US$1.3m Star Wars jacket to be auctioned

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on August 7, 2018.
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Han Solo’s apparel joins props from other films in Prop Store’s annual movie memorabilia bonanza

Does the thought of owning Indiana Jones’s actual fedora from Raiders of the Lost Ark thrill you? How about Han Solo’s jacket? Well, if you have got US$1 million (RM4.08 million) or more to spare, they, along with other rare movie memorabilia will arrive at auction on Sept 20 in London.

More than 600 items valued at more than US$4.6 million will be auctioned at Prop Store’s annual sale of iconic movie and television memorabilia, including Marty McFly’s hoverboard from Back to the Future II (estimated from US$39,000 to US$66,000), Tyler Durden’s Fight Club robe (estimate: US$13,000 to US$19,000), the jacket Arnold Schwarzenegger wore in the original Terminator (estimated at US$26,000 to US$39,000), the corset Michelle Pfeiffer wore as Catwoman in Batman Returns (estimate: US$3,000 to US$6,000). Harrison Ford’s fedora from Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first film of that franchise, is expected to attract bids as high as US$400,000.

But the most hyped item by far is the grey jacket, also worn by Ford, in 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back. It will be the first time the garment has been offered at auction; estimates start at US$660,000 and top out at US$1.3 million.

“It is a world of very limited availability,” said Brandon Alinger, chief operating officer for Los Angeles’ Prop Store. “Something like the Han Solo jacket, for example, there has never been another one at public auction. So, this the first time that anyone on planet Earth has the opportunity to buy a Han Solo jacket.”

The 2017 memorabilia auction featured Star Lord’s helmet, as worn by Chris Pratt in the first Guardians of the Galaxy, which sold for US$177,021. In 2011, the white “subway grate” dress that Marilyn Monroe wore in The Seven Year Itch went for US$5.6 million in a Beverly Hills, Califfornia auction.

“We have seen a huge amount of growth in the market,” said Alinger. “Prices being achieved now are substantial, and our estimate is that 10 years ago, the total size of the entertainment memorabilia market was US$30 to US$40 million. Today we estimate it at around US$300 to US$400 million.”

Other items up for grabs include the original Jumanji board game from the 1995 film of the same name (estimate: US$10,000 to US$13,000), the farewell note written by Rose (Kate Winslet) in 1997’s Titanic (estimated at US$5,000 to US$7,000), and a First Order Stormtrooper helmet as seen in 2017’s The Last Jedi (estimate: US$39,000 to US$66,000), with all proceeds from the latter item going to the UK Children’s charity, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

Here is some advice before you attempt to park your savings in an alternative investment such as memorabilia: Always check the provenance.

“Photo evidence is not good enough. There needs to be a line of evidence proving the item is what it purports to be,” said memorabilia appraiser and former Antiques Roadshow fixture Gary Sohmers. “How did it get from Indiana Jones’s head to my hands, for example.”

Regarding authenticity, the details are key, said Alinger.

“The Han Solo jacket actually surfaced in a costume rental house a number of years ago. It was made for The Empire Strikes Back by a relatively small costume vendor in the UK, and it was produced on a made-to-hire basis, meaning it went back into their rental stock afterwards,” he said. “That seems a little crazy today, but at the time it was just a movie and it was just a grey jacket. It’s really only today that there’s substantial monetary value — collector value — associated with these things.”

Every item sold by Prop Store comes with a certificate of authenticity and a lifetime guarantee. So exhaustive was the research into the Han Solo jacket that screen matching was employed — a process by which details, down to the stitching on the inside collar in this case, were examined frame-by-frame in the film and compared to the item to prove legitimacy.

The 2018 auction will be preceded by a preview exhibition open to the public at London’s BFI Imax theatre from Sept 6 to 20. Bids can also be placed online, and the auction will be live-streamed.

“The people who collect movie memorabilia collect it, in the most part, for the nostalgia aspect, not as an investment,” added Sohmers. “Those that collect for investment choose wisely before they spend their money. These stuff, as Indiana Jones has said, belong in a museum.” — Bloomberg