragic to know that your grandma’s last resting place is a storage unit your auntie forgot to pay for. Spot the Dog doesn’t fare so well either. Unfortunately, when someone purchases that storage unit and has to sweep Grandma off the dusty floor, there is no obligation to return the cremains to the previous tenant. The occurrence of finding the dead in units is far more common than it should be.
In cases like these, most buyers maintain contact with the storage management and are able to get the last known contact information for the previous tenant. Most do their best to return cremains, vital documents, and sentimental photos and mementos to the family. When the buyers cannot contact the family, they often leave the box full of the physical documents with the management and spread the ashes in a nearby public park, river, forest, or another acceptable place so the body can be with nature.
9 Drug Paraphenalia
This isn’t as uncommon as one might think; however, until 2016, possession and use of bongs and other marijuana paraphernalia were considered illegal in most states. In one case, a buyer found a 2-meter-long (6.5-foot) PVC bong with a laminated pot leaf taped to the shaft and a beautiful blown glass bong. Also, there were several hand pipes stashed in a box of books in a unit.
While the marijuana accessories were easier to deal with, finding a full meth lab in the back of a unit can cause a considerable level of stress for buyers and local law enforcement. It’s not often that you discover the story behind why the unit was lost. In this case, the person who had been renting the unit was arrested for drug possession, and when he couldn’t pay, we bought the unit. Police were able to use the unit’s contents to add “manufacturing with intent to sell” to his rap sheet.
8 Leather Daddy’s Midlife Crisis
No kink shame. Most folks in small towns are white bread vanilla when it comes to sexual deviance. Even the strip clubs are tame. When a buyer-family found the entire collection of a kinky Leather Daddy’s lifestyle dungeon, the conservative buyers were mortified.
The most entertaining part about this kind of find is the uncomfortable squirm and panic every time the buyers discovered a new photo, toy, or leather flogger. Finding a place to safely dispose of this type of gear can make people very uncomfortable. We’re sure the guys at the landfill had some interesting questions.
7 1965 Ford Mustang—Near Mint Condition—With the Title in the Glove Box
That’s right, buried in boxes of old clothes, books, and random furniture, the buyers of this unit discovered a 1965 Ford Mustang in near-mint condition. The best part, tucked in the glove box, between maintenance receipts and an old pack of cigarettes, the signed title sat in a non-descript envelope.
The family ended up driving the vintage car out of the unit with no more than a couple of gallons of fresh fuel and a jump start. It was a beautiful shade of pearly blue, with a deep red interior. It only had one or two parts that needed to be replaced. That car made people look. It took part in countless parades and car shows during the mid 2000s in that community.
6 Milk Crate of Uncirculated Mint Coins
There’s a stereotype of hoarders collecting random things in cans, and storage unit buyers have seen some doozies. One of the best collections a hobby buyer ever found in a unit was a milk crate full of metal coffee and cookie cans. Inside the coffee can was a collection of uncirculated collectible coins. Among the cans in the crate, there were also tins full to the brim with quarters and dimes, coffee cans and soup cans full of quarters and pennies, and glass milk bottles full of nickles.
The buyer’s family was able to pay for a trip to Reno, NV, to attend a coin and collectible show on the funds made from cashing in the regular coins to the local bank. Mis-stamps and blanks are popular coins to collect for starters, but the best of all is the super rare coins that never went to the public market.
5 Firearms—Lots of Them
It’s not unusual to see firearms on people’s hips, in the racks of their trucks, or even to find family heirloom rifles at estate sales. The one thing that people in the storage unit industry dread is finding a gun or cache of guns that have to all be run through the local police department’s gun registry.
In some cases, it is found that the guns found were used in crimes and need to be relinquished as evidence. In some cases, you’ll be able to get those firearms back after the case has been closed. In other cases, you’ll need to petition for financial compensation for the lost weapon.
By far, the most valuable firearms to find in storage lockers are authentic antique weapons. One family in Oregon found a genuine civil war era Henry Repeating Rifle in a unit. It was later sold to a historical society member who was able to restore it and safely demonstrate the loading and shooting process to bystanders at events.
4 The Entire Inventory of a Dollar General
With storage unit auctions, seeing large stacks of sealed boxes is a gamble. For many, it’s a fun gamble. Like Christmas morning every day until you process through them all. One year in the early 2000s, a family purchased a unit stacked floor to ceiling with uniform and fully sealed cardboard boxes. No exterior markings or any hint of their contents could be found.
When they cracked open the boxes, they found that the unit contained the entire inventory for a Dollar General-type store that failed before they got into a location to set up shop. The town that this unit was purchased in didn’t get a Dollar store for another six or seven years.
3 Terrifying Collections of Cabbage Patch Dolls (and Other Creepy Doll Figures)
Shortly after the 1995 inception of eBay, storage auction attendees started selling their finds on the platform in one of the internet’s first forms of independent e-commerce. In the 2000s, one family found 15 boxes of Cabbage Patch dolls and a half dozen or so of other creepy porcelain dolls.
At that time, used Cabbage Patch Kids in good condition sold for $15-25 each. While a few rare and still sealed dolls could fetch upwards of $75-125 for the right buyer. When this family found the dolls, they were able to jump on the beginning of a great push for vintage dolls and made quite the haul from that creepy storage find.
2 ATVs, Motorcycles, and a Stolen Wave Runner, Oh My!
You always wonder if the reason for the unit being lost is that the person asked someone to take care of the unit while they were gone, for whatever reason, but didn’t tell them what was stored in it.
Some lucky buyers have found Harley Davidson motorcycles, dirtbikes, ATVs, Sand Rails, or dune buggies. One family of buyers was even able to help the local police solve a theft case that had gone cold. The stolen Wave Runner Jet Ski was discovered in a unit filled to the brim with old clothes, trash, and other debris from the previous tenant’s life.
When you sign the storage contract, they specifically ask you to refrain from storing dangerous chemicals and motor vehicles, so it’s surprising how often you’ll find someone’s outdoor toys collecting dust in a unit. 
1 Strange Collections
Stamps, cards, buttons, vintage medical equipment, biology specimens, and taxidermy animals.
Some collections are totally normal, and we’ve found those. Stamps from the collections of philatelists are a prime example of fun collections to look through but not to keep. Another fabulous example is from the units of cartophiles, which sometimes contain huge selections of sports cards and other trading cards. These are fairly typical to find.
It’s the collections of taxidermy animals—the weirder, the better—and the vintage medical equipment that many folks often love to find in units, thrift stores, and estate sales. Most buyers have seen more than a handful of these quirky macabre finds—preserved raccoons, owls, alligators, bobcats, and squirrels. Most of these are sold or donated to culture and history museums for their exhibits about local wildlife.