Auctioneer Tim Shaw fields offers at a Goodwill Industries auction.

Pickup trucks began to roll into the parking lot before 8 a.m. in anticipation of the Goodwill Industries auction.

For many attendees, auctions aren't an amusement, they're a livelihood. None more than auctioneer Tim Shaw, the man behind the microphone at the twice-weekly Goodwill auctions.

"The great thing about an auction is you have people from all walks of life," Shaw said.

At the Goodwill auction, attendees sort through bins piled high with clothing, shelves full of television sets, furniture-laden floor spaces and microwave ovens stacked five feet high.

And that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the offerings at Goodwill's 1770 S. Cherrybell Stravenue warehouse.

Old stereo equipment spills out of boxes, luggage fills multiple shelves and vacuum cleaners lie like cordwood on a shelf.

"There's a bunch of stuff in here and we've got to sell it all," Shaw tells the growing crowd of buyers as he kicks of the auction and launches into the familiar auctioneer chant.

Shaw, 28, has been auctioning since 2008. Prior to that, he owned a power washing company.

"It was great money, but I had more fun selling being on the microphone than cleaning dirty sidewalks at midnight," he said.

Initially, Shaw and his father were buyers, going to yard sales, thrift stores, estate sales and auctions and selling items on eBay, a common starting point for many in the business.

Despite some early fears among professional auctioneers, eBay didn't make live auctions a thing of the non-digital past.

"People who were buying on eBay were actually moving toward live auctions, not the other way around," said Chris Longly, spokesman for the National Association of Auctioneers.

The Overland Park, Kan.-based organization represents about 4,000 auctioneers across the country.

Longly said the auction industry - not including eBay - represents a $250 billion chunk of the national economy, helping to sell everything from old household items to personal estates and radio frequencies.

"Most people don't realize that the car they have today will someday be touched by an auction," Longly said.

Cars traded in at dealerships often end up in auction sales.

Longly called auctioneering one of the purest forms of entrepreneurship.

"An auctioneer will give you a true market value, no more no less," he said.

Interest in auctions has been on rise in recent years, in part because of an actual increase in occurrences.

"We do see a lot more of the storage unit auctions because of the economy," he said.

Another factor lies with the popularity of a few auction-themed reality television series.

"Storage Wars" and "Auction Hunters" both focus on the buyers at auctions mostly throughout southern California.

The stars of the shows purchase defaulted self-storage units at public auctions to resale the items at swap meets, in thrift stores or just for the thrill of finding that rare highly valuable item that someone had hidden away in a storage locker.

Shaw also conducts storage unit auctions and said he's seen an increase interest even before the shows started to air.

Many of the longtime auction attendees that Shaw meets don't like the shows and have complained that they're overly dramatic. He disagrees.

"It's that exact same way at the storage auctions," Shaw said.

The characters represented at the show resemble many of the archetypes he sees at auctions - store owners, antique hunters and eBay sellers.

"People like these auctions because of the prospect if a deal," Shaw said.

The interpersonal conflicts that erupt between the stars on "Storage Wars" or the coordinated efforts to bid up the price of units when a newcomer steps in are things that happen all the time at auctions.

"There is storage locker drama," he said. "But I treat everyone equally, because they are all equals, everyone with money is treated equally."

Shaw also calls charity and estate auctions.

Estate auctions represent the most demanding part of the job, Shaw said.

He and his team spend at least a month preparing an estate by itemizing and determining a value of every item in a house.

"It can be like a treasure hunt," he said. "It's the funnest job in the world."

Contact reporter Patrick McNamara at pmcnamara@azbiz.com or (520) 295-4259.