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Ten Questions with Gus Lopez of The Star Wars Collectors Archive

Gus Lopez created The Star Wars Collectors Archive (theswca.com) in 1994—a virtual museum of rare and unusual Star Wars collectibles—the Archive was the first Star Wars collecting website on the Internet. He is a frequent speaker at conventions on Star Wars collecting topics and has led the Collecting Track for the Star Wars Celebration conventions. Gus has formed various Star Wars collecting communities. He is a regular contributor on Star Wars collecting for various publications and co-authored five books covering different aspects of Star Wars collectibles. Gus collects rare Star Wars memorabilia including vintage toys, cast and crew items, artwork, toy prototypes, and original movie props and costumes, which he displays at his home, the Bobacabana, in Seattle, Washington.

Here are Ten Questions with Gus:

1. How big is your Star Wars collection at this point?

I would estimate that I have around 10,000 Star Wars items spanning several areas I focus on: cast and crew items, screen-used props and costumes, original art, vintage toys, record album awards, toy prototypes, food items, store displays, and cereal boxes. The number of items is dominated the vintage toys, food and cereal items, and crew gear. But the original props and costumes take up most of the space in our house because I like to have those in nice displays.

2. What are your favorite Star Wars items in your collection?

It’s impossible to pick one, but one of my favorites include the original Death Star model used in the first movie. It’s such a significant piece in Star Wars, and I’m so excited to have something with that significance. Princess Leia’s slave costume from Return of the Jedi is also one of my favorites—definitely my favorite costume on display in our house. Other cool pieces include a Tusken Raider mask, Boba Fett’s backpack from Return of the Jedi, prototypes of Kenner’s rocket firing Boba Fett action figure, and Luke Skywalker’s belt from the first film.

3. What is your favorite recent acquisition?

I just recently picked up some amazing original artwork by Ralph McQuarrie for various concepts he drew and painted for Star Wars cast and crew t-shirts, belt buckles, and Christmas cards. It really doesn’t get any better than one-of-a-kind Ralph McQuarrie artwork!

4. What is the rarest SW item in your collection?

I have a lot of one-of-a-kind items in my collection so in terms of scarcity many are tied. I also have many very rare items like prototypes of the vintage toy line. The majority of my collection is rare stuff. On that note, I don’t seek out rare items because they’re valuable or high end—I own lots of rare items with little value. For me, it’s about the thrill of the hunt and the novelty of finding items people didn’t previously know about. Whether these items have “value” or not is less is important to me, but with that said, it’s not lost on me that many of these items have substantial value.

5. What is the strangest or most eclectic SW collectible you have?

I have a display case filled with weird Star Wars items. These include Star Wars items like bongs from The Netherlands, player piano roll, Star Wars condoms from France, a filled Pine Sol bottle with Star Wars promotion on the label, and Star Wars toilet paper from Germany.

6. Where would you rank The Force Awakens in the film franchise?

I believe it’s really strong film. Each of the films has unique elements, but I love the acting and chemistry between the characters in The Force Awakens and the way the story unfolds. I definitely put it in the top half of Star Wars films.

7. Any predictions for The Last Jedi?

Hard to say what it’s going to be like. If it’s the 2nd act of the story, I would expect that it will set up the conflict for this trilogy and leave on the cliff hanger. I really like what they’ve done with this trilogy since they’ve made it clear there is lots of backstory still to be explained, and they did it in a way that was subtle instead of the more blunt “There is another” from Empire Strikes Back that waves it in the audience’s face.

8. What do you think of the direction of the franchise? In good hands?

I’m very pleased that Star Wars is in Disney’s hands. The quality of The Force Awakens and Rogue One show they can take Star Wars to new levels and create stories in this universe. They have been able to scale the licensing to a new level and the quality of products has increased. Disney has a great record for thinking about these licenses and brands in the long term, so we know they’re not going to just milk Star Wars for short term gains.

9. Are you going to be at opening day for Star Wars Land (at Disneyland or Walt Disney World)?

If I’m able to, I will be there opening day. I’m an annual passholder at Disneyland so would love it if they do something special for passholders to see a preview of the new Star Wars land!

