You Won’t Believe What Was Found In This Safe – HistoryInOrbit.com

You Won’t Believe What Was Found In This Safe

November 30, 2018 | Ryan


Imagine finding a mysterious safe in an old storage locker. Think about all the possibilities of what could be inside. Now picture your life changing the moment it opens. As crazy as this sounds, it has actually happened to people in real life. One of those people’s stories was just shared with the world…

Twitter – @Newsweek

Recently, at the Cars, Stars and Rock ‘N’ Roll event in California, a woman approached Storage Wars star Dan Dotson, who was there as an auctioneer, which is also what he does on the hit A&E television show. She told Dan about something amazing, and how he was not just connected, but also pretty much responsible…

The woman, who asked to remain anonymous along with everyone else involded, said that her husband works for a man who bought a storage unit from Dan for around $500. There’s nothing remarkable about this, as Dan has auctioned off countless lockers on and off the show for years. But what happened next is what every hopeful buyer wishes for when they start going through their new possessions…

Storage Wars

Dan Dotson is one of the recurring personalities on A&E’s Storage Wars. On the show, professional buyers purchase old storage lockers from auctioneers. In California, when rent isn’t paid on a storage locker for three months, the contents can be sold by an auctioneer in the form of a cash-only auction.

AETV

Before each locker is auctioned, the buyers are given five minutes to inspect the contents from the doorway, but may not enter the locker or touch any of the items. After the day’s auctions are completed, the winning bidders sort through the lockers, estimating the prices they will set on the contents as well as consulting with experts for an appraisal of unusual items.

Running totals on-screen display the cost versus estimated total value, and a final tally at the end of the episode summarizes the buyers’ net profit or loss. Storage Wars has become incredibly popular and showcased some amazing moments and finds, with many of which Dan has been involved. But this story isn’t one the viewers saw unfold on TV, and is much crazier than anything that’s ever happened on the show…

Dan and Laura Dotson

Before Storage Wars made Dan Dotson and his wife and partner Laura Dotson famous, they ran, and continue to run, American Auctioneers, a full service auction company in Riverside, California. Dan has been in the auctioneering business since the 1970s. Sam Fancher, Dan’s grandfather, was a farm auctioneer in northwest Arkansas’ Ozark Mountains region.

Twitter – @auctionguydan

And his history with auctioneering goes back further than that. Dan’s grandfather was apprenticed as an auctioneer by Detmen Mitchell in 1945. When Dan was just 11, Fancher then taught him how to auctioneer and hired him for the next four summers. By 16, Dan was skipping school to go to auctions and sell furniture.

In 1983, Dan started American Auctioneers and ran an auction house in Riverside. He met Laura in 1996 and she would soon become his wife and business partner. Together they’ve been selling a variety of items, from storage units and estates to business inventories and equipment, to thousands of buyers, many of whom have discovered all kinds of valuable and priceless finds. But not many are as remarkable as what was in the safe…

American Auctioneers

While their work on Storage Wars has forever associated them with the auctioning of storage lockers, Dan and Laura have sold just about everything. And they don’t only sell storage units on television. The show has featured all kinds of results, with some buyers losing money and others coming out on top. But it’s probably better for everyone involved in the story with the safe that it wasn’t caught on camera.

Twitter – @ladbible

This is a tricky business. Despite the law saying the contents of these sold storage units now belong to the buyer, some of the discoveries are so personal it puts people in a tough spot. There are so many reasons someone would stop paying rent on a unit, from money problems to injury and even death.

Just because, legally, the buyers now possess the items, does this make it right? If a found item is technically worthless but clearly of sentimental value to the original owner, buyers have a much easier time deciding to try to get it back to them. This isn’t such a simple situation if the item is as valuable as what was in the safe…

What’s Behind The Door?

Not many people have experience buying old storage units, but it’s easy to imagine how exciting it must be every time one of them is opened. Gambling is popular for a reason, but this type of risk has so much more going on than just a simple wager on a sporting event…

Facebook – @DanAndLauraDotson

One could argue that storage unit buyers are modern day treasure hunters. Even though these finds aren’t waiting at the bottom of the ocean or buried deep underground, there’s similar anticipation digging through the rough of old found items to get to the diamonds. Not all storage units hold treasure, in fact, few will have more than just enough for buyers to get their money back.

