There was more nostalgia for Sunday's panels, which started with a look at Canadian collectibles and was followed by The Man Who Shot Luke Skywalker. Read on to find out what other panels took place and which Star Tots attendees received.Vintage Canadian Collectibles - A Tale of Two Languages
Presenters: Ross Cuddie, Ryan Dooks, Elling Haug
The panel opened with references to two major resources for Canadian Star Wars
collectibles, namely Scott Bradley's The Canadian Star Wars Gallery
and Jim McCallum's book, Irwin Toys: The Canadian Star Wars
Connection, before discussing the main Canadian manufacturers and distributors of Star Wars
products during the late 70s and early 80s, focusing on Kenner, General Mills, O-Pee-Chee, Parker Bros. and Regal Toy.
Kenner Canada was essentially a combination of Kenner USA and Irwin Toys, and was based out of 43 Hanna Avenue, Toronto, Ontario and handled approximately 10% of the U.S. volume. In the first year of licensing, merchandise was confined to a board game, puzzles, trading cards and costumes, all of which were quick and easy to make, with the costumes in particular, being crude and rudimentary. As was the case in the U.S., there would be no action figures until 1978.
The first Star Wars
puzzles were packaged in blue boxes with two sets, featuring Luke & C-3PO and Stormtroopers, being exclusive to Canada, while the later puzzles for Return of the Jedi
came in purple boxes, with the Death Star being a Canadian exclusive. When it came to trading cards, O-Pee-Chee was the Canadian equivalent of Topps in the U.S., and three sets, in blue, red, and orange were released for Star Wars
, while there was no difference for The Empire Strikes Back
and only one set was released for Return of the Jedi
. There were a number of food products that were unique to Canada, including Schneider's Meats, Libby's Alpha-Getti and York Peanut Butter that came with six different liners and an offer for a mail-away poster. Both General Mills and Kellogg's ran promotions on their breakfast cereal, including Frankenberry, Count Chocula, Trix, Lucky Charms, Cheerios, Honey Nut Cheerios and C-3PO's, while another sugar-laden product, Coca-Cola, ran a promotion that was also unique to Canada for eight different character liners.
There were some notable differences in comics, with Marvel producing their Star Wars
title with Canadian 75 and 95 cents price variants and Heritage offering French editions which included a superhero crossover, and their Return of the Jedi
adaptation being condensed into two issues from the four that were published in English.
Due to the language laws in Canada, products needed to come with bilingual packaging and some of the first figures released featured a large La Guerre des Etoiles (GDE) pyramid logo that was later changed to the standard Kenner logo. The GDE logo also featured on vehicles and playsets, along with the bi-lingual text. Canadian collectors were fortunate enough to get not one, but two Death Stars, with the cardboard version that was also released in Australia by Toltoys and in the UK by Palitoy, albeit the Canadian version came in bilingual packaging from Kenner Canada, along with the standard U.S. release in the suitcase box. Large scale action figures released in the Star Wars
packaging featured the GDE logo, with IG-88, Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi and Jawa being the only figures not available across the whole line.
The retail landscape was also a little different in Canada, with Star Wars
toys being made available through the likes of Consumers Distributing, Hudson Bay Company, Sears Canada, Eatons, Woolco and Zellers.
By the time of The Empire Strikes Back
, while the action figures featured bilingual packaging, there was no longer the GDE logo, and vehicles had English text on the front with basic French on the reverse side, including an Empire-GDE logo, while another feature that was unique to Canada was the Return of the Jedi
transition sticker that was placed on the front of Empire cards. For Return of the Jedi
, Kenner Canada re-released vehicles in original Star Wars
packaging with a sticker denoting it as a Collector Series, while the Millennium Falcon was released in ROTJ packaging, action figures were re-released on ROTJ cards and there were new ROTJ releases in bilingual packaging, with the exception of the Imperial Shuttle, Jabba’s Dungeon and the TIE Interceptor. Similar to Australia, the Nien Nunb figure came backed with the Nien Nunb offer, while there were also instances of figures being substituted by Consumers Direct when an order could not be fulfilled, with the Klaatu (in Skiff Guard Outfit) being one such figure that was sent out, complete with sticker. For the Power of the Force (POTF) line, Canada had the distinction of only receiving Yak Face on unique Canadian packaging, with no other POTF figures released on bilingual cards and there was also no POTF vehicle packaging, due to the sudden termination of the joint venture between Irwin Toys and General Mills/Kenner USA. While POTF was released in Canada, it was in U.S. packaging, largely due to Kenner’s shift to paying a fine for contravening language laws, rather than spending time and money on bilingual packaging.
Further unique products that were also made in Canada, such as the utility belt sets for Luke, Leia and Darth Vader, while the walking R2-D2 that was imported from the Takara company of Japan was released on an 18-back card with bilingual packaging. There were also multi-packs of the first twelve figures as well as the next nine figures, with both sets featuring 20-back cards and also bilingual packaging, while there were both three and seven-figure sets in bilingual Empire packaging. Another product that was unique to Canada were the skin wrap figures that were sold in Sears multi-packs on cardbacks that had no photos and a printed name on the front and a blank back. Assembled in Canada and with some of the names also being changed, Luke Skywalker (Hoth Outfit vs Hoth Battle Gear), Han Solo (Cloud City Outfit vs Bespin Outfit), R2-D2 (With Periscope vs With Sensorscope), General Veers vs AT-AT Commander along with Lobot, Ugnaught and Dengar were the seven figures released in this manner, some of which were also found with the transition sticker fronts as well as being sold individually at a later point.