10. Beside Star Wars, what else do you collect?

I don’t have room to collect much else but I still sneak in a few things. I have a small shrine to the Beatles, and have some really cool Beatle collectibles such as vintage cereal boxes from the US and UK, several rare Yellow Submarine items, Ringo’s personally owned psychedelic posters of his bandmates, and Ringo’s personal platinum record award for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I also have a small collection of Evel Knievel toys in sealed boxes. As a kid I was really into Evel Knievel and on some level he represents a kitschy aspect of Americana.

Ten Questions with Kevin Hanson of the Trek Prop Zone

Kevin Hanson is too modest to call himself a Star Trek historian, but there is not very many people who know more about Star Trek. Kevin is a coastal native of southern California and he couldn’t help but stumble across various aspects of the entertainment industry throughout his life simply as a matter of proximity. One of his favorite hobbies is to collect screen-used movie and TV memorabilia and high-end replicas of rare Star Trek props.

His passion toward his hobbies led to his acquisition of the TrekPropZone.com website in 2010 and the co-creation of the Star Trek Prop Enthusiasts group on FaceBook which currently boasts over 4,800 members including industry professionals and the occasional Star Trek luminary. He maintains these venues for the research and free sharing of knowledge regarding all aspects of the props from the Star Trek shows and movies that so many of us love.

Kevin’s professional life has seen parallel tracks over the years with entertainment industry work in front of and behind cameras and microphones as well as work in public relations, editing, and dabbling in fields that require the occasional broker. His hobbies and professional life began to overlap when some of his hobby collections became of interest for use in television and film productions – first as loans and later as rental items.

Here are this week’s “Ten Question With” Kevin Hanson of the Trek Prop Zone:

1. How long have you been running The Trek Prop Zone?

I acquired TrekPropZone.com in July of 2010 though I had been on the board staff since early 2009 and first joined in late 2008.  My first action after transferring the ownership of the URL was to confer co-ownership onto Mark Williams (FHC to board members) who co-created the TPZ in March of 2006 and was the very first member.

2. How many members do you currently have?

We have a cozy yet proud membership of 1,319 collectors and builders as of this writing (two memberships were approved within an hour of typing this answer).  The membership has included a number of individuals from the professional prop-making world who supplied props and set pieces to Paramount for all incarnations of Star Trek since The Motion Picture in 1979.

3. What would you say is the main “mission” of The Trek Prop Zone forum?

The primary focus of the TPZ is to foster a congenial environment where collectors and builders may freely share their knowledge and experience regarding the origins and fabrication methods of the screen-used pieces from each live production of Star Trek.  Many are motivated to do this so they may build their own accurate re-creations for their private collections.  This collaboration is archived in various sub-forums and categories for reference by all who join the board.  A side effect of this drive to seek and create the perfect replica has been a collective, crowd-sourced knowledge that has been tapped for authentication purposes by various auction houses who deal in screen-used Star Trek pieces.  After all, other than an original builder, who better to ask if your Phaser is an authentic piece than a group of hobbyists who have studied and researched the originals for many years in order to create the perfect replica?  Of course, we tend to have some of those original builders as well.

4. You have worked with various television shows in consulting and loaning props to those productions. What is your favorite experience relating to that?

My favorite experience loaning a prop to a production, hands down, was the first prop I loaned to The Big Bang Theory for the episode ‘The Apology Insufficiency’.  Through the prop boards I was put in contact with the Property Master of TBBT who said he needed a Universal Translator as seen in the original Star Trek.  I asked if he needed a static one, one that blinks, or one that blinks in unison with a person talking (yes, my collection could accommodate all three).  He explained he needed one for a Gorn to wear as seen in the TOS episode ‘Arena’.  I told him he did not need a Universal Translator but the Gorn Translator as provided by the Metrons in that episode – a rare prop that was seen only that one time.  He seemed dejected that his immediate need was now so obscure and time had been wasted.  He asked how to get one.  I told him I knew of only three replicas and only one on the West Coast of the U.S. – in my collection.  He sent a driver to my house to pick up the prop that day and e-mailed me an invite to the show taping (including a plus one).  I showed and was invited backstage for an after party with the actors and crew.  He introduced me as the source of the Gorn Translator to Executive Producer Bill Prady.  Bill lit up, took me by the arm, and dragged me through the crowd and said there was someone he wanted to introduce to me – it was Star Trek’s very own Dorothy ‘D.C.’ Fontana.  We were standing behind the living room set of TBBT in Sound Stage 25 on the Warner Bros. lot at the time.  Then, in an even more surprising turn of events, Bill Prady asked me about other Star Trek items in my collection and began pitching a story idea that could incorporate some more of my collection in a future episode (I supplied more items for more episodes but that story idea never was produced).  It was quite a memorable evening even after the free flowing beer and wine that went with the catered food at the after-party.

