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Self-Storage and Storage Auctions: A History

When did people first decide to store their belongings? How did we get from there to the booming storage industry we see today? Why do the contents of storage units go up for auction? How is that a part of the history of the self-storage industry.

Here, we take a look at those questions with a history of the self-storage industry and the advent of storage auctions and their currently, mostly digital format.

From the ancients through the aristocracy

Self-storage is an industry that reaches far back into history, with evidence pointing to the Ancient Chinese to be the first civilization to offer storage solutions to its people thousands of years ago. That rendition of the storage industry had people storing items in clay pots that would then be hid underground for access at a later date.

The British revolutionized the storage industry after the Industrial Revolution had made travel more commonplace, especially amongst the wealthy. Banks became self-storage facilities in the United Kingdom, holding the public’s money, but also their personal valuables and other items when people, usually the aristocracy, went away on travel.

The introduction of modern self-storage

It was in the 1850’s when the self-storage industry was transformed again, and this time in a form that resembles today’s storage industry. Brothers Martin and John Bekins built the first storage-specific facilities in the United States. These were built to house the belongings of arriving immigrants until they found a permanent home. 

The first facilities built with reinforced steel appeared in Los Angeles, California, in 1906. And then in 1958, Lauderdale Storage in Florida became the first self-storage business to cater specifically to permanent residents rather than arriving immigrants, and the idea spread quickly.

By the 1980s, the modern self-storage facility could be found around the United Kingdom and the world. And the contents secured inside would now feature more than merely personal belongings: business storage became a popular solution for inventory management, seasonal operations, and numerous other business-related challenges.

Now, storage facilities are equipped with amenities and security made to provide the most convenient and safe experience for tenants and their contents. Business is booming with more than 60,000 self-storage facilities worldwide and industry revenue estimated at around $1.1 billion annually in 2018. Homeowners, renters, businesses, travellers, students, and others all make use of how convenient self-storage is.

The advent of storage auctions

U.S. television series, such as Storage Wars, have revealed an unexpected development within the storage industry. When the contents of storage units are abandoned by their owners (typically by failing to pay the rent for an extended period), the storage facility is able to put the unit up for auction in order to recoup some of their lost revenue, and to empty the unit, making it available for rent again.

From the public’s perspective, as shows like Storage Wars make clear, storage auctions are an opportunity to find ‘diamonds in the ruff;’ valuable items found within a storage unit up for auction. As the storage auction industry has evolved, auctions have moved from the live versions many of us have witnessed on television to being held mostly online, on platforms like iBidOnStorage. With the COVID-19 pandemic effecting the world in 2020 and beyond, the necessity to move storage auctions virtual only became that more significant.

And the advantages to bidders became obvious. Not only is it more convenient to bid from home, and to do so on multiple units from different facilities at the same time, but the online form also levels the playing field, leaving auctions open for multiple days at a time, rather than the restrictive ‘nowness’ of live auctions.

With the popularity of storage auctions only increasing, if you’re thinking of going on your own storage treasure hunt, then take a look at our Guide for Bidding on Online Storage Auctions. And when you’re ready to start searching for that ‘diamond in the ruff,’ then register for free here, and be bidding in mere moments! 

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