If you’re heading into 2012 tight on cash, you may want to check out the most popular show on cable, History Channel’s Pawn Stars (new episodes Mondays, 10/9c), then ransack your attic, basement and the nearest garage sale for vintage items. But before doing so, it’s best to know what kind of junk is actually in demand. We collared Rick Harrison, owner and operator of Las Vegas’ World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, to ask about the surprising success of his show, plus what kind of knickknacks stand the best chance of being worth big money in, say, 2022.

MADE MAN: Did you have any idea Pawn Stars would be so popular?
RICK HARRISON: No! I tried for years to get a show like ours on television and we finally got one. Definitely surprised us. And because it’s so popular, I’m getting a lot more really weird and crazy items from people who fly in from around the world—the show is in 150 countries worldwide!

MM: You’re sort of an armchair historian. How did you get to be so knowledgeable?
RH: I just read a lot of books!

rick harrison poses with the rest of the pawns stars in his las vegas pawn shop“Trust us. We know what we’re doing.”

MM: What types of items will make us some money down the road?
RH: Items you never think are worth anything. Back in the 1930 to 1960s, everyone had Zippo lighters you would never even think twice were worth anything, and people pay thousands and thousands of dollars for them. Or old comic books. The rare ones in good condition are really hard to find, but there is a large market for them.

Classic art, Renoir or older Picasso etchings, will be valuable for a long time. And I think gold will get you something too. Everyone should own it; it’s a great insurance policy. Good quality antiques, stuff that has a demand. A box of baseball cards ain’t gonna cut it. Older American coins, like silver dollars, I definitely see going up in value as well.

Older automobiles, from 1930s and earlier, are a good buy. They are just getting harder and harder to find. Art deco jewelry sells well too. A lot of people think of jewelry as art now too. Anything that used white gold diamonds and different stones like emerald and sapphire is good, too.

Presidential memorabilia is generally worth a lot. We have a collector’s craze now, where people box up everything. If you have stuff from the Clinton administration, I don’t see that ever really making any money, since so many people put stuff away from that.

You really have to look at items you just would never think are worth anything [see video below]. There are a lot of really obscure collectors out there, so if you have questions, you should just bring it in for an appraisal. I have one customer who has the world’s largest collection of antique cash registers! Honestly I could tell you better what not to buy. Don’t buy anything that says ‘collectible’ on it. Because it’s not really collectible!