In an effort to boost sales for certain playsets, some retailers added Special Offer stickers indicating the inclusion of a bonus figure, including Sears Canada and K-Mart Canada packing-in a Jawa and Yoda respectively to Land of the Jawas and the cardboard Death Star coming with two extra Stormtroopers.
The presentation would not have been complete without a mention of Nelvana, the Canadian Animation company formed in Toronto, Ontario in 1971 that was responsible for the animated segment in the Star Wars Holiday Special
as well as the Droids
series, and this led to a brief look at the figures from both shows. In each case, the figures were released on bilingual packaging with a generic card front, albeit with new art, with Wicket and Logray not being included in the Ewoks
line and Boba Fett and A-wing Pilot being excluded from the Droids
line. Vehicles and role-playing toys were released in Canada in U.S. packaging, meaning that the only way to tell them apart was if there was a price tag from a Canadian store!
Princess Leia Organa (Ewok Village) was the Star Tot handed out to attendees of this panel.The Man Who Shot Luke Skywalker
Presenters: Kim Simmons
While Kim Simmons may not necessarily be a name that every Star Wars
collectors will be familiar with, it's highly likely that they would have seen his work, given that it was emblazoned across cardbacks, packaging and catalogs throughout the vintage era and beyond.
Kim was not the first photographer to shoot Star Wars
toys and he made mention of Jack Wehmeier, aka Big Jack, who shot the individual figure photography for many of the POP displays, and Roy Frankenfield, who shot the 12-back and the Boba Fett catalogue shot, before showing photos of his predecessors, including one of Roy in a set-up shot that Kim would then take of the new CEO of Kenner, Joe Mendelsen.
After showing photographs of Roy setting-up the shot of the Micro Collection TIE Fighter along with the finished image, Kim then spoke about a shot he took for the Return of the Jedi
line that showed R2-D2 (with sensorscope) facing backwards, explaining that the reason was because R2's dome wouldn't turn around and he needed to fill a void. The next photos were of the CAP-2 mini-rig, starting with several test shots, including one that showed how Kim had used a needle to prop-up the vehicle and he also mentioned how he had stuck the feet down with bees wax, another of it stuck to his boyhood bedroom door and finally the beauty shot before and after it was airbrushed by Billy Ellison.
Kim also created mountains that were then repurposed multiple times, one of those being for the AT-ST, and when it came time to shoot the Ewok village, Kim showed photographs of the various stages, among them a shot of the prototype, including the hands of Roy's daughter Jenny in the shot, fake plants in the background and the playset resting on peat moss and finally, shots for both marketing and packaging. This was then followed by shots of the AT-AT, again featuring the fake plants, with one highlighting just how huge the set-up was in terms of the amount of space needed for the shot, which were also used for catalogs as well as packaging.
A shot undoubtedly familiar to many in the room was of the yellow background for the 92-card back, for which Kim showed a set-up shot, minus the Imperial TIE Fighter Pilot, Han Solo (in Carbonite Chamber) and Luke Skywalker (Imperial Stormtrooper Outfit) and he spoke about building the steps to drape the background over and having to shoot from a ladder due to the height of the display. This was followed with a photograph showing the overlay he received from the designer which he then traced onto a clear sheet of mylar to use that on the back of his camera. This allowed him to account for the cardback borders, the peg-hole in the upper right as well as the bottom of the figures of the first row and the numbers for each figure. Commenting on the need to often shoot additional sheets of film as a backup, Kim then showed a preliminary photograph of the figures on six rows instead of five when Yak Face was added, though a subsequent photo showed that ultimately, the 93 figures still worked on five tiers.
Moving onto the Micro Collection, which Kim regards as his favourite of the Star Wars
toy line, the first photograph shown was for a slide used by Kenner in a sales presentation to General Mills, followed by a shot of the entire Hoth Micro Collection, including the Bacta Chamber that never made it to actual release, as well as a close-up of the set shot for the Toy Fair catalog.
Then it was back to the 3 3/4" line and photographs of the Max Rebo Band, which Kim shot on plexiglass despite Roy's claims that it wouldn't work, followed by multiple iterations of the TIE Interceptor, originally with the TIE Pilot in the cockpit. The figure was subsequently replaced with a Stormtrooper due to it being too dark and Kim also added a backdrop that now seems to have been the inspiration for a scene from The Force Awakens
, as much as Apocalypse Now
. For the Imperial Shuttle, Kim showed progressive photographs, first with holes drilled into the surface, through which he then poked Christmas lights and then with a salvaged motherboard added to the background, before showing the final image after airbrushing, which included putting the floor spot lights and stars in the background.
Saving the best to last, Kim described setting-up a huge Hoth scene for a Point of Purchase display, featuring AT-ATs, AT-STs. Rebel Transport, X-wings and Snowspeeders, which eventually ended-up being 18ft in length and Kim also remarked that the Rebel Transport used in the shot was a hard copy. The photographs shown of Kim setting-up the display were taken by Roy's daughter, including an impressive aerial shot, which preceded the final shot as well as the first computer retouched photograph that Kenner had ever done, to add lasers and explosions, along with an airbrushed version that Billy Ellison did for Kim in exchange for two bottles of Scotch!
