Dave Hester Dave Hester

Your trash might be his treasure. Dave Hester, the alpha-dog star of the reality hit Storage Wars, tells us why his show continues to be the highest-rated series in all of A&E history.

TV Guide Magazine: What's America's fascination with abandoned storage lockers and the people like you who bid on them?

Dave Hester: Everyone wants to hit the lottery. Shows like Hoarders look at people with a sickness or addiction but we tell exciting modern treasure-hunt stories. And you can actually go out and try this yourself. Anybody can bid on this stuff. The mysterious contents of a bin could buy you a car or a house or send you comfortably into retirement.

TV Guide Magazine: On Storage Wars you get five minutes to peer into a locker that's up for grabs, without touching or moving anything or entering the unit, before deciding whether or not to bid. How can you make an intelligent decision that way?

Hester: For me, it's just like looking at a woman. I can tell if she's a knockout with just one glance. [Laughs] And you assume the parts you can't see are as good as the parts you can!

TV Guide Magazine: Your business has skyrocketed with the falling economy. What do you say to those who accuse you of profiting from other people's misfortune?

Hester: Look, it's a tough world. If you don't make your mortgage payment, Bank of America takes your house. If you don't make your car payments, Ford Motors will foreclose on you. But for some there's a positive side to this. People can buy homes at auction they might not otherwise be able to afford. We're no different. Storage buyers are some of the hardest working people out there. We gamble our cash, we eat our losses. It's an honest living.

TV Guide Magazine: Word is, you closed your Rags to Riches thrift store because your show is too hot.

Hester: I was getting 500 people in the store every day but they weren't buying anything! They just wanted to meet me. My regular customers stopped coming because they couldn't get in the parking lot.

TV Guide Magazine: What's your craziest find?

Hester: We opened up a suitcase and found a human skull and bones. I had to take it to a coroner to make sure it wasn't homicide!

TV Guide Magazine: And your single biggest score? 

Hester: I paid $750 and wound up with a painting by the California impressionist Jack Wilkinson Smith. I sold it for $155,000. [Laughs] Once you do something like that it's really hard not to stay in the game.

Storage Wars airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on A&E.