Every once in a while, buyers will hit it big. The man who bought the unit containing the safe from Dan Dotson had probably purchased plenty of lockers before, and only he knows exactly how much he’d made, or lost, before finding the safe. But regardless of any losses he’d taken previously, the safe’s contents are worth more than he could’ve ever imagined…

Boxes and Boxes and Boxes

As previously stated, buyers have five minutes to inspect the contents of the lockers prior to the auction. They can’t enter the locker, and instead must stand outside and hope they can get a good enough idea of what’s inside to know how much to bid. Regardless of entry or vantage point, the overwhelming majority of visible contents are boxes…

Facebook – @DanAndLauraDotson

This is where the gamble comes in. Many professional buyers have developed methods on how to somewhat evaluate what little they’re able to see inside, but for the most part, it’s all up to chance. After the lockers are inspected and auctioned, the content are removed for unboxing and evaluation.

While the unit prices start out rather low, they can get up into the thousands. Most fall somewhere in between, like the locker Dan auctioned to the anonymous man who found the mysterious safe. The safe itself wasn’t worth too much, and believe it not, a lot of found safes don’t hold any expensive items, but rather personal stuff that the new buyers have no use for. That wasn’t the case with this safe…

The Show’s Success and Their Newfound Fame

Dan and Laura Dotson began appearing on A&E’s Storage Wars in December 2010. Ordinarily, Dan acts as the auctioneer and Laura as the ringwoman, but these roles are occasionally reversed, often at Laura’s request. The couple’s teamwork plays a large role in their popularity.

Twitter – @royalsealentllc

Dan’s auction chant on the show utilizes slurred multi-syllabic filler rattled out very quickly, while Laura’s auction chant uses more distinct filler words and therefore sounds slower than her husband’s. Both have been responsible for some of the biggest sales and reveals on the show, and their careers off screen have featured just as many magical moments.

Beyond decades of professional auctioneering with their company American Auctioneers, Dan’s role on Storage Wars has led to him being featured in several news articles including The Washington Post, USA Today, and TMZ. In 2015 Examiner.com reported that “Thom Beers came up with the idea for Storage Wars, but said that Dan and Laura Dotson inspired it.” This exposure has helped spread the story about the safe, which he heard about while working an industry event, something he does often…

Meeting The Fans and Hearing Their Stories

As not only a qualified professional auctioneer, but also a famous one, Dan is asked to travel all over the country to work events that feature every kind of item and product imaginable. An auction is a process of buying and selling goods or services by offering them up for bid, taking bids, and then selling the item to the highest bidder.

Facebook – @DanAndLauraDotson

Auctions have been around since 500 B.C. and remain a common practice today, with many expanding to online and digital platforms. Storage Wars features a more traditional approach, and Dan and Laura’s work with American Auctioneers also keeps it pretty simple, but this doesn’t mean these auctions aren’t producing shocking discoveries.

Now that Dan has fans and numerous clients, his appearances around country expose him to fantastic stories from the world of gambling on mystery auctions. Many people reach out to tell him about their awesome experiences that have nothing to do with him, but every once in while, he’ll hear about one of his old exchanges that changed the buyers’ lives forever. The tale of the safe is one of those stories…

Cars, Stars and Rock ‘N’ Roll

Out of all the events Dan has worked and all the stories he’s heard, none can touch the one he came across recently at Indio, California’s Cars, Stars and Rock ‘N’ Roll event in early November 2018. It’s described as a classic car auction that offers “The Electric Garage Car Auction Experience.”

Facebook – @DanAndLauraDotson

A lot of the stories Dan hears at these events are firsthand accounts told by the people who experienced them directly. A portion of these could be fabricated for attention, but when the individuals ask to remain anonymous, that’s a good sign that every word is true. With this story in particular, not only is the person avoiding attention, but simply relaying someone else’s story, making it even more believable, as unbelievable as it sounds.

One afternoon during the event’s four day run, after interacting with a variety of people, Dan was approached by a woman who wanted to tell him about a storage unit auction he was involved with off the show. She said that Dan had sold a default unit to her husband’s boss, and that the locker in question contained a safe…

The Old Safe

This wasn’t the first time someone came across an old safe. A couple in Staten Island, New York recently found this safe hidden in their backyard. When it was opened, the couple saw an incredible $52,000 in cash that was wet, as well as jewelry, diamonds, dozens of rings, including engagement rings, and gold with jade stashed in plastic bags.

Twitter – @CNN

But then they saw something else. Beyond all of the amazing valuables, the most curious piece found was an address, that belongs to one of their neighbors, written on a piece of paper. This led to an even more amazing discovery. After speaking to the neighbors, who said they had been robbed years ago, the cops were called.