The panel was concluded with a brief mention of the article in the Star Wars Galaxy
magazine in 1997 from which Kim took his alias and a discount code, MWSS4-19_20%, when ordering from http://www.themanwhoshotlukeskywalker.net/
until the end of April 2019, so don't delay!
It seems fitting that the Star Tot given away at the end of this panel was Luke Skywalker (Ceremonial Outfit)Star Wars Sports Collectibles
Presenters: Chris Logli, Mike De Stefano, Gus Lopez
The panel was broken down into three sections, Licensed Star Wars
collectibles, Event-specific collectibles, and Star Wars
race medals and collectibles.
Starting with team-branded apparel, accessories and equipment, the main focus was on MLB, College and NHL, and featured the likes of the Cardinals, Cubs, Notre Dame and University of Iowa, emblazoned across pins, buttons, magnets, flags, lanyards, can koozies, drinkware, pennants and window decals. This was followed by a look back at some vintage collectibles in the form of a Return of the Jedi
stopwatch by Bradley and Return of the Jedi
roller-skates and ice-skates, before moving onto more recent offerings such as the Death Star soccer ball that was available at Celebration Europe II as well as Wilson footballs, including the The Phantom Menace
20th Anniversary Star Wars
Promo and stadium giveaways followed, including event-specific team jerseys, patches, pucks and other miscellaneous items, covering the history, types and a preview of the 2019 season. An early stadium giveaway was for The Empire Strikes Back
night on May 21, 2010 at Dodger Stadium, where the first 20,000 fans received a full-size 24"x36" poster to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the movie. Types of promotional giveaways have included bobbleheads, posters, t-shirts, jerseys, caps & hats, resin statues, Funko POPs and also Rally Monkeys! Bobbleheads typically fall into a category of actual Star Wars
characters, a team player as a Jedi, X-wing or TIE Fighter pilot or team mascot. Photographs were shown of Darth Vader, Yoda, Chewbacca and R2-D2 on a Cincinatti Reds-branded half-baseball, "Han Gallo" and other players in Star Wars
-garb and mascots dressed as Jedi. A number of bobbleheads were shown, including the Reds' "Mr. Redlegs" in an X-wing, the Houston Astros "Jedi Council", AZ Diamondbacks' Paul Goldschmidt dressed as Poe Dameron with both a gold and black helmet, New York Mets "Met Solo" and Minnesota Twins' "Joe Solo". For resin statues, photographs were shown of a San Francisco Giants Death Star as a baseball, Han Solo in carbonite with one of their batters, while for Funko Pop! figures, an exclusive SF Giants BB-8 with baseball and bat and a Star Wars
edition of Kevin Kiermaier were shown, as were a variety of t-shirts, jerseys, hats, stocking hats and can koozies for a number of teams. L.A. Angels began giving away Star Wars
Rally Monkeys in 2015 following Celebration Anaheim, with Rally Jedi, and these have been followed in successive years by Rally Stormtrooper, Rally Rebel Pilot, Rally Smuggler and this year, Rally Wookiee
The 2019 promotional giveaway highlights/preview showed a Millennium Falcon over Fenway Park bobblhead, bobbleheads of Jedi Jake Arrieta and Trey & BB-8, while local Star Wars
nights and giveaways featured Chicago Cubs (April 13th), Chicago White Sox #1 (April 15th), Chicago White Sox #2 (May 4th) and Milwaukee Brewers (May 4th).
Team jerseys are another big area of Star Wars
Sports Collectibles, with typically Baseball and Hockey teams often wearing specially-designed themed jerseys for Star Wars
Night, which are then often auctioned post-game to raise money for charitable causes and these are very popular among focus collectors. Among the examples shown were the Toledo Mud Hens (Chewbacca & C-3PO), Brooklyn Cyclones (Darth Maul), Altoona (PA) Curve (Jar Jar Binks & Jabba the Hutt), El Paso Chihuahuas (Hildebrandt poster art), Saskatoon Blades (Battle of Hoth) and three different jerseys featuring Admiral Ackbar that are part of focus collector and OSWCC member Mark Schnack's collection. The final portion of this section showed photographs of event patches for numerous Star Wars
nights, with examples from both hockey and baseball, followed by hockey pucks.
