On Oct. 18, the Friday Memorial Library in New Richmond will be filled with old toys, paintings, folk art and other antiques brought in by people from around the area. And that’s just the way antiques appraiser Mark Moran, who will be hosting a antique appraisal event at the library, likes it.
"The fun part, and also the challenging part, for me is walking into a room with 40 or 50 objects that I have never seen before and being able to help the owners find out what that actually have,” Moran said. “I like to test my skills and see how knowledgeable I really am. You never know how much something might be worth or where it comes from.”
Antiques have been a huge part of Moran’s life since he was a little boy. His interest began as a love of art and paintings that came from his father, who was an artist as well as the owner of a small printing business.
“I was the oldest of 11 children, so there was not a lot excess income,” Moran said. “My dad was an artist, so I grew up around paintings and I think that is how I started to train my eye to recognize all the things an appraiser of antiques needs to have to be good at their job.”
Moran started collecting antiques in the 1970s; then he began to sell them in the 1980s. Since then, Moran has stopped selling antiques and transitioned into solely appraising items while also writing 27 books about antiques along the way. But it wasn’t until his appearance on the popular PBS program "Antique Roadshow” in 2010 that Moran’s popularity really shored.
“You have to be recommended by someone to get on the show, which I was by a dear friend of mine a few years ago,” Moran said. “Based on that nomination, the people at ‘Antique Roadshow’ decided that I was someone they wanted to bring on the show and that was great.”
For a long time, even before he was on “Antique Roadshow,” people would come to Moran for advice on what their antiques were and how much they could be worth. But it wasn’t until a little more than two years ago that Moran realized there might be a market for his services.
“There is a big market for antique appraisal and a lot of pent up demand for someone with my skills,” Moran said. “In just two years, I’ve done 300 appraisal events, and I can barely keep up with all the requests I get.”
One reason Moran believes his antique appraisal events have been so popular is because he is merely looking to inform people about what their antiques are and how much they could be worth, not to buy anything and resell it for more money later.
“I will never offer to buy anything at my events or offer to help someone sell their items for a commission,” Moran said. “Not that there is anything wrong with that, but in my case, I want people to know that I’m not trying to pick up a bargain or make any money off of them. I just want to inform people about what they have and what it might be worth.”
Moran has traveled all over the upper Midwest, including Minnesota, northern Illinois and pretty much every town or village in Wisconsin. And even though he has seen a lot of things at all of his events, Moran still enjoys visiting new places and is excited to come to New Richmond.
“I’ve wanted to bring my show to this area for a while now,” Moran said. “I’ve been to Luck and Somerset, so when the Friday Memorial Library contacted me about doing an event there, I figured it was time to come to New Richmond and see what interesting things I find there.”
As excited as Moran is to find out what treasures New Richmond has for him to appraise, the Friday Memorial Library staff and the community as a whole might be even more excited.
“This is a really exciting thing for the community, because we’ve never had anything like this come to town before,” said Community Services Librarian Sally Cheslock. “We have people coming from all over the area and even from Stillwater and the cities. People are really interested in finding out what their stuff is and what it’s worth.”
Over his many years of appraising antiques, Moran has seen many interesting and unique things. But of all those things, his favorite item was an original, mid-century illustration from a pin-up calendar, like the ones seen hanging in gas stations and garages during that period. The painting was by American graphic artist Harry Ekmen, who was well known for his work on pin-ups and advertising.
“A guy came to me with an illustration with a young lady wearing negligee while trying to change a lightbulb,” Moran said. “He had paid $5 for it at a yard sale, but I told him I thought it could be worth $10,000. He took it to an auction in Cincinnati and it sold for $16,000.”
To get an item appraised, owners must register for a time slot at Friday Memorial Library before the event and pay a $15 registration fee. Only one item will be appraised per person, excluding firearms, weapons, coins/currency, fine jewelry or Beanie Babies. There will be three one-hour time slots from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 18. Early registration is encouraged, because there is a limited number of slots available.
For more information on the event, contact the Friday Memorial Library at 715-243-0431. To find out more about Moran, visit markfmoran.com.