‘What’s It Worth?’ auction appraisal event May 3

From a copper funeral urn to an original illustration from a 1950s pinup calendar, Mark Moran has seen it all.

Mark Moran appraises an item in Marquette, Mich. Moran is coming to Fridley for an appraisal event that will take place 1-4 p.m. May 3 at the Fridley Historical Society. Photo submitted
Mark Moran appraises an item in Marquette, Mich. Moran is coming to Fridley for an appraisal event that will take place 1-4 p.m. May 3 at the Fridley Historical Society. Photo submitted

The appraiser of Antiques Roadshow fame is coming to the Fridley History Center May 3 for an appraisal event called “What’s It Worth?”

Attendees can register in advance to have an item appraised, and during the event, Moran will share its history and its value.

He started doing these events in 2011 after he was let go from his previous job as editor for Antiques & Collectibles Books of Krause Publications in his hometown of Iola, Wis.

Having been working in antiques and collectibles for so long, he realized there was a demand for live appraisal events.

“It has kept growing and growing and growing,” Moran said. “It’s a wonderful problem to have, having this much work to do. I love it.”

He’s already booked over 100 events for 2014 and is scheduling even more into 2015.

His goal is not only to make a living as an appraiser, but to provide an entertaining event for people who want to learn about antiques and collectibles.

“I’m lucky that this crazy idea I’m doing has been successful,” Moran said.

Mary Ann Hoffman, vice president of the Fridley Historical Society, said she scheduled the event about a year ago. She had been browsing the Internet and happened to pull up the historical society website from her hometown of Grantsburg, Wis., and saw they had an appraiser coming.

She had ideas for some type of appraisal event in the back of her mind, but had no idea where to find an appraiser. That’s when she got in touch with Moran.

Most of his appraisal events are also fundraisers — a third of all the money raised will go to the Fridley Historical Society.

“He’s devoted his life to this and I don’t think he makes very much money on this,” Hoffman said. “I think it’s very much a labor of love.”

Becoming an appraiser

Moran said he became interested in antiques from a young age while growing up with his father, who was a painter. He grew up with his works on the walls of their house and art books lying around.

“From a very early age, my eye was trained to spot form and color and design, surface,” Moran said. “Those are all the things that are important to someone interested in antiques and collectibles as well.”

He became an appraiser over time — back in the 1970s he was a collector, and in the 80s he was an antiques dealer. He started writing books on antiques and collectibles in the 90s, and now he’s written 27.

In 2010, Moran joined the popular television show Antiques Roadshow for the first time. He wasn’t able to join when they invited him back in 2012, but he was on in 2013 and is scheduled to join them again this summer in Chicago and Charleston, W.Va.

“Nearly 20 years they’ve been around and it’s still just as popular as ever,” Moran said. “The fact that it’s so popular keeps the subject of antiques in people’s minds.”

History at his fingertips

When determining an item’s value and history, Moran said he uses stored up knowledge in his head from working with antiques and collectibles for over 40 years — but he also keeps his iPad handy with access to dozens of websites with auction values around the world.

Moran has seen “everything from the sublime to the ridiculous.”

In the case of the original painting from a 1950s pinup calendar, Moran said a man had bought it at a yard sale for $5.

“When I told him it was worth $10,000, he said I was crazy,” Moran said. “But he put it up for auction and it sold for $16,000.”

Moran will appraise almost anything — fine art, prints, paintings, statuary, glassware, ceramics — other than weapons and fine jewelry, but some of his favorites are folk art — carvings and quilts, or other utilitarian objects that have been given an artistic twist.

He sticks to the Upper Midwest for his appraisal events. Throughout Minnesota, Moran said he sees a lot of trunks, carvings, furniture and other items with Scandinavian influence.

Hoffman said she enjoys antiquing and plans to have a World War I propaganda poster appraised. She got it from a teacher she worked with about 15 years ago, and she wants to find out if it’s an original or a print.

With a third of the money raised going back to the Fridley Historical Society, Hoffman said she has no goal in mind, but Moran would like to do at least 40 appraisals to take up the full three hours.

If the event is popular and there’s a demand, she said she’ll book him again.

“Outreach to the community is important, and more visibility of the historical society,” Hoffman said. “That’s as important to us as fundraising.”

Appraisal as theater

After booking Moran, Hoffman said she and some friends drove to an appraisal event in St. Croix Falls, Wis., to introduce themselves and watch the event.

“It was very interesting. People had interesting stories,” she said. “I liked seeing the variety of artifacts that come in and hearing the stories behind them, because one of the things that he does, he lets people shares their stories.”

Moran calls his events “appraisal as theater,” and that’s why — he loves telling stories and allowing others to do the same.

“I hope that’s one of the appeals of my events,” he said. “I like to tell stories about the things that have come into the program. Little tidbits I like to share with those in attendance. I try to make it as entertaining as possible.”

The “What’s It Worth?” appraisal event is 1-4 p.m. Saturday, May 3, at the Fridley History Center, 611 Mississippi St. NE.

To have an item appraised for $15 each, attendees must make a reservation and pre-pay by calling the History Center at 763-571-0120 and leaving a message or online at fridleyhistoricalsociety.org. Moran will also visit homes for $70 per hour.

People who don’t have anything to be appraised are welcome to come and watch.

View Moran’s website at markfmoran.com.

Elizabeth Sias is at [email protected]