The panel then moved onto Star Wars
race medals and collectibles, beginning with the history and evolution of Star Wars
races that began in 2011 with the Star Tours 5K, the first Star Wars
Half Marathon Race Weekend in 2015, The Light Side that took place in Anaheim, CA, in 2016 and 2017, The Dark Side in Orlando, FL, between 2016 and 2018, the Star Wars
Rival Run that was new in 2019 as well as The Race Experience "Sights & Sounds". When it comes to associated collectibles, these can be included with race registration, offered as optional add-ons, available as race-expo merchandise or just fall into the category of miscellaneous race weekend items. Items such as race bibs, champion tech shirts, event programs, photo ops and finisher certificate(s) might be among the items that are included as part of the registration, while there were initially two series of pins for each race weekend as part of the race expo merchandise, with the first being replicas of the medals (5K, 10K, Half, Challenge). The second series of pins were designed around the race weekend overall theme, and then in 2018, a third series was introduced with an "I conquered it" theme. Sticking with race expo merchandise, are the Disney Mickey Ears, with a single set being released for each year, which are targeted towards the younger racers and that feature a character image that is tied to the kids' race medal. Magnets are another aspect of the race expo merchandise, coming as car magnets based on the race weekend, specific races, Kessel Run Challenge and character quotes as well as general acrylic magnets for the virtual run. The merchandise doesn't stop there, covering banners, clothing, drinking glasses, hats, headbands, jewelry, ornaments, Dooney & Burke items and water bottles. Lastly, race weekend vinyl banners are a popular item among collectors, and Gus commented on the fact that one of the first appearances of the 40th anniversary logo was on the banner for the half-marathon weekend in 2017.
The last section on the collectible aspect turned the spotlight on Star Wars
race medals, aka Star Wars
bling, showing photographs of the first Star Wars
race medal from the Star Tours 5K in 2011, the rubber and metal Star Wars
race weekend medals from 2015 that included a medal of Yavin, Star Wars
Light Side race medals in 2016 & 2017, also featuring a medal of Yavin, Star Wars
Dark Side race medals, from 2016 to 2018, and the innaugural "Rival Run" medals from 2019. As an added incentive, "Challenge Medals" are earned by completing two or more designated races, such as the 10K and half marathon that requires a separate race registration, and these started with the Rebel Challenge that spanned 2015 to 2017, the Dark Side Challenge from 2016 to 2018, the Rival Run Challenge which is new for 2019 and the Kessel Run Challenge that began in 2016 and has occurred each year since. Photographs of the various medals were shown, and it will come as no surprise to learn that the Kessel Run Challenge medal is a pretty-dope Millennium Falcon, while medals from the virtual half marathon that began in 2018 were also shown. Rebelscum's Chris Wyman has participated in all of the Star Wars
races since 2015, running 19 races, covering a distance of 147.5 miles and collecting 28 medals weighing 10+ pounds in the process!
Showcasing the "Sights and Sounds" of the race experience, photographs of the event and costumed-runners were shown, including photos of the panelists proudly displaying their medals!
Outside of the U.S., other Star Wars
races include the "Run Singapore" races that were held in 2017 and 2018, with three distances to choose from to earn your medal, and in 2018, runners could choose between the light side and the dark side taking different courses to complete, while other merchandise was also available beyond the race medals, and photographs were shown of the various medals and Stormtrooper trophies that were earned for finishing in the top three. The final medals shown were for the virtual races, with common themes being "May the Fourth Be With You" and "Revenge of the Fifth", while there was an honourable mention to Jez Allinson for "The Last Stormtrooper Run" and his medals for completing 1 mile, 5 miles, a marathon and 100Km!
Rounding out the panel was a look at displaying your race medals and collectibles, with one option being exhibitors that will professionally frame the medals and race bibs, while there are also options for far simpler displays.
One final surprise was the announcement that there was to be a prize giveaway sponsored by Official Pix in the form of the C-3PO Toledo Hens jersey, signed by Anthony Daniels himself, and awarded to the holder of a winning ticket handed out at the beginning of the panel!
Princess Leia (Jabba's Palace), was the Star Tot given away at the end of this panel.Grail Stories
Presenters: Brian Angel, Bill Cable, Todd Hudson, Yehuda Kleinman, Darren McAleese, Ben Sheehan
For anyone who's been collecting for many years, chances are they have had a grail, an item that they are willing to do almost anything to possess, and this panel allowed for the six panelists to each tell the story of how they came to obtain theirs.
After Bill's attempt to introduce Grail: A Star Wars
story was abruptly cut-short, Brian kicked-off Chapter 1: Come on, Red, Let's Go! to talk about R5-D4, the real hero of Star Wars
and the run on red bars variant. After posting on Facebook that he was looking or an example of this version of the figure on a Star Wars
cardback, Brian received several responses from members of the collecting group leading to the discovery of carded variations, one featuring an offer sticker and one without, and subsequently a Return of the Jedi
with Nien Nunb offer. After putting out a further request for an Empire 47-back, Brian received word that a collector had this variant on an Empire 48-back with 4-LOM offer and following a period of correspondence, the collector agreed to accept market value for the figure along with money to buy his daughter a blue snaggletooth. Making the story even sweeter is the fact that Brian informed everyone in the room that the snaggletooth that was purchased, turned out to be a first shot!
C-3PO focus collector Bill was up next for Chapter 2: The Golden Grail, and he began by discussing that when he started collecting, his first goal was to get every cardback for C-3PO, which at the time, based on his research, led him to believe that the figure on SW20 did not exist, with a proof-card cromalin being the only thing close. The same appeared to be the case for the C-3PO (Removable Limbs) ESB45 with Display Arena offer, such that Bill settled for a proof card and having spent twenty years searching, no known example of the Return of the Jedi
card with the Anakin Skywalker sticker was believed to exist. On April 9th, 2018, one of Bill's saved eBay searches threw up an auction C-3PO with the Display Arena offer, and what followed, as Bill calls it, were ten days of hell. During that time he suffered from sleep deprivation, panic attacks, non-stop eBay and Facebook monitoring, neglecting visitors and stress levels through the roof. Having set a maximum bid of $6,687.71, the auction was ultimately won for $255 and although the bubble was marked with a black cross, the photos of Bill with the figure in hand showed he was a happy man! Proving that grail items are like buses, after this first one showed up, there were subsequently three more examples that ultimately sold for more than Bill paid.
