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New 'Auction Hunters' bets big on storage-unit sales

November 8, 2010 |  7:07 am

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One has a tattoo as his hairstyle and problem perspiration. The other looks like the helpful Honda guy on TV commercials but knows how to drive a hard bargain. Meet Clinton "Ton" Jones and Allen Haff, above, of "Auction Hunters." This not-so-odd couple make a living -- and a TV show -- looking for treasures amid the trash of storage units whose contents are being auctioned off because of unpaid rent. The show premieres at 10 p.m. Tuesday on Spike TV.

By the looks of the unscripted series, the recession certainly isn't receding.  Following the success of the History Channel's "Pawn Stars," currently in its third season, and "American Pickers," currently in its second, junking and auction shows are beginning to clog up programming schedules like something out of an episode of "Hoarders."

In October, TLC launched "Auctioneer$," which followed the action at Auction Systems Auctioneers & Appraisers in Phoenix. According to the auction house's website, the series has already been pulled from its time slot. Going, going, gone. The Discovery Channel's "Auction Kings" bowed on Oct. 26. The eight-episode series follows the Atlanta auction house Gallery 63 and runs as two half-hour episodes, back to back, every Tuesday through Nov. 16.

"Auction Hunters," broadcast on the man-centric Spike, bridges the gap between salvaging and sold-to-the-highest-bidder events. In each episode, Jones and Haff bid on the contents of lockers after just a few minutes of peeking from the doorway. In the first installment, they prowl downtown Los Angeles and purchase the contents of two units.

The likeable duo exude the enthusiasm of boys on a scavenger hunt. In a genre filled with hard-luckers and hucksters, "Auction Hunters" is refreshing, a no-nonsense, no-drama half-hour that should satisfy fans of "The Antiques Roadshow."

The show doesn't dwell on the people who have lost their possessions. Owners aren't dragged on camera to have a regret-filled moment, and it's not clear how many of the units are abandoned because of economic hardship. Remember, in pre-recession 2007, Paris Hilton's sex tape was discovered in the auction of an unpaid storage unit in her name.

Jones and Haff aren't looking for that kind of souvenir. They gravitate to machinery and things locked in safes and seem all too happy to share their strategies and expertise about a job filled with risks and some unusual rewards. During their L.A. adventure, they buy a locker for $1,150 and find a vintage copper cash register that they sell to an antiques dealer in Long Beach for $1,900.

-- David A. Keeps

CORRECTED: An earlier version of this post said the Discovery Channel's "Auction Kings" airs on Thursdays. It airs on Tuesdays.

Photo credit: Spike TV

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