5. Would you consider yourself a Star Trek historian?

For a hobbyist my depth and breadth of Star Trek knowledge is fairly extensive.  I have collected and read many hundreds of Star Trek related books and have actively participated in many online Star Trek boards and forums.  Being considered an historian in a field, though, is usually determined by others and not self-proclaimed by the one holding the knowledge.  A few auction houses have tapped my brain for the Trek content when needing prop authentication or background/context for an item (or several).  Occasionally I have even been recruited as an off-the-books Star Trek consultant in the independent film industry.  It has been my honor and pleasure to meet with and have extensive conversations (even the occasional interview) with some who helped make, act in, or even save Star Trek.  In this regard I consider myself a very lucky fan that is occasionally used as one would use an historian.

6. What is your favorite prop or costume from Star Trek?

My favorite prop from Star Trek is the hero Communicator (there were two of them) in the original Star Trek – the ones with the stop watch inside that made the moiré spin.  A boring answer from a life-long fan but there it is.  As a side note I have been collecting exacting replicas of the various Starfleet Communicators used by William Shatner as Kirk from every relevant incarnation of Trek.  One of those props, which is still in kit form in my collection, was partially re-designed at William Shatner’s request – the Communicator from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.  The other Communicators in this sub-collection are the classic flip-open comms from TOS, the similar comm from The Animated Series, the white wrist comm from The Motion Picture, the clunky aluminum box comm from The Wrath of Khan, the black wrist comm from The Wrath of Khan, and the sleek redesigned flip comm from The Search for Spock.

Among my favorite screen-used props that are in my collection are four Tribbles from the TOS episode ‘The Trouble With Tribbles’.

7. What is in your opinion the best Trek movie to-date and which is the best television, aside from The Original Series?

‘Best’ can be such a loaded word.  Even the Academy Awards has a ‘best’ for so many varying aspects of a movie.  For Star Trek my first inclination is to substitute the word ‘authentic’ when asked to name a best.  In my opinion the most authentic feature film from the franchise is Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  The movie likely has as many or more flaws as those that came after but the vision behind the film and the realization of that vision is (again, in my opinion) the truest-to-Star-Trek story telling that has ever reached the silver screen.

My pick for best/authentic Star Trek television series, aside from TOS, is another left-field choice according to many in the core fandom – Star Trek: Voyager.  The premise of the show, more so than the casting, writing, acting, etc., is what hooked me.  The mettle of a lone Starfleet Captain and ship’s crew is tested year after year while out of contact with their command support after having been flung tens of thousands of light years away from home and family.  Keeping true to the optimistic future of the original Trek this crew maintains their values and collective honor and dignity (along with the occasional slip for dramatic and action purposes) and do not devolve into a post-apocalyptic band of rogues and mercenaries as seen in so many science fiction incarnations.  They keep the faith and mission even when there is no one around to police their actions.

8. What do you think of the Trek film franchise reboot, or a.k.a. the alternate timeline?

As mentioned in an earlier answer each of the Trek films have their flaws, some more than others.  The reboot in the alternate timeline has a number of changes to Star Trek canon that exist before the time-altering events in the story.  Additionally, the reboot films have, in my opinion, many glaring problems with the stories themselves.  In terms of Trek I prefer to think of these films taking place not just in an alternate Trek timeline but in an alternate Trek universe.  I can enjoy those films as shoot-em-up action sci-fi/fantasy but not as true Star Trek.  A few of the props, however, are a different story.  The curvy, white, Medical Tricorder that appeared in the first reboot film was so impressive to me that I acquired the one and only screen-used example of it to come to auction, via J.J. Abrams, during the Roddenberry sale through Julien’s Auctions.  Fortunately the reboot films are bringing a whole new generation of fans to Star Trek and some have developed a love for the original timeline Trek incarnations.

9. Are you looking forward to Star Trek: Discovery?

I am looking forward to seeing how Star Trek: Discovery pans out as a series.  It is a given that production values will be high with great cinematography, quality writing, and good or better acting.

