Theme Park connection eBay “Hunger games” auction raises a number of issues

“Id like our company to stand for honesty and excellence”.

Fong Sam, Blacksparrow auctions video

I first made contact with Fong at Profiles back in the day when he still worked there. His face and voice more than any other were the voice of reason at that company. When things went off course his quick responses, friendly attitude and as direct as possible answers were refreshing to me. That’s why I always went back to him.

I’m not the only one of course. Fong built a reputation there that when he opened up Blacksparrow auctions in 2012 it was a big surprise to all of us at first, but quickly has gained traction ending with one of the best auctions of 2013, “The Hunger Games” sale in November. It was run incredibly smoothly, made a load of money and more importantly brought alot of new collectors and respect to the hobby. When I did a brief interview at C2E2 with him it was made very clear that all the costumes would come with full wardrobe tags, with pictures of the actor, thoroughly inventoried and with a COA. This is how the items had been shipped to him from the production company and I have spoken to a number of collectors that have confirmed that all the lots arrived quickly, impeccably packed and with all the supporting documentation.

So bringing that focus on the quote from Fong Sam on Saturday on the Propstop’s Facebook page it really does throw a light onto some serious issues that may have crept up with a new player on the movie prop circuit “Theme Park Connection” in Florida. Whilst I haven’t done any business with them as of yet certainly many of you reading this will have seen their recent auction of a “Jurassic Park” raptor cage that went viral all over the internet back in late January this year. That story can be seen here.

A number of weeks ago word spread that a large number of “Hunger Games” pieces were about to hit eBay and with a little digging around of course it was discovered that “Theme Park Connection” had purchased the remaining inventory from Fong. In his words “I just didn’t want to spend the next year selling stunts and doubles of costumes, that we had already spent a year selling.”

When the first few days of lots hit a majority of it was background character wardrobe from the Capitol and then I saw the first lot of “Hero” costumes hit the middle of last week. Fong’s enthusiasm and the fact the items may go a little cheaper this time around was a big part of my decision to bid this time around but being a creature of habit I spent a lot of time into the wee small hours of the night looking at all the costume pieces over this weekend and discovered that many of them didn’t seem to have wardrobe tags, and remembering what Fong said to me all those months ago I decided to ask him. The response was :

“After selling all the hero and main costumes in the November auction, I sold all the backups, backgrounds and extras to Theme Park Connection. This is what you are seeing now on eBay. I have nothing left over from the Hunger Games auction.”
and after a further follow up asking about 95% of the tags being missing from the eBay auctions:
“I took a quick look through the descriptions they are putting up and see that they are saying these costumes were worn by the main actors. That is not correct at all.”
“All the costumes that I sold in November had tags and corresponding continuity photos. You can check with anyone who bought in that sale and they will tell you that tags and photos were sent to them along with their costumes.”

“All the costumes that TPC has now have tags that say stunt, double, or not used.  I sold this collection to TPC with clear indication of what these costumes are.”
At this point I think it fair that I want to present the information here as was presented to me by both parties as fairly as possible. So rather than get all mad, because lets face it the reason for my initial phone call was to buy some of these items, and had in fact already bid on some of them, I decided to call “Theme Park Connection” and get their side of the story.
I spoke to a very nice gentleman called Brian who was in charge of the sale and he told me that Lions Gate actually had representatives in the building that day to go through the items that hadn’t already been listed and make sure they were as being presented on eBay. He even offered to get them to talk to me which I thought was very nice and when I asked about the tags he said that indeed some of the items had them, but that the pictures of the actors would have to be removed because of contractual reasons. He did say that the original tags would go with the items.
Now at this point some questions have to be asked.
If the items on eBay, for instance this reaping costume worn by Katniss, are not the Hero costume which of course was sold at the November sale for $29,000 here, 
then what is this piece? Is it a stunt, a double or an extra used or unused piece. The information on the auction states:

Reaping dress on ebay as of today at $1800

  • This blue reaping dress was worn during the iconic scene where Katniss volunteered as tribute to take her sister’s place in The Hunger Games
  • Theme Park Connection is providing a Certificate of Authorization stating the costume item is from the production of The Hunger Games, signed by a representative of Lions Gate Entertainment
  • Inventory Number: HG-1059
Further down it also states that Jennifer Lawrence wore it in both the title of the auction and also in the body of the auction.
When I asked Fong what this could be he said:
“The Reaping dress does not screen match, most likely a prototype or early version that they eventually decided not to use”
When I asked about the leather jacket below he said:
“The leather jacket is oversize, too big for Jenny Lawrence”.
I personally think this can be seen in the pictures below. Certainly the waist seems to have been cinched in the one in the first auction.

                               Hunger Games Blacksparrow Hero jacket

                                           Theme Park connection Katniss jacket

When I mentioned this other signature piece, the jacket with pin:
“The arena costume was most likely used in stunt sequences. If it’s labeled “harness,” then it was used in the tree sequence. That is probably the most significant piece that TPC has.”
It should be noted that the tag does not specifically name the actress, only the character. Typically in film production this can denote that the piece was used by a stunt or double actor.

                                        Ebay Katniss jacket with pin

Now I do understand that Theme Park Connection may not understand that collectors value the difference in stunt and hero pieces but it cannot be mislabeled in an auction. Over the past 20 years of collecting it has become very apparent that even though two pieces might look the same the value of the two can be separated by anywhere between 20 and 80% of the hero piece. If Fong has confirmed that every piece was sold with relevant tag information that should be with those costumes. There is no need for them to be re-certified by anyone else. History does not need to be rewritten….
With this information I hope the odds are very much more “In your favor”.

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