Treasures in Celebrity Storage Units

Jon Fesmire | Oct 02, 2015 @ 11:51 AM

Just like the rest of us, celebrities often need extra space in their homes, so some store their valuables in self-storage units. In fact, as celebrities have more collectibles than your average self-storage user, they probably need the service more. Though it may seem odd, celebrities sometimes fall behind on their storage bills.

Some big stars have seen their storage units go to auction, often yielding a high financial return for those lucky few who of acquire them.

Celebs Whose Storage Units Went to Auction

The story of Paris Hilton’s unit selling at auction is probably the most infamous on this list. The socialite, famous for being rich and famous, had a past due balance of just $208. In November, 2005, her storage unit sold for $2775, and the buyer broadcasted a live stream of the search through its contents, charging $40 to anyone who wanted to watch the unveiling online.

Hilton's storage unit turned out to be worth the price. The 6000 square-foot locker contained 18 of her personal diaries, chronicling her sexual encounters, photographs of her in various stages of undress, computers, clothes, videos (racy and otherwise), and furniture. A prescription for the herpes medication, Valtrex, also turned up in the unit.

Elliot Mintz, her publicist, told reporters that the sale was illegal and happened because of a "bureaucratic foul-up." However, Hilton never recovered her items. Eventually, the buyer sold the unit's contents for $10 million and in January 2007, the new owner opened the now defunct ParisExposed.com website, charging visitors $39.97 to see her personal videos and much more. Hilton's lawyer, Gregory Korn, sued the site, but though Parisexposed.com is no more and the Internet being what it is, a simple web search will bring up many of Hilton's personal photos and information from the locker, all because someone in her employ neglected to pay the $208 needed to keep the unit.

About seven years later, in January 2013, the Hollywood storage unit belonging to to Tila Tequila sold on auction for $2950. At the time, rumor had it that Tequila was on tour in Canada, though the buyer was unable to confirm this.

When opened, the locker was professionally packed, which indicated that professional movers had brought everything to the unit and that it was likely to contain some real valuables. The 10 x 20 unit did not disappoint. The items inside included a little black book with a certain list of 69 male and female names, magazines Tequila appeared in, a variety of paintings and other artwork with her as the subject, and a handful of printed selfies. It also contained pictures and memorabilia from her engagement to Johnson & Johnson heiress Casey Johnson, who sadly passed away shortly after they had announced their upcoming nuptials. The buyer did not put the contents for sale on eBay, and speculation is that he or she is waiting for the right opportunity to sell the collection.

In January 2010 a storage unit went up for sale that belonged to Joseph Jackson, the father of Michael Jackson. The buyer, Howard Mann of Toronto, Canada, had no idea what was in the unit or who had owned it previously. Exploring his new acquisition, he discovered 273 unreleased Michael Jackson tracks. It included Jackson 5 tunes, songs that Michael Jackson recorded solo, and several duets, including one or more with Tina Turner. Due to copyright issues, the tracks have yet to be released. However, all were made during times that Jackson was not under contract with any particular record company. Dispute continues over who owns the rights to the music.

From the King of Pop to the Queen of Pop, we move on from Michael Jackson to Madonna. The material girl’s self-storage unit went up for auction in May 2010. In this case the buyer had no idea what he was getting and purchased it for $150. He quickly put the items up for sale on eBay. Now, my Internet research revealed two conflicting accounts of what happened.

It turned out the Madonna herself did not own the storage unit. Rather, her first assistant, Melissa Crew, had rented it and fell behind on payments. One account says that the buyer was able to sell the items for $150,000. Another account holds the Madonna's lawyers contacted eBay, stopped the auctions, and Madonna was able to get her items back.

Back in 2007, a New Jersey storage unit belonging to Whitney Houston was sold at auction. The rent had not been paid for two years. It is extremely unusual for a unit’s rent to go unpaid for so long. The storage space was full of Houston treasures, including dresses and bustiers designed by Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, and Versace. It also included a custom-made grand piano, valued at about $300,000. Incidentally, the same financial troubles that prevented Houston from paying for her storage fees continued. In January 2010. She auctioned off much of her unneeded tour equipment, including a see-through piano, valued at $121,000. It sold for $20,000.