The series is set in the original Star Trek timeline/universe which is what the core Trek fans wanted.  However, the series is a prequel to TOS not unlike the series Star Trek: Enterprise.  This presents a slew of challenges that are not present in a sequel series.  How do you make the sets and costumes appeal to a contemporary audience and still seem as though they exist prior to the 1960’s Star Trek?  How do you tell exciting and new stories, with new characters and races, and current sensibilities, without stumbling over the plethora of canonical details scattered in the path of a prequel setting?

Did the studio bite off more Star Trek than they can chew?  I have no idea, but I look forward to… discovering how they handle it.

10. Who is your favorite Trek character? And why?

It would be easier to answer a favorite Trek character question if the parameters excluded The Original Series.  With no such parameters I have two answers.

In TOS it is the character of Spock that is my favorite character.  My earliest memories of television (other than Sesame Street, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and The Electric Company) were watching re-runs of Star Trek.  Growing up with the Star Trek: TOS characters led to reading Star Trek novels at a young age.  By the time I was a teen I knew our beloved Trek characters as well or better than the people I knew in the solid world.  Spock’s struggle to control his emotional nature and live up to the Vulcan and logical side of his heritage was a powerful example to a six foot, baritone-voiced, 13 year old boy in junior high school.  Yes, I am one of those fans who identified strongly with a Trek character during his crucial formative years.

As an adult, though, a new ‘favorite’ character emerged for me in a later incarnation of Trek – the holographic Doctor in Star Trek: Voyager.  The Doctor’s story arc and character development is, to me, one of the best to watch in all of Star Trek canon.  His take on humanity, his desire to become a part of it, and his inexplicable growth beyond the sum of his programming makes for exceptional Trek viewing.  As an actor, Robert Picardo knocked it out of the park with his portrayal of the Doctor.  At the risk of alienating other Star Trek fans I will go so far as stating that the journey of the Doctor further perfects and surpasses a similar journey taken by Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Stephen Lane

Ten Questions With Stephen Lane of Prop Store

Stephen Lane is the founder of Prop Store, one of the world’s leading vendors of original film props and costumes. With two offices–one in London and the other in Los Angeles–Prop Store has been a steady player in the memorabilia industry for the past two decades. Since 2015, Prop Store has expanded its services to include online and live auctions and has rolled out some impressive events, such as the Rick Baker, Greg Cannom, and Phil Tippett auctions. The company has also handled auction for iconic properties like Breaking Bad, The Twilight Saga, Ender’s Game, Hannibal, Dexter, G.I. Joe, to name a few. Prop Store’s current offering is the Penny Dreadful Auction, which has been running online since March 15 and ends March 31. Its next auction is the T2 Transpotting Auction, which runs from April 10 to April 21.

As Prop Store’s chief executive, Stephen Lane became interested in movie memorabilia while his previous sign-making company was working as a contractor on the sets of Eyes Wide Shut. Stephen began networking with industry technicians and found his first few treasures, which led him to pursue Prop Store as a full time business. At that time, no one in the UK was selling this type of memorabilia as a full-time operation. Since 1998, Stephen has guided Prop Store to become a leader in this vibrant field, a “pop-culture hybrid of fine art and memorabilia collecting–prop art.” Its evolution from online retailer to a formidable auction house with international reaches and a massive 25,000 combined square feet of archived props and costumes, while also establishing archival standards for prop and costumes, has positioned Prop Store to be the leader in this exciting field for years to come.

Moreover, Stephen’s personal collection of props and costumes ranks among the finest in the world. Stephen graciously took the time to engage in our new feature, “Ten Questions With…” where renowned members of the memorabilia and collectibles industry field ten questions relating to collecting pop culture and entertainment memorabilia.

This is the debut of “Ten Questions With…” and we couldn’t be happier with Stephen’s candidness and insights, which remains unabridged and unedited. Enjoy!

  1. What is your opinion of the memorabilia market right now?

Incredibly healthy and buoyant. We’re seeing a constant stream of new collectors enter the market place as they become aware of this fascinating hobby through social media and the very active marketing campaigns Prop Store are constantly running. A number of the artefacts we sold in last year’s Entertainment Memorabilia Auction set new world records with many of those items going to brand new customers. The level of auction registrations has increased year on year, a true reflection of the excitement this hobby is generating.

