However, there are those who’ve used self-storage units to house some surprisingly strange, priceless or even macabre possessions.
Many of the strangest examples are uncovered in the United States. That’s because, unlike in South Africa, US self-storage providers are free to auction off the contents of abandoned or repossessed units.
James Bond’s submarine car
In 1989, a man purchased the contents of an abandoned storage unit in New York for less than $100. In the unit, he found a white sports car with no wheels and a dented roof. It turned out that this was one of the submarine cars from the 1977 James Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me.
The car, which was used to promote the film, was the only one of eight versions that had not yet been accounted for. It was later sold at auction to Tesla Motors’ founder and CEO, Elon Musk, for almost $1 million.
A human leg
When a man purchased a repossessed self-storage unit in North Carolina in 2007, he found a meat smoker with a mummified human leg inside in the unit.
The previous owner of the storage space, who had defaulted on payment, had lost his leg in a plane crash, and had been keeping it so that he could be buried with it one day.
NASA space equipment
In 2011, the two hosts of Spike TV’s Auction Hunters bought the contents of an abandoned storage unit in Miami for $2 800. In the unit, they discovered a NASA countdown clock from the 1970s, a display model of the Delta Relay Rocket and an all-terrain hovercraft.
NASA never asked for the equipment back, and it was sold at auction for $10 640.
A hand grenade
When a New Jersey resident purchased a storage unit and its contents at auction, he got more than he bargained for – in the form of a hand grenade. The man called the police and the grenade was removed by a bomb unit.
Unreleased Michael Jackson recordings
In 2010, a Toronto man purchased a reclaimed storage unit that had belonged to Michael Jackson’s father, Joe Jackson. To his astonishment, the new owner found over 250 unreleased recordings by Michael Jackson. Also in the unit was a previously unheard duet between Michael Jackson and Tina Turner.
Because Michael Jackson was between record labels when the tracks were recorded, the man who bought the storage unit was determined to be their legal owner.
Gold and silver coins
In 2011, a man in California purchased a storage unit for $1 100. In the unit, he discovered gold and silver bars, as well as Spanish gold “Pieces of Eight” – some dating back to the 16th century – in a dusty plastic storage bin.
The box of coins, which required three people to carry it, proved to be worth more than $500 000.
The parts of a 1959 Cadillac Coupe
In 2013, a man purchased a unit at an auction in Texas for just $51. In the unit, he found more than 500 separate car parts. Originally he assumed these were scrap metal.
However, the parts – half of which had already been re-chromed and restored – were found to make up a complete 1959 two-door Cadillac Coupe. The restored vehicle was valued at $50 000.