The New York Police Department confirmed that the day after Christmas 2011, a burglary happened at that exact address where the robbers took just a safe containing $52,000 in cash and valuables. The owners were thrilled to get back what they were convinced they’d never see again. As crazy as it would be to find over $52,000 worth of items in an old safe, it doesn’t come close to the one Dan sold…

Someone Call A Locksmith

The woman at the car auction told Dan that her husband’s boss had purchased a storage locker from him for $500. As exciting as it sounds to find a safe, they’re not exactly easy to open. And it must be tough explaining to a locksmith that you need them to open a safe.

Twitter – @LocksmithUnited

At face value, there’s no difference between a buyer and a thief asking a locksmith to open a stolen safe. Thankfully the buyers are given all the paperwork needed to prove ownership of these new items. But even with a valid request to a locksmith, Dan says the majority of the time found safes actually end up being empty. The buyer knew this going in, but…

There’s always chance you struck gold, and part of the fun of storage auctions is trusting your instincts against all odds. As the locksmith worked on the safe, the buyer sat and imagined all the different things that could be inside. With nothing else to show for the rather expensive unit, the buyer needed there to be something of worth locked away…

A Dead End

But the first locksmith couldn’t get in. After all the anticipation and build up, it was pretty disappointing to come to a dead end. This was as frustrating as it was exciting, because there must be a reason a professional locksmith couldn’t open the safe…

Twitter – @FastEddyMn

Like any service, locksmiths are available at different levels. They may be commercial, mobile, institutional or investigational. Many specialize in one aspect of the skill, such as an automotive lock specialist, a master key system specialist or a safe technician, which is what was needed here. But there safe buyer needed someone really on top of their game.

Many are also security consultants, but not every security consultant has the skills and knowledge of a locksmith. Locksmiths are frequently certified in specific skill areas or to a level of skill within the trade. This is separate from certificates of completion of training courses. In determining skill levels, certifications from manufacturers or locksmith associations are usually more valid criteria than certificates of completion. Some locksmiths decide to call themselves “Master Locksmiths” whether they are fully trained or not, and some training certificates appear quite authoritative.

The Tools and Trade of a Master Locksmith

After the first locksmith failed, the buyer knew he needed someone much better, closer to the master locksmith level. A second locksmith was called and they came in with an entirely new and advanced set of skills and tools. While the first locksmith employed a more traditional approach with simple equipment…

Twitter – @Squelchtone

The second locksmith had to pull out all the stops, because whatever was in the safe was hidden there so securely for a reason. And no one wanted to know what it was more than the buyer. A locksmith isn’t cheap, especially two, with one being of a much higher quality. After spending hundreds of dollars on the all but worthless locker, as well as a couple locksmiths, the buyer was really desperate to see and claim what was hiding inside…

Professional locksmiths need a wide variety of tools and accessories to stock their toolboxes and make jobs easier. They use tools like plug spinners, key decoders, lock and safe scopes, plug followers, pinning blocks, locksmith tweezers, turning tools and more. Finally, the second locksmith was able to do what needed to be done…

Open Sesame!

Between arriving at the auction and finally opening the safe, the process of buying default lockers is a series of ups and downs that, even if the buyers don’t come out on top, is often worth it just for the rush. From peering into a crowded storage unit looking for anything that indicates value, to committing to the sale and starting to unbox the items…

Twitter – @Squelchtone

Every moment is filled with endless possibilities. There could be an expensive watch hidden in a dusty old suitcase, or vintage trading cards in a ripped box that would sell for thousands. What appears to be a broken dresser could hold classic works of art or priceless antiques. Most of the time, the treasure is more symbolic…

Some locker buyers probably enjoy going through people’s belongings, trying to figure out who the owners were and what was important to them. But, of course, at the end of the day, it’s all about the potential profit. At the very least, buyers hope to break even and enjoy the experience, but there’s nothing like what happened to the buyer of the safe…

Stacks of Cash

It was almost too good to be true. As amazing as it would be to find any of the previously listed items, there’s nothing more desired than cold hard cash. The aforementioned safe find from Staten Island produced tens of thousands of dollars and was national news. The idea that that much could be lost just waiting to be found truly captures everyone’s imagination…

Facebook – @DanAndLauraDotson

But not even the biggest dreamers would think of finding this much money, especially considering that the safe buyer legally acquired it for $500 and a couple locksmith fees. After all the excitement and a couple dead ends, the second locksmith finally opened the safe, revealing stacks and stacks of cash…

It’s hard to process seeing this much money in real life. As many times as you’ve seen this sort of thing in movies or on television, there’s nothing like seeing it firsthand, especially knowing it’s yours. The new owner tried to figure out how much it was before counting it: $100,000? $500,000? A million or more? He’d have to count it to find out…

Exactly How Much Did They Find?

