There are a lot of lessons to be learned if you are going to collect screen-used props and costumes. And telling the stories about collecting is one of my favorite things to do. I recently started working with CBS on the Star Trek archive, the collection of original props and costume spread through the Star Trek Exhibit and the Star Trek Experience.
The Enterprise "D" Saucer Section
Sometimes the coolest movie props aren't very collectible. Many people lament the destruction of sets from Star Trek when they are finished. But who has room to store a holodeck arch, or the engine core of the Enterprise NX-01? As sad as it is, the only thing you can do with these amazing set pieces is destroy them when the sets are struck. O course, items like the Captain's chair or the consoles are kept, as they are small and easily stored. But big pieces are very difficult and expensive to store.
Recently, CBS has begun to clear out storage units where parts of the Star Trek Exhibit have been stored. There were storage facilities in Anaheim and Burbank that housed different assets from the various TV shows and movies as well as display cases, wall units and more. So much of it was left over from the big Long Beach show that kicked off the Star Trek Exhibit a few years ago. From these storage facilities we pulled such things as the Nebula Class filming miniature, the Grand Nagus Bust featured in Deep Space Nine and more. These items are now safely stored in the temperature controlled facility of Propworx.
Some items were just too big and not worth storing. The forced-perspective filming miniature of the Golden Gate Bridge from Star Trek IV, for example, was in poor shape, and frankly, not very interesting, so it was disposed of. No collector would have the space to store such a piece, nor would they be willing to pay what it cost to ship as it was in a huge crate. It simply wasn't worth the effort.
But one piece that we are trying to find a home for is the large-scale saucer section of the Enterprise "D" from the crash-landing scene on Veridian III in Star Trek: Generations. This is a huge piece, about 12' high by 15' wide. It is heavily featured in the featurettes on the Generations Blu-ray and DVD. Now, on the face of it, you would think this, being the biggest filming miniature ever used in Star Trek, would be an easy piece to find a home for. But this gets to the "Law of Big Props.” Basically the law says that "The bigger the prop, the harder it is to sell.” And this is one BIG prop.
So, for the past month, we have been trying to find a home for this piece. It needs some restoration, but is incredibly cool. If you know a place that might want to make a home for it (a museum would be great), please email me at email@example.com.
The Sword of Kahless
The Sword of Kahless is not only an important relic in the world of Star Trek, but it is a prop that many prop collectors have on their Holy Grail list. Featured in the Deep Space Nine episode "The Sword of Kahless," it is unique among Bat'Leths for its shape.
There was one hero Sword of Kahless made by HMS Studios, the famous prop shop, for Deep Space Nine. In addition, there were three rubber stunt versions and two plastic versions. I own one of the rubber stunts as does my friend Donna. The third is on display in the Star Trek Exhibit. We aren't sure where the hero is, or the plastic versions. But recently, The Prop Store, a well-known and reputable prop retailer, had a "Prototype" Sword of Kahless that they advertised. Being a huge fan of the prop, I bought it as it was a beauty and made by Dragon Dronet, the guy who worked at HMS and made the hero.
Now, the very next weekend, HMS Studios had their annual "open house" and I went up there with my good buddy and trusty assistant, Jarrod Hunt. We met Michael Moore, the genius behind HMS, who has worked on more Star Trek props than any other man. I mentioned the prototype to him and he told me there was no prototype! How did he know? Well, HMS produced the original and Michael has an amazing recall for details of any project he worked on. He told me they got the finished plans from the studio and made what they sent over. He pointed out the date the "prototype" was marked and signed by Dragon was 3/96.
So while we were there, we searched and found out the episode aired in November of 1995. So there was no way this could be a prototype. Now, The Prop Store is well known and they immediately apologized and I still bought the prop, but at 1/4 the price I originally paid for it. It is a beautiful display piece nonetheless and will look good on my wall. The problem was that The Prop Store had simply taken the word of the consignor who had bought the prop several years ago from Dragon Dronet and had not checked with HMS to confirm the story. That happens sometimes when prop sellers or auction houses have so many items that they don't check out the provenance of an item as well as they should. And you should NEVER take the word of a seller that an item is real. Always have proof of how an item came from a studio or be able to screen match the prop. A "certificate of authenticity" doesn't mean an item is real. It just means that the seller will give you your money back if you find out it is fake.
Unfortunately, even we experienced collectors can get taken sometimes, but as long as you deal with reputable sellers, such as Propworx or The Prop Store, a mistake like this doesn't result in you losing money. NEVER buy screen used props or costumes off eBay unless you see that the item comes from a very reputable source. That would be the official Christie's Star Trek auction, the It's a Wrap Star Trek Auctions or Propworx (whose Star Trek items usually come from reputable crew from the show). Always demand to know WHERE an item came from. You can always join the Star Trek Prop, Costume & Auction forum. There you will find a group of experienced, enthusiastic collectors who will help you with anything you need.
And make sure you check out the Star Trek Prop, Costume & Auction Blog.
Alec Peters has been a Star Trek fan since he first watched TOS on TV in the 60's. He started collecting screen-used Star Trek props and costumes at the big Christie's auction in 2006 and then turned his passion into a business, becoming CEO of Propworx, an auction house for Hollywood studios. For additional information about Propworx and their upcoming Star Trek auction, visit www.propworx.com.