Sometimes our dreams can be prophetic, just ask Laura Dotson, who kept seeing cameras at the storage units she and her husband, Dan Dotson, were auctioning off around California. Those dreams and a lot of hard work turned into the popular A&E reality series, Storage Wars.
Now gearing up for the much-anticipated season 13 – following a COVID-19 induced hiatus — these well-respected auctioneers and their colorful cast of bidders return to A&E on Tuesday, November 2.
This season there is a great deal to look forward to, including the return of Barry Weiss, a quirky and colorful bidder, who always has a lot of comical antics and surprise guests in tow.
Returning for Season 13 are Brandi Passante, Darrell Sheets, Rene and Casey Nezhoda, Ivy Calvin, and Kenny Crossley.
Coming back together after two years was like a happy family reunion, explains auctioneers Dan and Laura Dotson. “They got right back into it, with all of the little jabs that start out a little soft and funny and then they get a little bit more serious as time goes by,” Laura exclusively told Monsters & Critics. “They certainly did not forget how to bid.”
Her husband agreed. “It was like we hadn’t missed a step. To be honest with you, it was like when you have a really good friend and you don’t see him for a long time, and once you do see him, you just take off right where you left off. It was great to see everybody getting back together!”
Monsters & Critics: The scores of devoted fans call the show funny, inviting, and unique – do you agree with this assessment?
Dan Dotson: Yes, we sure do. You never know what’s in the box and it’s all part of this modern-day treasure hunt.
Laura Dotson: The characters are bigger than life, so what’s happening, what they found and their stories are always a great deal of fun. Everybody has the urge to tune in each week because you know the next week is going to be continuing on with someone’s life. It’s so exciting because you never know what you’re going to get and as a viewer you can easily put yourself in that situation.
M&C: What were your expectations going back 13 seasons, and are you surprised with how popular the show quickly became?
Dan Dotson: We originally thought that if we could figure out a way to get a pilot and that could get out there, that would be better than just nothing. And then when A&E ordered the first four shows, we were just ecstatic. It’s just been a super blessing for us ever since then.
Laura Dotson: I’m the one who pitched the show to the network after I had seen it come to life in my dreams.
M&C: It was part of your dreams? Wow!
Laura Dotson: About 15 years ago, I’d been having all these dreams where I kept seeing television cameras around us while we are at an auction. And I’m thinking, ‘Who wants to see auction stuff? Or this underground world of stuff which you never know what you’re going to find?’ And it turns out that it’s just this exciting thing that I didn’t even know if anybody was going to be interested in it.
M&C: Please share an early memory of this coming together with my readers?
Laura Dotson: Well, after we pitched it to the network, I was on the telephone at an auction and they were hearing me say, ‘Stay out of the unit! Don’t touch that unit!’ And they go, ‘What’s going on?’ And I’m talking to the executives and they’re like, ‘Tell us what’s happening? We want to follow along at an auction with you.’ So I told the crowd ‘I am on the telephone here, but I am still doing my job.’ And the network folks hear all the back and forth and ask, ‘Is, this what happens all the time? I responded, ‘Oh yeah, it’s like do or die out here.’ They wanted to make sure they’re the ones getting the unit they want. And nobody wants to think that I’m on the phone taking proxy bids or doing anything wrong.
So, I let the crowd know, ‘We’re going to have a reality show someday,’ and I truly believed it was going to happen. I even professed out there, “’I think we’re going to have five million viewers.’ And all of that happened. I believe this is what we were destined to do.
M&C: Talk about having the auction business in your blood.
Dan Dotson: You know, my grandfather and my mom were auctioneers, and I have been doing it since I was a kid. In the early to mid-80s when we started selling these storage units, a lot of my contemporaries were selling cars, horses, or heavy equipment. These were very prestigious-type auctions. So, I just did what I knew, which is to sell storage units. So, I started my own company American Auctioneers in 1983, and we started selling storage units. I didn’t make a lot of money, but I figured if I did enough of them that I could make a living at it. So, that’s kind of where I came from.
M&C: Tell me about the Wild West and Western vibe of the show, even the theme song has that feel to it.
Laura Dotson: When I met Danny, he put on that cowboy hat and cowboy boots and I just thought, ‘Oh, I love this.’ And it’s not just the California guy putting it on, he’s really got roots from that. And what is neat about it is that Danny puts his own spin on it. So, it might not be a traditional cowboy hat; it’s a little more steampunk. But when he put that hat on I said, ‘I love it. What a neat look.’
Dan Dotson: Our family was originally French, and in the 1800’s we used to bring cattle from Arkansas to California. And we’d feed the miners and we registered the first cattle brand in Tulare County, California in 1847. So, the cowboy’s all inside me, not that much outside. So, I come from a long line of cowboys. In 1857 we brought 40 wagons, 28 families, 900 head of horses, and thousands of cattle across the United States.
M&C: How was welcoming Barry back to Storage Wars after eight years?
Laura Dotson: It’s very exciting, I have always been a fan of Barry’s. Danny and I are thrilled that he has returned. We see him socially outside of work, and I have to say that he is exactly what you see on the show.
Dan Dotson: When you understand Barry, you just can’t help but love him. I really like having Barry back. We used to ride bikes together every once and a while, we’ve had some great adventures doing that, but he is not riding his motorcycles anymore. It’s nice to have a breath of fresh air on Storage Wars because he brings something new and exciting.
