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Once the Milford auction started, bidders dressed in camouflage parkas or leather jackets lined up to file past the 10 by 15 foot units up for sale. Most got a short, visual sweep before putting hundreds of dollars down on things of questionable value.

"There's a crowd up here that does it right now, so once you get to know all the faces, you know who you're bidding against," Holt said. "What starts happening is if you beat a guy at one auction, they're out to get you at the next auction."

Nationwide, storage auctions have served as money makers for years, including at local places such as Extra Space Storage in Nashua and Milford Mini Storage. Recently, under the lights of reality TV though, the business is becoming a fad.

The show that sparked Holt's business plan has generated millions of new fans of the storage auction lifestyle, in which hordes of professional and amateur bidders gather at storage facilities around the country to compete for shed sized rental lockers left unpaid by owners.

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Paul Maglio, president of Storage Auction Solutions and the Milford auctioneer that day, kept the crowd shuffling through so no bidder could stop longer than 10 seconds to look inside a unit.

"We bought a $10 unit that has turned into $6,000," Holt said. "There were things that you wouldn't think were valuable, old VHS tapes. There were 3,000."

Some bidders come armed with flashlights to look deep into darkened lockers. Others bring U Hauls to tow things away in case they win.

"It's fun for us," Holt said of the auctions. "It's more of a hobby than anything else, but Prada Cahier Leather Bag

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Now, about six months later, Holt is coming out of retirement to build a new business selling his auction winnings called Back For More, which will open at 212A South St. in Milford this month.

Last summer, motivated by the popular A show "Storage Wars," Holt, of Milford, along with his daughter Lisa Olson, embarked on their first storage unit auction.

Trash picking and treasure hunting

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"You're always looking for the elusive pot of gold that's never there," Bob Phelps, of Concord, explained. "Bear the 80/10/10 rule. 80 percent of it's junk, 10 percent of it might have value, and 10 percent of it might have value to the right person."

Ed Holt is making reality TV his reality.

Depending on lien laws, Maglio said storage facilities wait a number of months before claiming an unpaid unit. Sometimes renters who can't make payments turn their property over to the facility on their own, Maglio said.

"You usually have to put a deposit on the unit that's refundable so that it's cleaned out within 24 hours," Holt said. "The other option you have is to rent the unit for an extra month, which adds on to the cost of the unit. You can lose money real quick if you're not careful."

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it's turning into a nice income."

"This isn't for the faint of heart," Maglio explained, detailing the process.

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"It was quite a learning curve in the beginning," Holt said. "You have to be able to look at what you see right up front, make a calculated guess as to what it's worth, and you shouldn't bid more than what you see. If you're right, you at least get your money back."

Some say they attend the auctions simply as antique Prada Eyeglasses Mens Frames

Once a storage facility claims ownership of a foreclosed unit, it puts the unit's contents up for public auction. The catch is attendees only get a quick glance inside the unit before it's put up for bid. The potential financial reward, or loss, is a crap shoot based on estimating what's inside.

On the flip side, there's plenty of room to lose, too.

collectors. Some make online income by re selling prizes on eBay and Craigslist, while others turn the bidding habit into an independent business.

"First you've got to win the bid then you've got to mobilize labor to clean the unit out and bring it back to your shop and process it," David Champion, of Swanzey, explained, while attending the Milford storage auction. "It's time consuming. There's labor involved. There's more money involved than just the purchase of the unit. You're looking at another $200 400 in labor and fuel expenses depending on where the location is."

Local storage auctions offer bidders the thrill of the treasure hunt

Generally units must be cleaned out within 24 hours of winning, Holt said. Some are stuffed to the brim with furniture. Others are packed floor to ceiling with bags, bins and boxes. Some contain couches or pianos. Everything needs to be emptied out, documented and hauled away.

in January. "It's just a thrill of the kill. You can score a real good unit, make a pile of money and double, triple, or quadruple your money but you can also lose everything."

The majority of the crowd at a recent auction at Milford Mini Storage seemed used to the storage auction trade. Many acted as if they were old friends, and at times, like old enemies.

"It's always a gamble," said Kevin Lacasse, of Gilford, after attending Milford Prada Bag Green Mini Storage's auction Prada Handbag Photos

"(Storage facilities) go to the wall to try to get people to pay," Maglio said. "They rent space and they can't do anything with the space if nobody's paying for it. My job is to sell the units, have a commercially reasonable sale. The facility can only keep what is owed in the expenses."

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Before he started firing off his auction chant "Five and a quarter now, five and a half and go? You in or out? Is that a yes? Fair warning SOLD!" bidders stopped to tap him on the shoulder and to whisper their bid intentions up front.

The people who bid have arguably the largest task in the process.

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