  1. What is the long-term health of the collectibles/memorabilia market?

I believe that this market place is still in its infancy, just the tip of the iceberg.  I expect continual growth over the next 10 – 20 years. We’ve seen raised levels of interest and awareness in Pop Culture across the board over the past few years, a voluminous and constant influx of new collectors coming into the market (at all tiers of the hobby) and increased availability through the stream of online auctions we launch every month and our bi- annual Live Auctions in London and Los Angeles. In essence the barriers for collectors to enter this market are the lowest they’ve ever been which in turn is creating huge amount of activity. New and seasoned collectors will continue to hone their collecting preferences over a number of years, as their tastes become more refined they generally make more acquisitions on higher priced artefacts driven through nostalgia. So in essence, a large proportion of the activity at entry level now will roll into much larger spend values in the years ahead.

  1. Will memorabilia remain a niche hobby or could it get to the mainstream and achieve its own category, for example, in the insurance industry like fine art has?

I believe that we’re already well on our way there for many of the reasons mentioned previously. In addition, we now have a bonded harmonisation code (customs entry code for goods imported to and exported from the UK) specifically for Film and Entertainment Memorabilia which took us over a year to negotiate with HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) and we’re often asked to provide estimates of value for insurance companies as they’re more regularly being asked to cover these artefacts.  We’re all seeing more frequent mainstream media coverage and even references to this hobby within the very Pop Culture shows we collect from!

  1. Many important film props and costumes have already made their way to auction. What is still out there that you would like to see come to the surface?

We’re constantly on a mission to track down artefacts from the films of yesteryear and admittedly these becoming harder to find from source. That said we never know what the next phone call or email will bring – from James Bond’s PPK to Jack Nicholson’s jacket from The Shinning, the great stuff keeps on appearing!

  1. Going forward, what do you see from the last 5 to 10 years that you think will be important in, say, 5 to 10 years from now?

I think the answer to that question can be pretty subjective – in the eye of the beholder so to speak. Our mantra has always been ‘buy what you love — to the top of your budget’. This hopefully ensures that you end up with something that you’re really passionate about and will enjoy the pleasure of owning. By buying at the top of your budget it means that you’ll secure something that is more likely to have appeal to others. If it resonates with other collectors the way that it resonated with you then it will be just as ‘important’ to them in years to come.

  1. What is currently on Prop Store’s plate in terms of auctions?

Right now we have our Penny Dreadful auction underway, that’s followed closely by Trainspotting 2. Then onto a Star Wars and Star Trek blueprint auction, then Terminator Genisys followed closely by a bunch of other exciting titles throughout the year.

Penny Dreadful Auction

  1. What does Prop Store have in the works that we will see later this year?

We’re exhibiting at Star Wars Celebration in Orlando in a few weeks’ time. This will give visitors an opportunity to buy Star Wars artefacts in person at fixed price at the show and it will also be the first ‘sneak preview’ of a handful of the really exciting items that we have in for this year’s London Live Auction. We move onto San Diego Comic Con in July and then the three week Live Auction preview exhibition will open in the run up to the main event in London in the last quarter. It’s going to be another extremely busy  and exciting year.

  1. What could we expect from Prop Store beyond 2017?

We are planning numerous landmark events in 2018 and beyond. We’ll strive to continue raising the bar in our hobby and bring to market the artefacts that collectors aspire to own.

  1. Will you be maintaining a Los Angeles and London office? Any plans for further expansion?

We’ve just moved and upgraded the L.A. facility to a substantial new 20,000 square foot operation in Valencia, which is already buzzing with activity. This incredible space will provide an exhibition gallery and store experience within a working warehouse and office environment. The London site is currently undergoing a major expansion and re vamp which has been underway for the last 8 months and will likely continue into 2018.

  1. What is your favorite item in your personal collection?

That’s a tough question to answer! As you know I’m a major Star Wars fan and as I’ve been collecting Star Wars items for some 25 years I’ve managed to put together a reasonably comprehensive collection. One of my favourite recent acquisitions is the Tusken Raider mask from A New Hope. It was worn by actor Peter Diamond when he attacked Luke Skywalker up on the ridge. The imagery for that famous scene was one that appeared on trading cards, action figures and posters. It was a quintessential moment in my childhood. Owning these items never fails to thrill me.


(Photos courtesy of Stephen Lane/Prop Store)