M&C: How did you initially help pick the buyers for the show?
Dan Dotson: Laura and I used to drive 250 miles each every day to separate auctions. And when we were trying to find the right people for Storage Wars we would come in every day and match notes. And we would put people on a scale of one to 10. If somebody wanted to be on the show and we thought they would be excellent, we’d give them a 10. If somebody wanted to be on the show and we thought they were lousy, we’d give them a one. I didn’t think the importance of character would be as prevalent as it is now, but Laura always knew that it would be a character-driven type show. Personally, I thought it was important just to have the strongest and most seasoned buyers that had the money in their pocket because they knew how to buy and they weren’t afraid.
Laura Dotson: I figured personality is very important. That the viewers would fall in love with these personalities and find themself like a certain character. And give them the opportunity to relate to it and feel, ‘You know what, I’m on the sofa, I’m going to take this $100 and wing it as he did. I’m going to give this a shot.’
They did a great job of getting a sliver of real buyers. Like every buyer that we have kind of represents some kind of a personality trait or a personality of a type of buyer that’s out there. So, I think that people at home will look at stuff and say, ‘I’m like Brandi,’ or ‘Hey, I’m like Darrell.’ or ‘I’m like someone else on the show.’ I don’t know if there’s anybody out there that says, ‘Hey, I’m like Barry,’ because I don’t think there is another one like him out there; he is unique.
M&C: What does your 23-year-old son, Garrett, think about Storage Wars?
Laura Dotson: In the very beginning he was 11 years old and would go, ‘I am so embarrassed with you guys on television and auctioneering.’ But then about a year later he was like, ‘Mom and Dad, would you do an auction for my friends?’ And we never missed an episode, it became a family night where we always watched it together, and we’re very thankful for that.
M&C: If someone is watching the show and wants to go to an auction and maybe bid on a storage unit, what would you tell them to do or not do?
Dan Dotson: I would tell them a couple of things. I would ask them to go register and subscribe to our companies online, StorageAuctions.net and AmericanAuctioneers.com. Then I would say that instead of just rushing right out with your hard-earned money and buying the first thing you see, I would look at several units. I would try to guess what I think they are going to bring and then I would follow those units and see what they ended up bringing in money-wise.
If my guess was pretty close to what they ended up bringing in, I might be ready. If my guess was a lot higher than what it ended up bringing in, I might have just seen something that really wasn’t worth anything that I thought was. If my price comes in and it’s a lot less than it ends up, then I probably missed something. I would say that practice makes perfect in this business. And the more practice you get, the more seasoned you become as a buyer.
M&C: What other advice do you have?
Dan Dotson: Make sure that you’ve got the capability to move everything out of that unit within the time that you are allotted. If you see junky stuff in there, you’re going to have to take it to the dump, you’re going to pay a dump fee, and you’re going to have a gas fee. If you hire any labor, you’re going to have labor fees, and you might have truck fees. So, you might have a lot of fees after you win the storage unit, and so remember to work that into your bid price.
Overall, you want to double or triple your money. If you practice that then eventually that’s the way it should work for you. If not, you’re just speculating and that’s not the best way to do it. Also, don’t panic. There’s always going to be another auction, you don’t have to buy a unit every time that you’re out there. Also, a good buyer will find different ways to make money, different ways to buy and sell stuff, and different ways to find goods. Such as estate sales, auctions, Craigslist, eBay, and thrift stores.
M&C: Is there one or more things that either one of you have gotten at an auction or in your travels that you really liked?
Laura Dotson: Well, mine would be that I met my husband at an auction. So, my biggest reward is Danny and my family. I bid on some restaurant equipment, next thing you know Danny and I are together and inseparable.
Dan Dotson: Back in 1989 I acquired five coins from a $75 unit — 1883-O marks — which we sold for $26,000. They were between two pieces of glass separated by the old electrical metal tape, and a sears catalog cover was all cut out and they were all put in there. They were just a beautiful set of coins. So, at the time we ran an auction house in Southern California that was just on a shoestring budget. I actually bought a unit and I scored, and that kept us in business there for over a decade. So, you really never know what you’re going to find.
M&C: Did you know what they were worth?
Dan Dotson: I had no idea. My mom kept saying, ‘Hey, you’ve got to take those coins and figure out what they’re worth.’ So I took them to one guy and he goes, ‘Hey, those might be worth four grand.’ So I wrapped them in tissue, put them back in my pocket. I took them to another guy and he goes, ‘Hey, these might be worth five grand.’ So between these two guys, I got them to offer six thousand. So, then my mom said if she was playing poker she wouldn’t fold right now. So, she got a hold of David Hall Rare Coins, a PGCS grader, and we sold the coins to them. We made an appointment, went down there, and they said that our coins were worth $25,920.
M&C: Viewers love to hear about the big scores.
Laura Dotson: True, but it’s not always the hidden treasures. Right now we have a high demand for appliances, furniture, and clothing, just because of what’s happening in our world right now. And boy, it seems like we’ve got a lot of it. Then there are the treasures they find in the weirdest places. One guy got this jacket that he could see hanging in there, we call it the haberdashery unit. He goes, ‘I just want the unit just for that gingham print jacket.’ He was hoping it would be his size. Well, sure enough, it was. Next, he reached into the pocket and there was $500 cash, crazy! So it was a win-win and the guy says, ‘Great, I’ll see you tomorrow at the auction. Now, I have more money to spend.’