Aretha Franklin ran into difficulties in 2002 when a fire destroyed her 12 bedroom Michigan home. (The tragedy was later ruled an arson.) After this, she put many of her possessions in self-storage for their safety. In 2011, after she had abandoned the unit by not paying the past due amount, it went up for auction. The collection turned out to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and included a huge wardrobe of dresses, shoes, and clothing accessories, including an outfit she wore in The Blues Brothers. Franklin had no problem with her unit going to auction, and said they were all items she no longer wanted, but she was curious to see what was in it. The buyer put the items up for auction in November 2011.

From the famous to the infamous, we come to Michael Vick, The football player who went to prison for running illegal dogfights. In September 2008, while Vick was in prison, a self-storage unit that may or may not have belonged to him, but that did contain a number of his possessions, sold for $10. Clearly the bidders didn't know what they were bidding on. It included presents Vick had given to his firstborn son, Mitez. These included a signed football, signed pictures of Vick and Mitez, clothes, a Falcons sippy cup, and signed books to Mitez from members of the family.

The storage unit formerly belonging to Burt Reynolds might be the most interesting on this list. It contained a number of odd treasures from his films and more. This included a full-sized horse carriage crafted by singer Dolly Parton, a bill of sale for Roy Rogers’s horse, Trigger, a canoe from the 1972 film deliverance, a Smokey and the Bandit toy car, a chair made out of hockey sticks from the movie Mystery, Alaska, and a framed letter he had received from his doctor documenting his 1955 emergencies spleen surgery.

In 2004, with Reynolds himself, the buyer opened the Burt Reynolds and Friends Museum in Jupiter, Florida, which contains items from the self-storage unit and much more. The museum also held acting classes, many of which Reynolds taught. In 2012 the museum closed and the building was demolished to make room for a shopping mall. Reynolds had intended to reopen the museum elsewhere, but ended up selling off many of his possessions in late 2014.

You could call Lindsay Lohan an honorary member of this list, since her storage unit nearly went to auction. She owed $16,000 in back rent. In December 2012 an announcement went out to many news sites that Lindsay Lohan's self-storage unit was due for auction soon. However, as that auction never happened, most assumed she was able to pay her past-due balance. This happened during a difficult time for Lohan when her probation had been revoked. Perhaps she was able to pay the bill because Charlie Sheen helped helped her by giving her $100,000.

Celebrities Whose Possessions Were Found in Other People's Storage Units

In 1997, Nicholas Cage bought a copy of what is perhaps the most sought after comic book, Action Comics #1. For those who don't know, Action Comics is a long-running and popular Superman title. Cage, a huge Superman fan, purchased the comic book for $150,000. In 2000, someone stole the comic book from him. Later, it turned up in an auctioned-off storage unit and the buyer rightly returned it to Cage. At the time Cage was reunited with his prized possession, its value had gone up to about $2.2 million.

In early 2014 a self-storage auction winner discovered two Michael Jordan recruitment letters among his newly acquired take. It turned out that the locker had previously belonged to a restaurant called Michael Jordan 23. The current owner of the letters claims they could be worth up to $250,000 each.

Another unit sold around the same time as the Michael Jordan 23 locker contained memorabilia from a different basketball star, Dikembe Mutombo. This unit sold for $300 in December 2013 in Maryland. It contained signed basketballs, jerseys, trading cards, shoes, and photographs.

Before you think that only the possessions of modern celebrities have been discovered in self-storage facilities, take these two cases.

Diane Brown of Tracy, California discovered some striking Amelia Earhart memorabilia in her own self-storage unit. This included 18 Amelia Ehrhardt publicity photos from 1937. The Antiques Roadshow appraise these photographs for her and said they were worth $1000 or more each.

In 2012, a series of papers by Malcolm X turned up in a unit at Manhattan Mini Storage. These original writings are valued at between $300,000 and $500,000.

Buying storage units on auction is a lot like playing the lottery. Or, as Forrest Gump would say, like a box of chocolates. "You never know what you're gonna get." You might discover you just bought the unit belonging to a celebrity, its contents worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, you might make a slight profit, or you might even lose money. History shows that those able to purchase self-storage units that they know were owned by celebrities usually end up happy they did.

Whatever you do, when you are renting a self-storage unit, do not fall behind on your rent. Auctioning the contents of unpaid units is how many self-storage facilities recoup some of the lost revenue, and your treasures and memories could get sold off to the highest bidder, whether you're a celebrity or not.