Chapter 3: It's all in the Packaging was Todd Hudson's time to shine, and he opened his story by asking what do a tree, sausages and Palitoy tri-logos have in common, before remarking that if you like 2D items, the item in question was only the coolest find of the past decade, showing a photograph of a 6x5 standard proof sheet for tri-logo cardbacks to prove his point. The sheet shows some irregularities with the printing, such that it ultimately ended-up being used as packing in a sausage factory in the UK, where it first made its way to the home of an employee, who took it to give to his Star Wars
-loving son. From there, it eventually ended-up in the hands of Dave Tree, known as one of, if not, the foremost expert when it comes to Palitoy Star Wars
toys. After initially refusing to sell, Dave finally agreed to consider offers for the sheet, and due to Todd's network of collecting friends, he was ultimately able to finalize a deal.
In Search of Silicon was the title of Chapter 4, which Yehuda Kleinman began by referencing the 1986 Kenner Toy Fair catalog and its mention of Bondo in the Ewoks
line, which was ultimately unproduced, a figure which he confessed to bonding with given his personal circumstances at the time. Fast-forward to 2005 and Yehuda purchased his first prototype, a first shot of Bondo's head that he obtained from The Earth Collectible Toy Mall along with a Ceritificate of Authenticity. Briefly describing the process from start to finish of first sculpting the figure from wax, acetate or clay, creating a silicon mold then hard copies from urethane, onto steel mold, followed by first shots and finally production figures, Yehuda acquired a complete hard copy of Bondo in 2015 from Toy and Comic Heaven. In 2016, included within a silicon mold find for unproduced Droids
figures was the mold for the Bondo figure head and the circle was complete!
The first of the two international collectors on the panel, Darren McAleese told his story of Tri-Logo Treasure and the hunt for the bearded general, with General Madine (the pronunciation of which is not open to debate) being the rarest figure in the Tri-Logo line, despite being a peg-warmer back in the day. Having obtained the majority of the Tri-Logo line, including a Jawa and Death Star Droid from a black hole collector, Darren reached out to his fellow collectors, particularly in France, where most of the Madine figures originated, also making UK collectors aware of his search. He pointed out that two things are important in your grail hunt, the first of which is having a war chest readily available to move quickly when an opportunity presents itself, along with strong bonds and good relationships with a network of collectors. He had nearly given up hope, when the black hole collector that had sold Darren his Jawa and Death Star Droid contacted him to offer him a AFA85 General Madine, the only known copy at that grade in existence. The price however, was a sticking point, due to it being a one-of-a-kind item, until another collector, Andy Davies, who was also looking for the figure, agreed to sell Darren his AFA80 Madine plus cash, so that he could buy the AFA85 figure from the black hole collector and complete his Tri-Logo run!
Ben Sheehan ended the panel with Chapter 6: The Commando is a Lemon, so is Droid #2, starting by saying that collecting from the other side of the world makes it difficult to know what you want. The desire to obtain a Rebel Commando acetate sculpt, of which Bill Lemon was the creator, stemmed from it being one of the last three figures that Ben bought from a bargain bin, while the original 2-1B photo art, which is one of the most highly-airbrushed pieces, with the figure it depicts, also being sculpted by Bill Lemon, where it was referred to as Droid #2 by Kenner during the planning stages. With both pieces being owned by other people, Ben talked through the steps he went through to acquire his grails and how it might apply to somebody else, with the first being to analyse what you have that will help you get to your grail and strategise, followed by getting on the phone to talk to other collectors and dealers around the world. Step three is to travel, so that you can further network and discover more about collecting, before step four, which is to throw the kitchen sink at your grail. The fifth step is to be prepared for obstacles, like your bank account being messed with, while the penultimate step is the net sum of steps one to five, which in Ben's case, resulted in him picking-up wood panels for the Millennium Falcon and a Romba wax sculpt, protomold and alternate coloured first shot, all of which led to him finally, at step seven, being able to land his grails, by trading the Romba for the photo art and making another trade for the Rebel Commando sculpt.
Attendees of this panel received the Grand Moff Tarkin Star Tot.Original Movie Props and Costumes
Presenters: Brandon Alinger, Andy Goulding, Stephen Lane, Gus Lopez, Tom Spina
Veering away from the standard format of the collecting panels, this panel was an open discussion combined with a Q&A session with the audience.
Q: What was the first item you collected?
Tom: a screen-used Death Star piece and a screen-used banquet beetle from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Andy: a number plate from one of the Mega City One cab vehicles from the first Judge Dredd
Gus: Krayt dragon bone pieces from Tunisia
Brandon: A set of dog tags from the original Starship Troopers
, but the first Star Wars
pieces was also Krayt dragon bone pieces from Tunisia
Paul: A Gotham city street sign from Tim Burton's Batman, obtained from a carpenter that had worked for my parents.
