What’s it worth? Ask the appraiser

Five questions with Minneapolis appraiser Megan Mahn Miller.

Megan Mahn Miller is an appraiser and auctioneer.

It’s also Megan Mahn Miller’s bread and butter. The Minneapolis native studied art history at the University of Minnesota, Morris, moved to Los Angeles, where she landed a job with Julien’s Auctions, and launched a career as an appraiser and licensed auctioneer, specializing in rock’n’roll and Hollywood memorabilia.

Now back living in her hometown, she’ll be at Junk Bonanza on Thursday, joining master appraiser Tim Luke for a free presentation on hot collectibles; how to shop flea markets, estate sales and auctions, and how to know what makes something a future collectible.

Q: So what is a hot collectible these days?

A: It’s constantly changing. In my industry, what’s consistent are certain celebrities, like Elvis and Marilyn Monroe. I don’t see those people ever losing value.

Q: How about what’s not hot?

A: The poster market is a cautionary tale. It was huge seven to 10 years ago, with people getting enormous sums of money, but the market has kind of tanked. You really need to love what you’re collecting. Also Longaberger baskets. People were spending hundreds of dollars on baskets that are now worth 50 bucks. People get an idea of something, and the market takes off. But novelties that are mass-produced are short-term. … Scarcity: That’s what drives the market.

Q: You’re one of the appraisers participating in a new online valuation site. Tell us about it.

A: The “Cash in the Attic” [www.cashintheattic.com] site started in the U.K. Now it’s launching in the U.S. It allows you to get an appraisal without standing in line or paying a lot of money. You e-mail a photo and a description, and [within 48 hours, for a fee] you get a valuation. It’s like 100 appraisers sitting in your computer. What I like about it is it’s a jumping-off point. You avoid the humiliation of bringing it in and finding out it’s worth $2. And if it’s worth $10,000, maybe it’s time to get it insured.

Q: What about other online resources, like eBay?

A: Take them with a grain of salt. There can be a wide range of prices, and if it’s still posted, they have not gotten that price.

Q: What do you collect?

A: At the end of the day, it appears cat hair. … No, I’m not a collector. My husband collects records, and I met him at a thrift store, Arc’s Value Village. I do love upcycled stuff. The thing I love about Junk Bonanza is it’s juried, everything’s vetted. It’s misnamed. There’s not going to be any junk.