Storage Wars Bio: Dan Dotson

Storage War’s Dan Dotson has been steeped in auctions his entire life, starting out at the tender age of 11 when his grandfather, an auctioneer of cattle and farm equipment, began showing Dan the ropes. Since then, auctions have been a constant fascination for Dotson, who would spend summers working for his grandfather.

From then on, Dan has never strayed far from the auction scene, becoming known as a self storage auctioneer as well as an auctioneer of collectibles, antiques, furniture and estates. In 1983, he began American Auctioneers, which would first put him on the map as a top auctioneer.

Dan’s a prolific work-a-holic and is famous for  usually running about 2 auctions per day for up to 6 days per week, and up to 1,500 in a good year. His American Auctioneers is responsible for handling everything from business close-out sales, to foreclosure auctions to sales for charity. His prodigious work ethic has certainly paid off for him now. It’s estimated that Dan Dotson is worth 3 and a half million dollars all told.

dan dotson and his wife laura on the scene of a storage saleIn 1996, after American Auctioneers had been established as a success, Dan met his wife Laura.

Laura was not only the apple of his eye but also a shrewd business woman, so the two collaborated on several auction based projects and their teamwork continues today, since they co-host Storage Wars and conduct their cadre of zany and eccentric storage pickers around the country looking for hot storage units and big scores.

Dan has the essential rapid fire patter you’d expect from a seasoned professional auctioneer. On Storage Wars, he calls out units very quickly and maintains order once the bickering starts following a tight bidding war. Check out this video to see Dan and his wife Laura in action on an estate sale, and to get an experience of Dan’s famous “heirloom chant” auctioneer calling.


Storage Auction Tips From Dan Dotson

Dan has built up a great deal of storage auction wisdom over his decades of selling units. One of the best storage auction tips Dan gave behind the scenes of Storage Wars regards “smelling out” units.

Of course, you can’t smell a storage unit when you’re watching it being sold on TV, but you can when you’re in person the scent, or stench, a unit gives off can be the greatest clue to its potential.

For example, musty newspapers have a very distinct odor, and the mustier they are, the older they likely are. Dave Hester took a big whiff of a unit on Storage Wars and it smelled like a winner, so he bought it and found collectible newspapers featuring Elvis on the front page.

Dotson also mentions that gasoline is another very distinct smell that can give you clues as to whether or not you’re likely to find valuable lawn care equipment in a given storage unit.


Storage Wars Bio: Dave Hester the Mogul

Dave Hester “The Mogul” cuts an imposing figure on the set of Storage Wars, with his squat frame, steely glare and trademark, “YUUUUUUUUUP” bidding calls. Owner and manager of the Rags to Riches consignment store, Dave heads the largest retail operation of all the Storage Wars crew. In terms of hustle and drive, Dave might be the most possessed of all the buyers. He is responsible for 15 employees’ paychecks, so he needs to turn a profit on his unit purchases if he wants to stay afloat.

Dave got into storage auction buying in a somewhat roundabout way. After being convicted of a DUI and sentenced to community service at a consignment shop, he realized the business model made sense and that he could use the ample repossessed storage sales happening in California in order to feed his own shop with inventory. Today, his shop is located in Costa Mesa.

By the way, Dave’s shop, being run on consignment, is a bit different from your traditional thrift store in that people will often show up with goods they need sold. They’ll pass this work on to Dave and his crew who will take a cut of the final sale price for their trouble.

To this end, Dave relies on Storage Wars to boost his profile and thereby draw in more interested consignment customers that want to see the star in real life. To this end, Dave is not above drumming up attention for himself by acting outlandishly at times.

dave hester smiling at a meetingOn the show, Dave is willing to employ any tactic necessary to get the units he wants. Although Barry is often eccentric and loopy, Dave can be downright aggressive, obnoxious or worse. By way of intimidation, he will intentionally keep bidding on a unit he knows another picker really wants.

Once he’s jacked the final price up to where it’s really going to hurt the other buyer, he’ll leave it be and let the other cast member eat the high price tag. Essentially Dave has just jacked up the cost of a unit he wasn’t even interested in order to eat into his competition’s profits. Perhaps he’s hoping the other buyers will turn tail and quit since they’re not clearing enough money on their purchases. Maybe he’s simply in a bad mood.

Although he can sometimes become emotional on the set of Storage Wars, especially if he ends up overpaying for a junky unit, Hester usually keeps things business like and efficient. He wants to feed his thrift store with goods and keep his business running smoothly, but that doesn’t mean he’s immune to some of the showmanship that has turned Storage Wars into such a phenomenon.

For example, in one episode Dave rolls up to the storage facility in a custom screen printed truck with Dave Hester Auctions and YUUUUUUUUUP printed all over it just to flex his financial muscle.

At times he’ll offer unsolicited advice to “young guns” Jarrod and Brandi, saying that Jarrod needs to spend some time reading through trade show magazines and catalogs to “get his knowledge up” regarding item types and their values.

Storage Wars Bio: Brandi Passante

When Jarrod Schulz shows up to an auction to lay down some cash, Brandi is always there to ensure he’s making good decisions. Helping to run their joint thrift store, Brandi is primarily concerned with minimizing risks on big auction units and making sure that Jarrod doesn’t spend them both to the poor house.

Brandi’s birthday is May 16 and she is thought to be in her mid 30’s. Brandi and Jarrod have two children together and they started a thrift store that they feed with their auction purchases after they began to run out of room in their home to store treasures.