Tom and Gus then spoke about how the term props can be applied quite broadly to cover set dressing, wardrobe, artwork, sketches, scripts, concept designs, maquettes, screen-used props, backup props, costumes, and encompasses anything used in the production of the film.
Q: Have you ever met the individuals behind the props, or have used the props?
Brandon: A lot of the things that are in private collections today have originated with people who worked on the films. I've personally spent a lot of time sending letters and reaching out to different people who worked on the Star Wars
films and all of us up here have at various times met key people.
Andy: It's also where some of the great stories come from. It's the fascinating part of collecting, and we'll talk more in a little while about this piece (gestures to Stormtrooper helmet) and the journey that it's come on and that's a key example of the benefits of trying to engage with these individuals and it's often where the treasure is buried, so you get to that source and those guys have not only got the piece but the history behind it as well.
Tom: With us, it always seems like we gravitate towards the person that made it, rather than the actor that had it in their hands for a little while. I feel like the real story is the behind-the-scenes guys, and when those guys are your heroes, instead of the usual "never meet your heroes", I feel like it's "always meet your heroes" with the people we're dealing with.
Q: What are the lengths you have gone to?
Andy: Myself, Stephen and Brandon nearly died, when we went out to Finse in Norway, where they filmed the Hoth scenes in The Empire Strikes Back
. We arrived there via the Alpine Express train at about 9 or 10 o'clock at night, where it's pitch black and the train just pulls up where there's no station, and everyone is getting off in arctic survival gear with full ski wear, masks and breathing equipment, and there's Stephen, Brandon and me jumping off the train in jeans and a t-shirt, and at that point, Brandon turns to me and says "we are going to die!".
Q: What's your regret pieces, the one that got away?
Andy: One of the pieces I let go was the TIE Pilot helmet, which was doing the rounds in some small fairs back in England in the late 80s, early 90s. Any one of us back in England could have had it for less than $2,000, when one recently went through auction for quarter of a million.
Paul: Outside of the financial side of things, I had Hicks' Colonial Marine outfit in my hands, which I bought from a friend for 950 pounds and then sold for 1000 pounds. It's not just the monetary element, it's the fact that it was the complete costume at that time. It got split up at that point, so the fatigues went one way and the helmet another, and it will never come back together again, which is quite sad.
Brandon: I had one of the original golden idols from Raiders of the Lost Ark
, which came from someone who worked on the film in Hawaii, and it had the baby doll eyes in it, and the only other one with baby doll eyes is the one in George Lucas' collection, with the removable back-plate, and I let that one go.
Tom: That went to a really good home though.
Gus: Prop collecting is unlike other categories, where collectors are buying quantities of things at a regular interval, but with prop buying, people are buying a couple of pieces a year, and a lot of the time, people are selling one piece to fund another. Collectors are often prone to regrets when they're giving up one piece to buy another, but on balance, they're still coming out ahead over time. To give an example, after originally losing out on an auction for a TIE Pilot helmet, the winning bidder put it up for auction a couple of years later and I ended-up picking it up at another auction for less than he paid for it, so sometimes you miss out on a thing, and then it comes around again.
Question: What is your particular favorite Star Wars
Stephen: Darth Vader‘s hero lightsaber from The Empire Strikes Back
Andy: A rebel blaster from the opening scenes of A New Hope
Tom: I have a Star Wars
Cantina focus so it would be walrus man’s blaster
Question: What is your favorite prop in your collection?
Brandon: I have one of Luke’s hero lightsaber from Return of the Jedi
, which is both screen-matched and photo-matched
Gus: For me it's generally impossible to pick a favourite, and mine is usually my most recent pick-up, so I'm going to say General Madine’s beard!
Question: What was a piece that was extraordinary difficult to track down?
Stephen: So many of them are really hard to track down, and some times you don't even know what journey you are on and what might come up at the end of that journey. As Gus says, what's your favourite piece and it's often the next thing you discover, and where it lies, and who would have known that this piece would surface and would be with us here today, and similarly for so many of the other items that are just buried and sometimes thought lost forever.
Question: What is your process of authentication? What are the different ways you try to authenticate that prop? Are you always able to figure it out?
Stephen: We have Luke's lightsaber from A New Hope
at The Prop Store booth, and we've been through an extensive research process with that. The chain of provenance is really strong, since it came via an Elstree employee's son who found it there and all the detailing on it is absolutely right. What we can't be 100% certain about is how much screen time it had and whether that damage occurred before filming or after filming. Everything about this is right except for this one little plate and this damage on there, so is this the one that was filmed? We can't be sure, so we can only go as far as using all of that information to say that it was made for production, we haven't seen anything like this before, but we can't guarantee that it was absolutely used for filming.
Andy: I think it's very analagous to antiques dealers in that there is no one answer where you can look at that and say it's authentic, it's just a process of experience, of tracking down history, so there is no one answer, but if you look at any good, long-term antique dealer and they have developed this network of how they find things out, things to look for and it's just like that. It's a mystery trail which we unwind with each piece.