The buyer emptied the safe, spread the money and began to count. As he worked through each stack, with the amount getting higher and higher, he began to think of all the things he could do with it. He knew pretty quickly that he had at least tens of thousands of dollars. Then he kept counting…

Facebook – @DanAndLauraDotson

Tens of thousands turned into hundreds of thousands, and there was still a lot to count. He’d initially imagined smaller purchases and financial assistance, but now it was looking like this money could completely change his life. The situation got really crazy when he counted up to a million dollars, with plenty more stacks to go…

Once he’d counted a million, he could see that he had much more. The million dollar stack was just a portion of the cash, and what started as difficulty opening a potentially worthless safe had turned into a remarkably unbelievable find. Of all the storage units he’d purchased, he finally found one that held $7.5 million, the final number after all the cash was counted. But then the unexpected happened…

The Call That Changed Everything

The buyer didn’t have much time to process the fact that he’d just legally acquired $7.5 million, fulfilling the dreams of every single person who’d ever attended a storage locker auction, before the entire trajectory shifted. He’d essentially won the lottery, and there was as much anxiety as there was excitement. But everything was about to change…

FIVEaa

The buyer was almost immediately contacted by an attorney representing the original owners of the unit. This is anyone’s worst case scenario. While the process of buying default storage units is totally legit, that won’t stop people from trying to get their stuff back. Especially people who keep $7.5 million in a safe hidden away in a locker than isn’t being paid for.

The attorney said the original owners were offering a $600,000 reward for the return of the cash. But the buyer declined, knowing that he had a legal right to the money. Because the parties have remained anonymous, we can only speculate on exactly what was said between the two during those phone calls. While the initial offer was declined, this was far from over…

A Difficult Decision

It’s impossible not to consider that the parties are remaining anonymous because of where the money came from. Very few people have millions of dollars in cash hidden in a safe, and fewer of those people acquired the money legally. Surely the original owners didn’t disclose too much information to the buyer, but…

Chelorg

They said enough for him to consider working out some kind of deal that would mean he’d give back a portion of the cash. Again, the money was his, he could have easily said no to any offer and kept every single penny, but whatever happened over the phone caused him to change his mind.

Unfortunately, we don’t have access to the transcripts, or even a general idea of what was said, but considering the buyer was now willing to give back millions of dollars, it hard not to rule out the possibility of threat. On the other end of the spectrum, maybe there was a more emotional appeal. Either way, the buyer ended up doubling the initial offer of $600,000 to a counter offer of $1.2 million. What would the original owner do now?

Reaching An Agreement, But At What Cost?

The original owner decided to accept the counter offer, allowing the buyer to keep over a million dollars in return for $6.3 million, which isn’t bad considering the buyer could’ve kept all of it. From the possibility of losing over $500 on a potentially worthless safe to the unbelievable discovery of $7.5 million, he ended somewhere in the middle.

Facebook – @DanAndLauraDotson

Following the phone calls and negotiations, the buyer had to now prepare millions of dollars for transport and delivery. Few people know what being in possession of that much cash feels like. Most people are generally aware of their own vulnerability, in terms of being robbed, but no one feels this more than someone with that much to lose.

The days and nights counting, negotiating and returning the money were filled with about every possible feeling and emotion. Saying goodbye to millions of dollars would be tough, but at least they knew they were doing the right thing, while also being able to become millionaires in the process. Hopefully one day we’ll know more details about this incredible situation, but ultimately that’s up to the parties involved, and/or Dan Dotson…

What Would You Do?

Again, Dan honored the woman’s wishes to keep everyone anonymous. He’s even refused to say when or where the unit was purchased. Now that the story is going viral, it’s definitely possible that someone will investigate and learn more about this crazy find.

Facebook – @DanAndLauraDotson

In the meantime, this series of events certainly reveals a lot about the human condition. From people’s desire to risk it all on gambles like buying default storage units to whatever happens in someone’s life that leads to $7.5 million being hidden in an old safe, this shows that even in the craziest situations good can ultimately prevail.

Dan and Laura have reached out to all their fans to see what they would do if they were on either end of the story. And now that this is spreading all over the internet, everyone can wonder how they would handle it. While keeping all the money would make you richer, could you live with yourself? On the flip side, how far would you go to get your millions of dollars back? Honestly, what would you do if you were in their shoes?

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About the Author:
Ryan is a rabid consumer of content, from movies and television to podcasts and news. He lives in a hole underground with nothing but a computer and a strong internet connection. Ryan spends all of his waking moments online searching for the most interesting stories to share with the rest of the world.