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 Bandli of Astro Artifacts

Meteorite-Times (MT) What or who got you interested in meteorites and how old were you when you got your first meteorite?

My interest in meteorites was sparked as a child by an old TV show called 'Ripley's Believe It or Not.’ I vaguely remember an episode where meteorites and moon rocks were shown and discussed. I believe that episode aired sometime in the 1980’s and remember the host holding a meteorite with special gloves and thinking 'one day I will own one of those.' The next step forward was a mail order catalog called '10,000 Things You Never Knew Existed!' As a young boy the catalog was a treasure trove of gadgets and weird things and my parents would let me spend about $20 in it when it came. I was stunned one day when the new catalog arrived and contained an ad for a 'Real Meteorite!' My heart pounded with excitement as I thought this was the only way to own such a thing. I promptly ordered one and it arrived several weeks later. I took it to school for show-and-tell and kept it in my pocket at all times. It became sort of a childhood good luck charm. Later, I would come to find out that it was actually a tektite and not a meteorite. The last step, which really thrust me into the hobby, was getting my first paycheck at the age of 16. I immediately cashed it in and went to a local shop called 'Jerry's Rock and Gem.' I purchased an etched slice of Gibeon and two uncleaned Canyon Diablos for about $100. These were my first real meteorites and I haven't looked back since. I still have my ‘gateway stone’, which was the tektite and would never think of selling it.

(MT) Do you have special areas of interest that you focus on in regards to meteorites (thin sections, photography, chemistry, age dating.. etc)?

I love meteorite photography. I feel it is essential that meteorites be represented as accurately as possible in photography. My photos are done in natural light and are only edited for size and crop. Basically, what you see is what you get. If it has black crust in the photo, then it will have black crust in your hand. I also love macro-photography of meteorites – showing the detail of smaller specimens so viewing can be enhanced.

(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.)

My personal collection has evolved several times and currently focuses on rare witnessed falls and locations. I especially love falls with low TKWs or falls from the Old World. I don't collect finds anymore unless they are a rare class or have a special attribute (old museum label, ultra rare locality, etc..)

The very rare fall from Latvia called Nerft. My grandparents emigrated from Latvia  during WWII,
 so Latvian meteorites hold a special place in my collection. This crusted end-cut comes from TCU.

(MT) Does your Family share in your interest in meteorites?

Yes, my wife enjoys the fact that I have a hobby that I love and am passionate about. It took a few years for her to understand that all that money I was spending was turning into a great investment.

(MT) Is your collection displayed or kept in a dry box or both?

Some pieces are displayed in a humidity-controlled cabinet, but most are kept in an environmentally controlled Gun Safe.

(MT) In what ways do you use your computer for meteorites?

My computer is used almost entirely for meteorites. First, I keep VERY detailed records of all the specimens that I own via spreadsheets. It should be the priority of every collector to record as much information as possible for each specimen purchased or received in trade. Details will be important in the future when and if a piece changes hands… or for the inevitable - death. Not to sound gloomy, but I want to make sure my collection is properly handled after I die. We spend decades and tens of thousands of dollars, amassing collections of the rarest material known to man. The least we can do is document it all for the future pool of collectors who will undoubtedly enjoy our efforts.

Along with being a primary form of research and communication with other collectors, my computer is also a tool for sales including eBay and my website

(MT) Do you ever hunt for meteorites?

I recently participated on my first 'real' hunt with Rob Wesel in Oregon after a fireball was witnessed over an area there. I intend on making more time available to participate in hunts over the next few years. A primary goal has been to find the next meteorite in the Pacific Northwest.

Meteorite Recovery Team. From Left: Dave Hess, James Taylor, Mike Bandli, and Rob Wesel.

(MT) What is your favorite meteorite in your collection?

My favorite meteorite is always the one I am trying to acquire and do not yet have. A large part and joy of this hobby is the 'hunt' involved with adding a new piece to the collection. This process can take years to find a particular fall. I might spend hours and hours of my life sending emails, researching, etc., for a single piece. But in the end, it is all about receiving that package in the mail - a reward for much hard work.

This is a rare crusted fragment of an Antarctic meteorite, Mount Baldr, which comes from the DuPont Collection.

(MT) What meteorites are currently on your wish list?

This year’s wish list includes: Bustee, Noblesville, Khor Temiki, Willamette, any Washington State meteorites, and Derrick Peak or any other Pre-treaty Antarctics that I don't already own.

(MT) What methods have been most successful in building your collection? (Buying at shows, from dealers by mail, auctions on the web, trading... etc)

When it comes to rare falls that you don’t have, it's pretty simple. Buy now, upgrade later. If you don't buy it now, then it will be gone tomorrow. Trading has also become a large factor in accumulating nice material. Trade value can be much more powerful than money alone. If you have something hot that no one else owns, then trade away and watch your collection grow.

These are the only known falls from Afghanistan and Iraq: This Kandahar (L6)
was cut from the Swiss Museum's BE-71-4 Mass. The Tauk specimen is an L6 and
comes from the Natural History Museum in London, specimen number BM1936,158.
Alta'ameem is a  very friable LL4 from the USNM, Smithsonian.

(MT) Do you prepare any of your own specimens? (cut, polish, etch, etc.)

I currently prepare all of my material with the exception of irons. I started cutting early last year and haven't stopped since. I now own a small preparation lab including a variety of slab, trim, and wafering saws. It is great fun and will most definitely evolve into greater things.

(MT) Have you had to take any special measures to protect them from the environment?

As mentioned earlier, humidity control has been implemented in display and storage. I maintain an Rh of 15-25%, which is a more-than-acceptable range for meteorites. I also do not handle specimens with bare hands. I have a box of surgical gloves handy for guests and myself.