Gus: Outside of screen matching, most other means of authenticating are probabilistic to some degree. In some sense, unless you're on the set, seeing them film that piece, and they hand you that piece right after that scene and that scene gets used in the movie, do you really have proof that this thing was used in the movie? It's not to say we should now be discouraged and we can't own things that we have high confidence were used in the movies. The way we all go about it is you triangulate, and use a lot of different approaches, so you get documentation. For example, if you know three were made from the film because there's a document that says three were made and we can account for all three and you know which one is more weathered and is closest to the ones you see on screen, that might provide one piece. Another might be the reputation of the person that finds it, while another might be the consistency with things you see on screen. There are a lot of different methods and the more you apply these methods, the more you have high confidence that this is something that was used in the movie, but there's always that little bit of probability, that unless it's screen matched, it's possible that it isn't the one used in the film.
Stephen: I think that's where we're always very careful that we're ultimately collecting production artifacts. These are things that we are highly confident are made for production. They are custom-built or modified in whatever capacity, or rented in for filming, but they are part of the production process and unless you get a screen match, that's really as far as you can take it in most instances.
Gus: In some cases, where it's obvious they only made one, although that's rare, a lot of items they make multiples of, but there are some things that are just too expensive for them to have made more than one, so sometimes that might give confidence.
Brandon: And something that really goes hand-in-hand with authenticity is the chain of ownership. Sometimes it's known, sometimes it isn't. Another big questions some people ask us is "where did these things come from?" and "how did they get out there?", "what is the process by which they go into private hands?".
The Q&A session was paused to introduce John Holt, who is the owner of an original Stormtrooper helmet from Star Wars
, and he shared, as he put it, his dumb luck story that started in October 15, 1978 when his aunt and uncle in the UK had a Star Wars
party for the cast and crew, who also brought along quite a few props from the movie. One of the Stormtrooper helmets was kept at the end of a table in the laundry room for forty years until his aunt moved into a home, which necessitated selling the house and its contents. Not appreciating the value of the helmet, John used it to protect a trophy and crammed it into an overhead bin when returning home to Canada, sharing that he even considered throwing it away at the airport if he couldn't take it on the plane. John also had in his possession a number of photographs of Carrie Fisher taken at his aunt's house which he wanted to share and it was at that point that he started to look at the helmet a little more seriously, getting online and realising that it was a rare find, which led him to contact Brandon. John spoke about watching CSI and all the ways he was going to prove the helmet's authenticity, remarking on the unfinished insides and that he knew there would be DNA from some of the actors who might have worn it. With all of the helmets being hand-painted, the helmet had a thumb-print in the paint, and a slide was shown to illustrate that it was a screen-used helmet with matching blemishes. John went on to say that during one particular conversation it came to light that Brandon also had photos of John's aunt's party, while he later described returning to his aunt's village and hearing from people who were children at the time of the party that talked about meeting Darth Vader when they were six!
Question: Do you have any recommendations for newcomers to the hobby?
Andy: Buy from the Prop Store
Brandon: There are various online resources that you can look up, so Gus' website, The Star Wars Collectors Archive
is a great source of information, and there are some discussion forums and also groups on Facebook where people are talking about original movie props and costumes.
Stephen: Doing your research is vitally important. It's very easy, to coin a phrase, "to want to believe" when you see something on eBay. Go onto these forums, ask around, get chatting with long-term collectors who've been around for a while, so you can ensure that it is what it purports to be, because if you don't buy something that comes with a certificate of authenticity, you'll end up with something that you can do nothing with if you've bought something that really isn't right. Be very careful, take your time and don't jump in. First of all, buy with your heart. Buy something you love that you're going to enjoy, because you want to own it. Don't think about the monetary value, but if you have got a budget, try and spend at the upper end of your budget, because you're likely to buy something that is more significant, and if you are thinking about the investment side of things and the potential for the future, if you love it and it is something that is recognizable, it means that the next person might like it as well.
Andy: If it looks too good to be true, it usually is.
Gus: There's a huge range when it comes to props, and there are price points in the low hundreds, and then there are extreme examples, which are rare and few, and these get a disproportionate amount of attention in the press. The vast majority of props that get sold are at the lower end of that range, so that's something to be aware of, that it doesn't have to be super-expensive. Don’t rush into anything. There is actually quite a lot out there, and while there are times when you'll need to hustle, and you need to strike fast, otherwise you'll lose that opportunity, but in my experience, you want to be well informed before you get to that point where you are hustling to strike, because if you do it too naively, before you're really ramped in an area, you're going to make a lot of mistakes, and you're going to get convinced by someone wanting to sell that there's urgency and there actually isn't urgency. There is a lot of stuff out there, a lot of collectors sell to other collectors and it's not like it's all going to freeze and be gone, there will still be stuff in circulation.
Question: Have any you had to do things with your house, like remodel to accommodate large props?
Gus: I've had to do a lot with my house, and the first phase, when I had to started to get more into prop collecting, you realize that the stuff takes up massive amounts of space. I love displaying stuff, and have very little of my collection packed in boxes, so most of what I own I have on display, so as I started to collect props, there was a huge demand on the space in the house, forcing us to build an extension to the house. So we built another building in the back and that created six more collectibles rooms and we moved some of the non-prop stuff out there, giving us more rooms in the house that occupied also the living room, the dining room, the foyer and parts of the basement. If it was a flat piece, it deserved to be framed, costume pieces should be on a mannequin in its own acrylic display case, if it's a significant prop it should be on its own stand in its own display case. Recently, I've started to group things, so now I have this massive custom-built display case that is just masks, hats and helmets, and then I put all the blasters together and all the costumes in one room with a couple of big display cases with a bunch of mannequins in, which not only freed up space, but it now looks more impressive by aggregating by type of collectible.
