The Propstop’s 2014 state of the prop union address (Part 1)

state-of-the-union

You might not like what you read below….but hell its just my opinion. This year celebrates my 26th year viewing the prop business from inside and outside the curtain so lets have some home truths and some speculation all wrapped up with a neat bow!

Are you described below? No way am I calling anybody out, and if you do think its you its probably an amalgam of different you’s. Lets face it…collectors are all one giant force of nature. But seriously….its not you.

First up.

“In the beginning…..there was life!”

Little over dramatic I agree but propcollectors did exist before 1988 (the world according to me). One of the most important sales ever was in 1970 at the MGM studio backlot auction. Some great pictures here of that. This event pretty much set the standard over the years and certainly helped dictate prices for a while, in a vacuum where virtually none had been recorded or publicly known before.

MGMAuctionCatalog2

In fact almost every auction catalog since this one has had items from this sale which stretched multiple days and saw items from “Wizard of Oz” and “The Time Machine” sold off.

Convention auctions would still be a mainstay of collectors during this time right thru today, except without the hoards of people today there might be only 2 or 3 people in the room interested in bidding the items up. At “Doctor Who” conventions in the late 1980’s it would typically be myself and Andrew Beech, one of the members of the Doctor Who appreciation society locked in mortal combat for the likes of the Tom Baker era TARDIS Perspex time rotor, or a Dalek gun. Unfortunately he was a proven and slightly older lawyer in London, and I was a College boy working in a newspaper in Suffolk, so it wasn’t exactly the hardest competition to beat, but I did score my own victorys small as they were. “Red Dwarf” also proved a good spot to find props and wardrobe when “Dimension Jump” started up and various pieces from the production crew were donated to the charity sale.

Then in the 1990’s Planet Hollywood started buying for its auctions from Christies, Bonhams, Phillips and Sothebys in the UK and in the USA from Profiles, and Cambden house auctions as well as other outlets. This caused inevitable battles in the auction rooms as collectors suddenly had to outbid an almost unlimited wallet. Some auctions I attended resulted in nearly 100% sell thru to Planet H…a bit of a bloodbath until 1995 when it slowed down somewhat as the Restaurants were filled quickly, and the studios started to sell direct to them.

Then in 1997 eBay started up. Very slowly at first but as time went by more and more props showed up. I remember distinctly in ’97 a Rocketeer costume sans jetpack with its original Disney crate showing up and selling pretty reasonably. Without internet at the time it was hard to bid until I hooked myself up with WebTV, a television based internet system that provided a window on the world. In 1998 yahoo set up auction services against eBay that resulted in several amazing auctions that were missed by most including a “Galaxy Quest” sale, “X-men”, “Gladiator” and some charity auctions with the odd piece of wardrobe. Can you believe back then I bought a Planet of the apes Soldier costume for $800 and a Dr Evil suit for $2000. My how things have changed in 15 years.

Since 2000 more and more companies from Propstore, Screenused, The Golden Closet, VIP auctions and Propmasters have flourished, whereas others like Propworx, Reelclothes, Star Wares and many others have come and gone.

So….that brings us up to date. Where are we now.

“Dogs and cats….living together…..mass hysteria!”

We live in a world where props actually seem to come to you, rather than the old days of having to chase them down. Of course that doesn’t necessarily mean quality…..but when quality usually comes with a high price tag what do you do.

Sadly the number one outlet of garbage props is currently eBay.

Mixed in with fakers, liars and deceit are a handful of outlets like Hollywood Parts (now Profiles in History), VIP auctions, who are amongst our best providers amid a deluge of items that were probably sold by those very companies and are now offered for four times the original price, “celebrity underwear sellers” who are the new “most autographs are fake” on eBay these last few years, out and out fakers like those seen on the Original Prop Blog selling items from thrift stores as being from “Harry Potter”, and whatever the latest and greatest film is and the occasional Gem.

This year these include items from Director Joe Johnson who sold, or attempted to sell a Jumanji Board on eBay that we currently think is in Profiles this September. He is the tip of the iceberg as good quality item do come up now and then, it just takes a lot of patience and hard work to find them.

Who is the number 2 outlet? Well currently any company that excepts items without doing research is highly suspect. Premiere props do on their key pieces but the lesser, smaller pieces aren’t getting the full attention they deserve. This has come back to bite them in the news recently with the Michael Jackson photo fiasco as can be read here. Being told one thing….is one thing. Several of the smaller auction companies are currently falling into that trap and not using the expert advice of those out their who do know better, in favour of getting more items into their auction.

Doing the research to make sure its correct. That’s what separates the men from the boys, or just dealing direct as below.

So back to the big companies. Propstore….Screenused…..VIP…….Profiles…..Whats going on with them.
Read up on that tomorrow in Part 2.

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