If one man's trash is another man's treasure, then Dan and Laura Dotson are the guides who bring it all together.
The married team of licensed auctioneers owns American Auctioneers in Riverside. Dan Dotson learned the business from his grandfather, a cattle and farm auctioneer from the Ozarks. He fell in love with Laura after they exchanged smiles at -- where else -- auction houses. (She'd come to bid on restaurant equipment.) He trained her, and now they travel the country, hosting about 3,000 auctions a year. They also monitor storage auctions through their website, StorageTreasures.com.
But to reality TV aficionados, Dan and Laura, 49 and 43, respectively, are the good-natured, fast-talking folks who keep things moving on A&E's Storage Wars.
The show follows the Dotsons as they take bids on abandoned storage lockers from a cast of, shall we say, colorful characters. Produced by Thom Beers (Ice Road Truckers, Deadliest Catch), the series starts its third season this summer.
Sometimes their buyers strike gold; Laura Dotson says they've seen people uncover everything from a comic book stolen from Nicolas Cage's house and Madonna's personal memorabilia to items belonging to Jack Kevorkian. Often, units are full of old furniture and appliances -- items that can easily turn a profit for those who have mastered the skill of knowing what to look for.
"It's like a slot machine," Dan Dotson says. "If you're smart, you can say, 'Well, I see $1,000 in the front, and maybe there's $1,000 in the back also.' Potentially, all units are good if they're bought for the right price."
The facts leading up to the auctions can be rather depressing; the reality is that someone couldn't afford to pay for the space anymore, resulting in the contents going up for sale. Dan Dotson understands this but also sees the upside.
"They lost it and whoever buys it, whether it's for a thrift store or [something else], is going to help 10 other families," he says. "I feel bad for them that they lost it, but I feel good for the guy who wants to go out. It helps everything. I think it's a necessary evil. If we weren't helping these large companies that store something, they would just go belly-up."
Storage Wars also offers ideas for someone looking for a new trade or hobby.
"I think that right now, because of the economy ... everybody's dreams, hopes and desires have kind of been flushed down the toilet," Laura Dotson says. "They are looking for an opportunity to get out there and make it rich. When they see other people doing that, they think, 'I can get off my sofa. I've got a couple hundred bucks; I can try.' There's treasures to be found."