Brandon: For a lot of us it's about displaying things in our office or home theatre environment. A lot of the fun of getting these things is figuring out how you're going to put them on display and how you're going to set them up and then taking a moment to step back and just admire them.
Question: How is it best to preserve props?
Andy: Preservation and proper presentation is a huge part of it, and there are many ways to go about it, such as using UV protective materials, making sure they are supported fully.
Tom: Support is key to almost anything, whether it's a costume where you just want it to drape right, so you're doing a custom mannequin. If it's a complicated costume or a creature suit, you've got to do something completely different in order to make sure that basically gravity can't have its way with it. It's trying to do whatever we can to keep these creatures around and a lot of it comes down to how you're going to display these pieces and managing things like exposure to UV, exposure to light and heat, high or too-low humidity and keeping your hand-oils off it.
Question: Are there any Star Wars
props that were repurposed?
Brandon: Alec Guinness’ bladed lightsaber that was used for duelling became Luke's Return of the Jedi
Andy: The Stormtrooper blasters used in A New Hope
came from an armory rental house and they were reused in an English TV show called The Two Ronnies
, for a sketch called The Worm that Turned
Gus: The Rebel pilot helmets made for A New Hope
were revamped in The Empire Strikes Back
with changed decals and lemses, while the krayt dragon skeleton was a fibreglass skeleton that was originally used in Disney’s One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing
Question: Was there ever a lull due to more digitalisation?
Stephen: What's really changed and had a greater impact is asset management. Initially the main aim was the movie and the film was the end product, so a lot of props were discarded or given away. Now, props have more historic and cultural significance as well as monetary value, such that they are now asset tracked by the studios with somebody whose job it is to barcode, track and monitor these things and when it comes to the end of that, instead of the prop guys who would decide what happened to the props, senior studio executives now make decisions on what to do with props, whether it be giving them to the marketing department, or sending them to the archive, having them destroyed or locked away.
Question: Ever purchased a fake?
Gus: Almost every prop collector at some stage has stumbled onto something that they have then found out was not an original and this is why we give lots of advice about taking your time to research it. We've learned from our own mistakes, especially as these things get higher price points, the temptation to make fake stuff goes up and it's harder to prove its consistency with other things, so it's easier for someone to argue that it's an original item.
Question: With more props now being 3-D printed, instead of being resin-cast, are they likely to deteriorate more quickly?
Brandon: It's just a new set of concerns. The goal with film props, costumes and creature effects pieces, is that they've always been designed for one purpose and that's to get the image in the can. They are not designed to last as collectibles, they are not designed to be sold in the way that consumer products would, such that they therefore have to meet certain quality control standards. At the same time, there are concerns about the foam latex rubber materials of yesteryear. It's all part of the game, and you've got to consider what the item is, what it is made of and how you're going to care for it and is there any potential for breakdown. If they're kept in ideal conditions and generally looked after, they'll do OK over the years.
Gus: There are concerns about printing more pieces while there's still a lot more that goes into painting and the detail.
Question: Is it harder to get props from newer movies or old ones?
Brandon: It depends on what item you are looking for, but with the Star Wars
films, there's a lot more content out there from the older films. There's really only been a few pieces that have been released from the newest films. Lucasfilm has put a few items out through charity auctions, so there are a few Stormtrooper helmets that have gone out for sale from The Force Awakens
and possibly The Last Jedi
as well. At one point one of Harrison Ford's jackets from The Force Awakens
was put up for auction, but you can probably count the number of pieces that they've put out there on one hand, whereas for the original trilogy, there are maybe hundred of pieces out there.
Andy: Back in the day, these pieces were discarded, whereas nowadays the production companies are switched-on and they keep these things and for an active franchise, they'll want to reuse or reference.
Stephen: There's also the possibility that at some point, Lucasfilm may decide to have an auction and at that point, it will be a game-changing situation and we might see all of this mateial.
Question: when it comes to official licensed replicas, there seems to be some artistic liberties taken. Why are they often different?
Tom: It's down to each piece and having to juggle a number of priorities. Accuracy is obviously one of them. Price point is obviously one of them. Dealing with the licensor. Sometimes it's down to manufacturing, where it's more streamlined to do something a little cleaner, or less dinged-up. Most of the licensees do strive for accuracy.
Stephen: There may also be safety standards
Brandon: Another relevant point is that there are always multiples of props with unique differences, so which one is the licensee copying from.
Tom: The licensor is catering for a broader audience, so that's another consideration.
Gus: Replicas often look better because they're cleaned-up and imperfections are removed, whereas on screen, the prop just needs to look good enough for the shot, and the detail and paintmarks are not a concern because of the angle that they're filming it, so they don’t need to look pristine.
The Cantina Band Member was the Star Tot given out to attendees of this panel.
Check out the audio for these panels at the Collecting Track's - Celebration Chicago 2019 YouTube channel
, with video to follow.