Brandi is sometimes criticized by viewers for being overbearing and keeping Jarrod on a short leash, but she is only trying to make sure that their fledgling business succeeds. It’s unclear whether this dynamic is rooted in reality or intentionally played up for the show to give the characters more depth.

Although Brandi and Jarrod have reportedly been together for 12 years and have children together, they are not actually married. Nevertheless, they have an interesting on-screen relationship and seem to balance one another out well.

Brandi Passante posing for Storage WarsIn being labeled the “Young Guns” of the storage auction buying crew, Storage Wars is indicating that Brandi and Jarrod have the least financial capital of any of the other central buyers.

There are many costs associated with opening and running your own auction-supplied thrift store, which explains some of Brandi’s trepidation regarding Jarrod’s purchases. She keeps close watch on every transaction to make sure they won’t be bankrupted.

Most of the time you could describe Brandi’s demeanor as skeptical and cautious. She tries to tamp down Jarrod’s excitement when it comes to buying units because he can sometimes let his enthusiasm for the unit outpace his self-control and wind up taking a loss.

Case in point, the episode where Jarrod spends $1,700 on a unit because it’s full of vintage toys that are still in their original boxes.

Unfortunately, the toys themselves only end up being worth $300. Brandi is always trying to buy in reference to their thrift store and looking for items she knows they can turn a profit on, such as still boxed electronics.

On the flipside, sometimes Brandi is an overly reserved bidder and can miss out on bigger opportunities because or her lower tolerance for risk. In this way, Brandi and Jarrod balance each other out pretty well. It’s also worth noting that Jarrod doesn’t always take Brandi’s advice, to his own detriment!


Brandi and Jarrod have both expressed the fact that their appearance on Storage Wars has given a slight boost to their thrift store, called “Now and Then” and located in Orange county, California. However, it hasn’t yet blown their sales profits through the roof.

This is alright with Brandi, who says she’s more interested in slow, steady and sustainable growth over time so they can support their family.

Their thrift store is roughly 3,000 square feet and if you visit it when you’re in the area you’ll find all kinds of things for sale, ranging from furniture to electronics with everything in between. Since Brandi and Jarrod both work at the store, they’ve noted that many people come by just to see them and get a chance to talk with Storage War stars.

You can connect with Brandi Passante on Facebook or via twitter.

And yes, for all those of you wondering, there’s every indication that Brandi’s boobs are real…



Is Storage Wars Fake, Staged or For Real?

You’d be surpised how often people ask whether or not Storage Wars is fake or for real – is it staged? Do people stuff the units beforehand to allow the pickers to find all the best loot?

Just who are these auction unit buying weirdos we see each episode and is this whole thing legit or not? Yes and No – yes the storage auctions themselves are real and not staged, and NO, you will not have the same experience as these auction hunters when you go out to start buying delinquent lockers near you.

The secret behind Storage Wars is volume. An insane level of volume. The amount of storage auctions the crew is filming at any given point is staggering and most casual or amateur storage auction hunters just won’t be able to keep up the same pace due to job and family related time contraints.

Dan Dotson and his wife on the set of storage wars filming

Meanwhile, we’ve seen plenty of claims on youtube and storage auction blogs that its possible to prove storage wars is all a sham if you just carefully watch the editing.

I think the truth behind Storage Wars is that there’s a little bit of everything going on. Yes, the show is highly stylized and designed to get folks excited about these sales.

No, you’re not going to find a vintage coca-cola machine in the next locker you buy that’s worth 40K on eBay. Yes, the show is going out of its way to provide exciting storage buying entertainment by filling the episodes with vibrant and interesting characters like Jarrod Schulz, Brandi Passante and Dave the Mogul.

Storage War's Brandi Passante

Yes, Storage Wars is intentionally overselling the possible, but rare, sweet loot that can be found in public storage auctions.

So, perhaps the best answer to the question of whether or not Storage Wars is staged is “Yes and No”. Yes, there is some indirect deception going on here in the name of good entertainment.

But let’s face it. If Storage Wars showed you the true real-life frequency with which you find great scores in storage lockers up for sale, we probably wouldn’t want to tune in as much. At the end of the day, it makes for great TV, which is why it’s so successful.

In the meantime, would be auction buyers are cautioned to carry more realistic expectations into their own local storage buying efforts. You definitely can make money doing this, and you definitely could find some of the sweet loot they come across, but you’re not going to find something to scream about in each and every unit.

Now, there are plenty of people on Yahoo Answers that are convinced storage wars totally fake – that every united is pre-loaded with goodies and all the action is scripted. There are also reports that visitors to storage wars filming sites have seen unit tampering go down and that attendees have been coached by the crew to do certain things to up the show value such as arguing over a unit.

On the flipside of the coin, having heard from some of the managers that oversee properties featured on the show, it’s not that simple of an open and shut case. The fact of the matter is that truly delinquent and legally repossessed storage lockers cannot be tampered with in most states unless the facility, its managers and their parent company all want to open themselves up for a big nasty lawsuit.

Of course, it’s not impossible to conceive of crafty film crews borrowing an open locker at a facility to prep up with the latest goods from Costco, but it’s just not as simple to mess around with legitimate storage units as everyone assumes. If Storage Wars were to be a total fabrication, they would be prepping and then later opening entirely free and clear storage lockers borrowed from facilities just for that purpose.