An Article In Meteorite Times Magazine
This feature is devoted each month to one of the personalities within the meteorite community. This month we are delighted to share an interview we had with Mike Miller of METEORITEFINDER.com
Meteorite-Times (MT) What or who got you interested in meteorites and how old were you when you got your first meteorite?
Mike Miller (MM) I was running a shop for truck repair and tires here in Kingman Arizona, I was the manager and so did all the hiring. One day a man came in and turned in a application for employment and as I was looking over his application, I noticed in his work history "meteorite hunter 10 years" I could not for the life of me figure out what the heck that might mean so I ask Keith what he meant by it. He explained that for the past 10 years he had gone out in the desert and the mountains with a metal detector and found meteorites for a living. I was stunned are you talking about a shooting star? He said yes basically they were once shooting stars. I was completely intrigued and hired him. Over the following months we talked at great length about the different strewn fields he had been to and the next thing I knew I was hunting along the fence that marked the southern boundary to the park at Gold Basin. I had a lot of experience with a detector and already owned a Fisher Gold Bug 2 so naturally I wanted to find a falling star. So in an afternoon or 2 of hunting I had my first half a dozen Gold Basin meteorites in a plastic bag in my pocket. This was in the beginning of 2003 so it was only about 5 years ago.
(MT) What was your first meteorite?
(MM) My first meteorite was one I found a very drab Gold basin meteorite, shortly after that I purchased a 385 gram Canyon Diablo. Growing my collection has been important to me ever since.
(MT) Do you still have it?
(MM) The answer is unfortunately no I do not have the first meteorite I ever found. I do still have the first one I ever bought though. I think what happened is at first my intention was to keep them all. But I soon realized that I could find far more than I needed or even wanted. So my focus was on the biggest and the best for my collection and soon had forgotten which one was my first.
(MT) Do you have special areas of interest that you focus on in regards to meteorites (thin sections, photography, chemistry, age dating.. etc)?
(MM) Yes besides being an avid collector and hunter of meteorites. I also specialize in cutting and etching iron meteorites, in fact that is how I make my living. It takes a lot of work to do but it is ever changing and very interesting, sometime frustrating. But I get to make a living from something I consider fun to do.
(MT) Does your Family share in your interest in meteorites?
(MM) To some extent of course they do, my close family, most of them have found a meteorite themselves. My brother has tried and just about everyone else has expressed an interest in looking for them at some time. They are all interested is hearing about pieces in my collection. But so far none of them has been bitten like I was, none of them have started buying meteorites or become serious about hunting for them. Strange how some of us only need 1 little introduction to meteorites and we are hopelessly lost for the rest of our lives involved with meteorites. Others have little or no interest?
(MT) Do you have any special approaches to collecting? (Type collection, only stones, only irons, only by aesthetics, etc. or any and all that you like.)
(MM) My collection style has evolved over time but it is based first in meteorites I have found. In a group of meteorites from a certain strewn field then I want to collect the best examples of this strewn field and also the largest that I have found. Sometimes like in the case of Glorieta I didn't feel I was ready to collect such valuable meteorites so there has been some exceptions to these basic rules of my collecting. In some cases I have opted to collect a slice of some of the meteorites I have found. Then after that I am mostly looking for something that is aesthetically pleasing. I also lean towards larger pieces, just because something is rare does not make me want to collect it.
(MT) Do you mind saying how many locations your collection represents?
(MM) I wouldn't mind saying but I have no idea. I can tell you it does represent 5 strewn fields that I have hunted in.
(MT) Is your collection displayed or kept in a dry box or both?
(MM) My collection is on display at my home. I am willing to show it to just about anyone who stops by. I have 3 glass displays and a shelf where my end cuts are displayed. My collection is also displayed on my web site, it needs a little updating but most of my pieces are there.
(MT) In what ways do you use your computer for meteorites?
(MM) Well it is used for my web site, I sell on Ebay. I have also used it to find new pieces for my collection. I have done lots of research on the computer related to finding meteorites. Most of my successful research has been with Glorieta. Lots of it is still pending, In other words the searching has not paid off yet. I keep in touch with many of my meteorite friends through e mail. I also keep most of my meteorite pictures on my computer or use it to burn them to a disc. I also use a mapping program on the computer, this is used to map different finds and the get a better look at a strewn field. Wow I guess I use the computer in many ways related to meteorites.
(MT) Do you ever hunt for meteorites?
(MM) I think the answer to this one is pretty obvious, it comes out in the answer to just about every question. I would say as an average I hunt about 2 days a week. That would be a year round average, sometimes it is a 2 week adventure and other trips are just a local 1 day excursion. I consider my self a very serious meteorite hunter. But I do it for fun, it is just more fun when I can make it pay.
(MT) What is your favorite meteorite in your collection?
(MM) Wow that is a tough question, my first reaction would be about half of them. My best answer would be the two slices of Glorieta pallasites. As far as I know I am the only one in the whole world who has two slices in their collection from Glorieta that are pallasite slices taken from two different meteorites they found themselves at Glorieta.
(MT) What meteorites are currently on your wish list?
(MM) At the moment I am really not spending a lot of cash on my collection. But I always have my eye on pallasite slices, Esquel and Imilac. I collect iron meteorites with holes in them too, so I am always hoping one will turn up under my coil. Really since my collection is based on what I find I am hoping most of all to add a good sized lunar end cut to it sometime very soon.
(MT) What methods have been most successful in building your collection? (Buying at shows, from dealers by mail, auctions on the web, trading... etc
(MM) The most successful way that I have added to my collection has been hunting meteorites. When you find them it is pretty easy to just put them on a shelf and dub them part of the official collection. But another way hunting has added some of the coolest pieces to my collection is to be there with the other hunters when they find the really cool meteorites. That way I get first crack at buying or trading for some pretty cool stuff. Believe it or not most of the serious hunters that I have hunted with were not collectors at the time. Now I have corrupted a couple of the ones I am thinking of now. Secondly trading has added many pieces to my collection, it works very well to trade if you can find people who are willing to be fair. When I say fair I mean if you can find someone who is trying to make the trade work for both of you. If you are trying to trade with someone who is trying to up trade then it is not a good deal and I just say no thanks to them. You have to keep your options open though. I once bought a 400 gram Sikhote Alin off of E bay it is the coolest Sikhote I have ever held for its size. I got it for $1 per gram. The reason I got it was because everyone else was afraid to bid on it, the seller had zero feedback and I was the only bidder.
Sikhote-Alin 400 gram
(MT) Do you also collect related materials like impact glasses, breccias, melts, tektites, shocked fossils, native iron rocks etc?
(MM) The only thing on this list that I collect are rocks they were on my list before meteorites were. My collection is pretty small in the rock department. I do collect other items tough. Again they are related to my hunting, when I am out hunting for meteorites I am at the same time looking for other items. Not in any particular order gold, bottles, old cans, insulators and lots of other little treasures that stick to a magnet.
(MT) Do you prepare any of your own specimens? (cut, polish, etch, etc.)
(MM) This has been answered before, but yes I do. I cut iron and stone meteorites. I have prepared lots of the pieces if not most of what is in my collection.
(MT) Have you had to take any special measures to protect them from the environment?
(MM) Iron slices need to kept oiled just like a gun does. If you just let them sit around for long enough they will rust. I have a section on my home page devoted to describing how I take care of iron meteorites. Here in Kingman Arizona the dry climate is very good for meteorite collections.